The writing was on the wall. The debating clubs of Bangladesh have been increasingly making their presence felt in the international arena in recent years- in terms of both debating prowess and organizing capabilities. That this trend of events was going to inspire the debaters from Bangladesh to surpass all their previous performances and take Bangladesh to the next level in the World University Debating Championship (WUDC) was deemed inevitable by the entire Bangladesh contingent as they landed in the Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.
Thailand was the setting for the 28th WUDC 2007-08, organized by Assumption University, largest and most prestigious private university of the country. WUDC, also known as the Worlds, is the largest annual international student event in the world. It is a parliamentary debating event, held in a variant of the British Parliamentary format. With Assumption University at the helm, the Worlds promised to be off the hook and better than ever before. Indeed, Assumption Worlds welcomed more than 400 teams and 400 adjudicators from 34 different countries and more than 200 institutions all over the world, making it the biggest international tournament in the 28-year history of Worlds. With the Worlds starting in the year 1981 with only 7 nations, the growth and evolution of the international debating community was very evident in the Assumption Worlds.
The attractive package offered by the organizing committee, coupled with the fact that the tournament was going to be held in both Bangkok and Pattaya over a span of 8 days, aroused enthusiasm among the debaters and adjudicators from Bangladesh like no other Worlds has ever done before. Six different institutes, namely Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka, North South University (NSU), Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB), Islamic University of Technology (IUT), Stamford University of Bangladesh (SUB) and East West University (EWU) decided to take part in this momentous event.
And they have not regretted their decision. With the brightest minds from all the corners of the globe pitted against each other in the battle of words, the debating experience was extraordinary, or as they say in Thai, dee mak. The debates were fast and furious, ranging from diverse topics like whether Vladimir Putin should be assassinated to whether torture should be legalized. And the fact that debaters had to prepare for seven minute speeches within 15 minutes after the topic was shown in the giant screen in the John XXIII Conference Centre, while at the same time having to cover great distances over the enormous Assumption campus to reach the room where they would be debating in made matters more challenging than ever. Teams from Bangladesh had to prove their worth against awe-inspiring teams like NTU from Singapore, Harthouse from Canada, Alaska from USA, ANU from Australia and IIUM from Malaysia, among many other big names in the international debating community.
But this year, teams from Bangladesh were determined to let the whole world recognize that they too are a formidable force to be reckoned with. This determination materialized in the form of North South University making it through to the Octo-finals of the ESL (English as a Second Language) competition, a feat achieved by no other teams from Bangladesh till today. On 1st January 2008, the entire Bangladesh contingent was thrilled to know NSU C, comprising of Nayeem Kashem and Sinha Ibne Humayun, has “broken” with 13 points in the ESL competition. Advancing through to the next round of ESL has always been an extremely difficult proposition for Bangladeshi teams, because the Western countries have shaped much of the norms guiding the World Debate Championship. That is why this achievement is all the more sweet. Readers can have a look at the tabulated results of the top 5 teams among the 8 teams that represented Bangladesh in the Assumption Worlds in the next page.
Among other achievements, Ridwan Karim and Rubayat Saleheen from IBA advanced through to the quarterfinals of the public-speaking competition. Among the adjudicators, Anika Rahman from EWU was the Chair for one of the sessions in the preliminary rounds. Also, Ipshit Tarafdar from IUB accomplished the phenomenal task of debating as both speakers for 5 consecutive rounds, because of the unfortunate illness of his teammate Deepita Naila Muhaimen.
Participating in the Worlds is always an enriching and rewarding experience. This year was no exception. The Worlds began with a bang with the Grand Opening Ceremony at the Sala Thai, an authentic Thai structure within the Assumption University campus opposite the monumental Cathedral of Learning. The ambience of the entire ceremony convinced the delegates that this was going to be an experience of a lifetime. The preliminary rounds were held in the Suvarnbhumi campus, with on-campus accommodation provided for all the delegates. The icing on the cake was the Break Night on New Year's Eve.
Siam Park, one of Bangkok's top amusement parks, was cordoned off just for the WUDC delegates to celebrate the New Year. After the New Year, the participants were transferred to Ambassador City Hotel, Pattaya for the closing rounds of the championship. The hotel, recognized worldwide as the largest resort complex in the globe, hosted the Irish Night and the Championship Dinner. As usual, the Thai and Western Buffet in all the events was a-roi, or in other words, delicious. And there is no exaggeration in the fact that delegates from Bangladesh stood out because of their vibrant and vocal participation in all the proceedings. The venue for the Grand Final and the Closing Ceremony was Alangkarn, Pattaya. There the champions of the Assumption Worlds 2007-08, Oxford A from the UK, received the Royal Trophy bearing the name of the King of Thailand.
