UGC enacts new guidelines for participation at the WUDC
Star Campus Desk
In recent years, the debating arena of Bangladesh has shown a lot of promise and potential. The educational institutions, in particular the universities, have witnessed the emergence of growing enthusiasm for debating, which in turn has paved way to the formation of debate oriented student bodies. Some of these debating clubs have been successful at organizing both national and international competitions in Bangladesh. They also have contributed to the capacity building of the local debaters as a result of which debaters from Bangladesh have been performing increasingly better in the international arena.
One of the major problems faced by the debating arena of Bangladesh has been unfortunate involvement of some members of student bodies in unscrupulous activities, which at times have tarnished the image of the debating community both at home and abroad. In many instances, the debating clubs in Bangladesh have been dominated by students who already have graduated and are not legitimate to represent Bangladesh in international competitions. Such practices deprive upcoming debaters from their fair chance of representing Bangladesh in the international arena.
To inquire into some of the alleged irregularities in the representation of Bangladesh in the World Debate Council (WDC), which is the apex body for international debate, UGC nominated Syed Munir Khasru, Professor at IBA and a former international debater to represent Bangladesh at the WDC during the Worlds Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) 2007, held at the Assumption University, Thailand.
Although, ideally regular students from universities should be the country representative at the World Debating Council, for quite sometime irregular and non-students have been representing Bangladesh without any proper authorization. To remove such malpractices and to ensure that in future, regular university students get a fair opportunity to represent Bangladesh and develop the leadership skills, Professor Munir was sent as representative of Bangladesh to WDC and to report to the UGC on return to streamline the process.
Under the leadership of UGC and based on the report of Professor Munir, a number of meetings took place with the Vice Chancellors and senior officials of leading Bangladeshi universities who have been participating at the World University Debate Championship (WUDC). During these meetings, some of the Vice Chancellors expressed their unhappiness with the misconduct by some of their former students who have been tarnishing the image of the university and country both at home and abroad. The universities appreciated the initiative of UGC and its advisor Professor Munir in providing a much-needed guideline for effective participation of Bangladesh in international debating championships in the future.
The meetings held under the Chairmanship of Professor Nazrul Islam, Chairman, UGC resulted into the formation of a set of guidelines for participation at the WUDC and WDC (Please see the Box for details.). According to the guidelines, each university will inform UGC of the regular students selected by them as participating debaters for the WUDC. To ensure participation by deserving regular-students, non-students and irregular students will not be allowed to represent Bangladesh in either WUDC or WDC.
Representation of Bangladesh at the WDC will be done through a turn-based rotational system. According to the system, universities participating at WUDC will be classified according to 'institution points'. A university will be awarded 5 points if at least one team from the institute has participated in the WUDC; further 1 point will be awarded for each additional team participating from the same university in the same WUDC. The institute with the highest accrued points will nominate the representative of Bangladesh to the WDC for the next year; the institute with the second highest score would nominate the year after that, and so on. If a university is unable to nominate a representative in the year it is designated to, the responsibility will be automatically shifted to the university appearing next in the points tabulation. This will ensure that each participating university has a fair chance to represent Bangladesh at the WDC. The points tabulation would be conducted every five years. The Vice Chancellor's office of the concerned university will be responsible for choosing the student who would represent Bangladesh at the WDC. The representative will be responsible for representing Bangladesh in a manner consistent with the values, traditions, norms and customs of the country.
Under UGC's auspices, a meeting would be held among the participants from the different universities to the WUDC prior to their departure to discuss best possible means to promote the interest of Bangladesh in the international debating arena at WDC. The guidelines set by UGC are expected to strengthen the stance of Bangladeshi debating community in the international arena and free it from unprofessional conduct which in the past had negatively affected the image of the country.
Summary of UGC Guidelines
1 Each university will decide for itself whether it wants to participate in the WUDC.
2 Selection of participants/ debaters will be done by respective universities and names of participants communicated to the UGC.
3 The debaters must be regular students from undergraduate program of the university.
4 Representation of Bangladesh at the WDC will be done through a turn-based rotational system, based on well defined institutional scores.
5 The Vice Chancellor's office of the university, whose turn has come to nominate representative of Bangladesh to the WDC, will choose the student who would represent Bangladesh at the WDC and communicate the same to the UGC.
6 The representative of Bangladesh at the WDC must be a regular student from the undergraduate program of the concerned university who has participated in at least one World Debate Championship as a debater.
