School of Meaningful Experiences celebrated Teachers’ Day a tad different this year. We launched and successfully concluded Debato 2020, India’s first online debating competition for teenagers. The event – which was conducted both in Hindi and English – took place over two days, September 5 and 6. It was open for teenagers aged between 12 and 19 and pitted teams of three students against another group of three while employing the Parliamentary format of debating.
More than 100 teams spread over 30 cities, and five countries participated in the competition, making it one of the largest online debating contests ever. “The response to our initial call for participation was so overwhelming that we had to close the registrations two days in advance,” says Dr Rakesh Godhwani, Founder, School of Meaningful Experiences (SoME). Debato 2020 also saw a massive panel of 100 judges joining in from various cities, making the competition truly an online open event. Topics for the debate included Education, Healthcare, Space Research, and Coronavirus and its devastating impacts on society.
Taufique Anwar Khan
Day 1 started with a Masterclass by former Rajya Sabha member, Prof Rajeev Gowda in conversation with Dr Godhwani. Mr Gowda drew from his experiences as a distinguished Parliamentarian to articulate the relevance of debate in modern and past history. Of the 100 teams that participated in Day 1, 84 were in English while 16 were in Hindi. On the second day, eight and four teams who debated in English and Hindi respectively were shortlisted for the quarter and semi-finals. The finale was live-streamed at 4 pm IST on September 6 enabling parents of the debaters, and other debating enthusiasts to view the event. The award ceremony followed soon.
Participants won from a range of prizes totalling up to Rs 1 lakh! Every contestant also received a certificate of participation. International debaters, veteran judges, and a unique online debating experience made Debato 2020 a thrilling affair for its contestants.
- Champions Debato 2020- English
Team name: Team NPS HSR, Bengaluru
- Sampada Guha
- Yuv Verdia
- Aryan Dixit
School- National Public School, HSR Layout, Bengaluru
- Champions Debato2020- Hindi
Team name: Team MBA Achievers
- Taufique Anwar Khan
- Bhoomika Gupta
- Anushka Shaw
School- Morning Bells Academy, Kolkata
Watch the finale and award ceremony.
Debating through the ages and its relevance in the modern era
Debato was not a sudden realisation at SoME, but a natural evolution of our programmes. We understand the importance of debating only too well and have formulated our courses such that it improves the soft skills of our learners, enabling them to become persuasive speakers and debaters. To understand its relevance, we just had to look at the critical role it has and continues to play in shaping the world.
Debating has always been a potent tool employed for centuries by those in power to initiate and implement policies and rules of the land. We don’t have to look too far away for examples of debating and Governance; Indian history has much to offer in this regard. History of debating in India dates back to the pre-Buddhist period. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, has references to King Janaka who not only organised and patronised debates between sages and priests but also participated in them.
There was room for women to flex their debating muscles too during the reign of King Janaka, like Gargi, who was a scholar and a regular feature in the King’s court. Great Indian epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana narrate numerous incidents where people have resorted to debates to either create policies or solve existing dilemmas.
One of the greatest triumphs of debating was the formation of Magna Carta, and the Bill of Rights; two of the most revered pieces of documents in the world. Magna Carta, meaning ‘the Great Charter’, has inspired people across the centuries, from Thomas Jefferson to Mahatma Gandhi. We have to credit King John, ironically considered one of the worst kings of his time, with the formation of the charter. He used to impose heavy taxes on his barons to pay for his expensive foreign wars. If they refused to comply, he punished them severely or seized their property. The barons demanded that King John obey the law; when he declined, they captured London, and John was forced to negotiate. The result of the negotiations was written down by the King’s clerks in the document we know as Magna Carta. Although most of the charter’s clauses dealt with medieval rights and customs, Magna Carta has become both a powerful symbol of liberty around the world and a reflection of the relevance of debating in governance.
Debating – since the onset of the first stirrings of a concrete society – has permeated through to the very soul of governance. Recorded historical data from the abolishment of slavery to the debate on Brexit and its consequences, reflects the vital role debating has played in shaping our world.
Debates’ contribution to the field of science is equally paramount. It is baseless to approve a theory without adequate scientific reason and logic – the only solution to approval being debating over the same. The world of Physics is almost synonymous with the brilliant mind and ground-breaking career of the legendary Albert Einstein. His constant argument with Niels Bohr changed the method of quantum experimentation and significantly impacted the field of physics moving forward.
Debates undoubtedly help learners to see the power of deploying rational, reasoned arguments and compelling evidence in action. One of the prime importance of debating is to elucidate one’s standpoint through rhetorical evidence; it instils in debaters a great sense of confidence. A good debate is a result of effective researching, lucid organisational skills and presentation of information in a compelling fashion. Debates involve enhancing the ability to structure and organise thoughts, analytical skills, critical thinking and effective speech composition and delivery.
SoME’s Six Cs Philosophy and Debating
- Confidence: Confidence is the very essence of putting forward your idea and convincing a crowd to embrace it. It is building trust by making eye-contact and tells the world much more than your physique and external features. Confidence is the foundational stone to succeed in any given discipline.
- Communication: Among the most loved leaders in modern history is former US President Barack Obama. His measured speeches, rich with anecdotes, firm yet compassionate shows how powerful good communication can be in influencing people’s opinions.
- Creativity: The more creative or fresh an idea is, the more it is remembered. Creativity plays an unconditionally important role in communication and debate. It deploys critical thinking, putting forth various points of view, succeeding in the overall development of thought and absorbing knowledge.
- Collaboration: The ability to collaborate and work together results in increased creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, enhanced learning possibilities, higher productivity and improved human relationships. When debating in a team it is essential that everyone respects and lauds each other’s views and perspectives.
- Curiosity: Every debater needs to be curious and should possess an inquisitive mind to be able to think differently and put forth ideas ranging across a broad spectrum. Curiosity helps one learn and question every idea from the fundamentals to progressive concepts. Curiosity instils the ability to make reasoned and well thought out arguments in addition to challenging the evidence behind a particular stance or conclusion.
- Competence: Competence is arguably among the essential qualities for a good debater. The more competent you are, the more are your chances of getting ahead of others. Competence is not putting down others; it is improving upon oneself. It is the set of demonstrable characteristics and skills that enable, and improve the efficiency or performance of a job.
Watch Masterclass with former Rajya Sabha member Prof Rajeev Gowda.
-By Nayanthara Prathap