In Europe and the USA teachers are currently told to encourage all students equally. This leads to “mixed messages”.
a) There is an “achievement standard” = an expected/accepted performance of the individual
b) Everybody is aware of this “standard”/expectation
c) In systems where only the “high achiever” is rewarded there are always others who have to deal with the negative side effects of this ranking.
d) In systems (as mentioned above in the USA/Europe) where all children should be rewarded the children find out immediately that it is all a “big game”, politics, that have nothing to do with their actual performance = the ranking hasn’t the desired effect of motivating and stimulating good performances.
Children usually know pretty well where they stand in comparison to other group members. Our artificial ranking systems only work as “incentive” and “motivation booster” as long as many of our human created environments rely on or apply them. Awards, prizes, marks, etc. do nurture competitiveness, comparison, and the “right of the strongest”. There are various social behavioural studies that show that they do NOT nurture creativity, team spirit, continuous learning motivation and the joy of learning (children are motivated to compete with others, to strive to “be better” in order to be acknowledged but not necessarily encouraged to give their best because they enjoy it or are particularly interested in it). They are not encouraged to support each other, to work together, to relate to each other and acknowledge each other’s qualities and differences. It is therefore questionable, if these artificial ranking systems are beneficial in the field of community building and relationship skills.
Children who grow up in a natural environment meet their boundaries and “natural rank” in a natural form. I think one of the main hindrances in our (industrialised) human world* is that the established education and work/business systems operate in a way that is, in general, NOT supporting reciprocal, co-creative ways of being and becoming. If we want to see our societies flourish in terms of creating a harmonious “togetherness” on this planet, we need to let go of some of this thinking and focus more on the re-integration into the bigger picture of Mother Nature – which will provide enough “natural ranking” and challenges to show our creativity and potential as well as allow for a healthy and naturally balancing "competitiveness". This will end symptoms like aggressive behaviour, depression, hyperactivity, autism, and all the other "peculiarities" we are facing because each individual then will have the chance to bring his/her own unique qualities into the community/the tribe/the society/the planet and feel .
*There are many examples of human cultures and communities that are built on different values and principles.