The organizing standard set by Assumption University has been the hallmark of the Worlds this year. A 350-strong voluntary staff made up of students, faculty and admin staff from all over the university worked tirelessly to make the tournament a roaring success. Beginning from the flamboyance of the opening ceremony to the grand entrance of the Convener of the tournament on an elephant before the Final had begun, the delegates were dazzled by what the organizers had in store for them. The proceedings truly reflected the Assumption University motto Labor Omnia Vincit, which means 'striving for excellence to surpass expectations.'
If there can be any complaint about the Assumption Worlds, it can only be about the deplorable standard of adjudication, which was in sharp contrast to the overall standard of the debates. The adjudication left a lot to be desired, and adjudicators had to face allegations of discrimination on a number of occasions. That is why many teams felt that their results were not a true reflection of their overall performance.
The crowning glory of reaching a hitherto unassailable milestone in the Worlds will provide the necessary impetus to further improve the overall standard of debating in Bangladesh. Buoyed by this performance, debaters from Bangladesh are determined to take their performance to even higher levels in future World University Debating Championships.
Student of IBA,DU
This year started off with a bang for the NSU teams as one of their teams broke in the ESL category of the 28th World Universities Debating Championship 2008 in Thailand. The annual World Universities Debating Championship, which is hosted each year in a different country, is the most prestigious and largest debating tournament of the entire world, just as the name suggests. This year it was organized by Assumption University of Thailand. Universities from all around the globe sent their best debaters to compete for the title of the best debaters in the world. Needless to say, with universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Monash, Colgate, Harvard and Yell taking part in it, the competition is literally comprised of creame de la coupe, and is as tough as it gets. North South University has been taking part in it since 1993. This year, teams from NSU, IBA, EWU, IUT, SUB and IUB, took part in the tournament. However, this is the first time in Bangladeshi debating history that a team from Bangladesh actually broke in the tournament, that is reached the octofinals round. This is a feat that no other team from Bangladesh has ever achieved before. All teams from Bangladesh participated in the ESL category, which stands for English as Secondary Language. Powerful teams from renowned universities that fall under the ESL category would such as International Islamic University Malaysia, Hebrew University from Jerusalem, Zagreb University from Croatia, Amsterdam University, Ewha University from Korea, etc took part this year. The members of the team from NSU were Sinha Ibna Humayun and Nayeem Kashem.
The duo faced off against teams such as Oxford Union, Colgate University USA, London School of Economics, Harthouse University Canada, Multimedia University Malaysia, Singapore Institute of Management, Hebrew University, Ateneo de Manila from the Philippines, etc. The tournament follows the British Parliamentary format, in which four teams face off each other at a time. By random selection, two of the teams are assigned as Government 1 and 2, and the other two Opposition 1 and 2. Each team consists of two members, and each debater is allowed on the floor for seven minutes. The Prime Minister from the Government 1 opens the floor, followed by the leader of Opposition 1. After that the minister from the Government 1 gets the floor, followed by the deputy leader of Opposition 1. After both Government 1 and Opposition 1 has had their turn, Government 2 and Opposition 2 follow the same circle, but with different logics and arguments. The winners are selected on the basis of highest score given by the judges. The other debaters from the NSU team were Sheemtana Shamim, Wahidul Bari, Mahnaz Reza and Paromita Islam. Also attending the tournament as adjudicators were Khondokar Zunaed Rabbani and Sarajit Baral, who performed flawlessly as adjudicators. The team of Sinha and Nayeem scored a total of 13, and the other teams comprising respectively of Sheemtana- Bari and Mahnaz-Paromita scored 9 points each, thus grossing a total of 31 for NSU, the highest score for any institution from Bangladesh. This is indeed not only a moment of glory for NSU, but all of Bangladesh. Recently after their return from this immensely successfully trip, the participants from NSU had a talk with the honorable Vice Chancellor of North South University, Prof. Dr. Hafiz G.A. Siddiqui. He was extremely proud of this achievement and praised the team for its valiant effort and outstanding success. He wished them best of luck and expected great results from them in the future and hoped they would uphold the name of Bangladesh in the world in terms of debating.
For those of you who are thinking and are under the impression that debate is a monotonous and boring event, think again. Although the tournament is for debating, the main goal of this event is to bring together the youth from all over the world and share their views, experiences, opinions, and of course, debate on those. Apart from debating, there was a magnificent opening and closing ceremony, alongside great feasts, fun and shows. There were cultural nights to promote different cultures among the world and raise awareness, as well as traditional programs such as ice breaking and gala dinners.
In the end, it can be said that this was a breathtaking and glorifying event not only for NSU, but for the whole of Bangladesh. The participants tried hard, they got far, and in the end it did really matter…a lot.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008