Professor Nazrul Islam talks about the guidelines
To know further about the formation of the guideline and its probable impact in the debating arena of Bangladesh, Star Campus talked to Professor Nazrul Islam, Chairman, UGC who has been known for his strong support for the debating community and under whose chairmanship the aforementioned guidelines were brought about.
Star Campus: Where do you think the debating community in Bangladesh currently stands?
Professor Nazrul Islam: The standard of debating has significantly increased in Bangladesh. With the infusion of bright debaters in the local debating community, added with more exposure to international competition, quality of debating in Bangladesh has witnessed a steep ascension. In order to further enhance the debating potential in Bangladesh, we need to adopt a more scientific approach where through training debaters can be nurtured. Local debaters need a broad based education through which a good orator can be honed into a great debater.
SC: How did UGC get involved with the formation of the new guideline?
Professor Nazrul Islam: In recent years there have been numerous complaints that Bangladesh is not being represented properly in the international debating arena. There have been some occasions where the said representatives have been found missing from the venue and portrayed unacceptable behaviour that tarnished the image of Bangladesh. As a result, respective authorities approached UGC to make a central policy regarding the participation of debaters in the international competitions. Being the guardians of the Universities, UGC's involvement in this matter is a means of showing our appreciation to all the young debaters who are showing a lot of promise in the university level. With the new policy, upcoming debaters will have a higher opportunity to set their mark in the international forum.
SC: What impact will it have in Bangladeshi debating arena?
Professor Nazrul Islam: If you have a good system and a good governance procedure, right debaters will be selected. This would motivate upcoming debaters and further strengthen the debating community. To take debating to the next level, the Government will help out in the form of funding and scholarships in future.
"Some individuals have used debate for commercial and personal purposes"
- Professor Syed Munir Khasru
As the Moderator of the IBA Communication Club (IBACC) and former international debater himself, Professor Syed Munir Khasru has played an active role in promoting the interest of the debating community of Bangladesh. While a student of DU, Professor Munir led Bangladesh into full voting membership of the World Debating Council (WDC), the apex body for the international debating community and Bangladesh became the 1st country from South Asia to have earned this distinction.
To know further about the guidelines enacted by UGC for participation at the World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) and representation at the WDC, Star Campus spoke to Professor Munir, UGC's Advisor for Debating Issues.
Star Campus: Why was it necessary to create new guidelines?
Prof. SMK: Bangladesh has a strong pool of talented debaters who have proven their worth in both local and international arena. However, one of the primary problems faced by Bangladeshi debating community has been some unethical individuals who have been using debate for commercial and personal purposes by exploiting their position in the debating clubs. This practice has extended even into the international arena and at the expense of regular students who are pure debaters and have no other motive other than debating.
There have been a number of cases in the past where ex-students and ex-members of debating clubs have continued to dominate the club activities as well as undermined Bangladesh's position in the international community of debaters. Vice Chancellors of some of the leading private universities have made complains about such individuals who have indulged into financial irregularities and other forms of breach of organizational discipline both at home and abroad. On the other hand, the regular students have been deprived from their fair share of exposure and leadership.
To safeguard the debating culture of Bangladesh from such unhealthy practices, the set of guidelines has been enacted in consultation with the Vice Chancellors of leading universities under the leadership of the UGC Chairman.
SC: What impact will it have on the debating arena of Bangladesh?
Prof SMK: With the guidelines, the selection of debating teams for the WUDC and nomination of representative of Bangladesh at the WDC has been freed from any favoritism and arbitrariness. Thus, any debater with quality and commitment now has the opportunity of both participating in the WUDC as well as representing Bangladeshi debating society in the international community of debaters at the WDC. This would motivate the upcoming debaters as well as nurture new talents. The regular university students now will be able to participate and represent Bangladesh in the international debating arena without any obstacle created by any vested quarter.
SC: You have been an international debater yourself. What would be your advice to upcoming debaters who want to represent Bangladesh in the international arena?
Prof SMK: Before representing internationally, it also is important to do well nationally. It gives one confidence in his/her abilities. It is wise to take advice from seniors who have participated in international debate before. Watching videos of international parliamentary debates helps to get an idea on the style, format and content, since the format of international debate can be different than what is done nationally. Once one is familiar enough with the structure and have practiced well, he/she should try to get selected from his/her respective university. We encourage participating institutions to have a fair and transparent selection process so that each university is represented by its best debaters and organizers.