The Daily Star yesterday honoured the nation's 1,353 highest achievers in O- and A- levels, including the 63 who ranked among the globe's top scorers subject-wise.
The students received medals and certificates of excellence in the ceremony themed "Saluting the Nation Builders of Tomorrow" attended by their teachers, families, friends, and special guests in the capital's Shaheed Suhrawardy National Indoor Stadium.
The 13th annual awards went to 82 highest scorers and 833 students of the O-level, who obtained a minimum of six A's in two consecutive exams, and 46 highest scorers and 339 students of A-level, who attained at least three A's in the academic session 2010-11, besides 53 private candidates of both the groups.
This year the top scorers of the world in particular subjects include 16 more students on last year's 47 while the national-level top scorers number 65 against last year's 20.
Saif Mohammed Chowdhury of Chittagong Grammar School was awarded with Mufrad Nabeel Memorial Trust award for the highest achievement in computer studies in the O-level.
Hasibul Ameen of Manarat Dhaka International College and Anik Islam Badhan of Oxford International School on behalf of all the high achievers attributed their success to the teachers, parents, friends and their hard work and called on their peers to be the catalyst for change.
The ceremony was marked with jubilation as the audience burst into cheery applause as the name of each attendee was announced in the four-hour programme.
BRAC Bank Ltd, Edexcel International and Monash University, Malaysia sponsored the programme with Channel i as the media partner.
Awardees from 67 English medium schools were honoured in the ceremony. Musical and dance performances by students of various schools made the programme even livelier. The Daily Star initiated the unique annual event in 1999.
Meanwhile, the presence of cricket sensation Tamim Iqbal made the event extra special for the audience. They clapped, cheered and chanted the name of the star batsman as he walked to the podium. His appearance was kept as a surprise which added some extra glamour.
"Whatever you are doing, keep up the good work and success will follow you," said Tamim giving a word of advice to the students.
Eminent economist Prof Rehman Sobhan, also the chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), handed over the certificates and medals to the future nation builders.
Speaking as the chief guest, he said accreditation and recognition during his student years used to come mostly in extra-curriculum and sports activities.
"This is of some significance that we live in a time when academic achievement receives more credit that it was used to," he said.
The CPD chairman also pointed out that almost all students now aspire to become engineers and doctors, but none seek to be a civil servant or politician.
This is in sharp contrast to the past when many wished to be civil servants and politicians, he added.
While the trend is not very surprising, considering the lack of charm and incentives for pursuing those careers, it offers a degree of concern, said Rehman Sobhan, adding, "This will leave a gap between the talented and those who are in power."
He urged the students to do something for the country instead of pursuing personal achievements.
"You cannot reach the fullest potential if your country is not progressing. Approach the world and seek excellence," said Rehman.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam also congratulated the students along with their teachers and parents for making the country proud with the brilliant results.
He urged the parents to instil fundamental values of humanism, humility and tolerance for the diversity of the society.
"Bangladesh faces enormous challenges in many respects, and in this challenging environment you are amongst the lucky few who are getting such world-class education," said Mahfuz Anam, adding, "You must make the best out of this opportunity."
He said, "You [students] can be the nation builders of tomorrow if your heart and mind is with the people of Bangladesh."
The students will be sought after from all over the world as they gain more education and skills, he continued.
"Get the best education; learn everything you can and then go out to the world to show them what you are made of," said Mahfuz Anam, "But at the end of all, you must return to the roots and serve the people whose love and affection have made you grow."
Robert Winnington Gibson, British high commissioner to Bangladesh, said the greatest resource that a country possesses is its people. Development, education and training of this resource are the defining factors for Bangladesh's success today and will be in future.
Mahmoodun Nabi Chowdhury, head of Brac Bank, termed the students' gathering a constellation of stars.
Isabel Sutcliffe, director of Regulation, Standards and Research, Edexcel, UK and Jan Clohessy, director of Advancement, Monash University, Malaysia also spoke in the event moderated by Elita Karim of The Daily Star.
Nawar, who scored top grades in four science subjects in O level exam, got a big round of applause in yesterday's ceremony.
"I cannot express how great I feel," a smiling Nawar told The Daily Star.
Nawar, a student of Dhaka's Aga Khan School, aspires to be a molecular biologist.
She wishes to do something for the country in the future. But she intends to focus on her education for now.
Md Imran Khan
Mastermind student Imran, who scored five As in A level exam, said he felt honoured to be among the awardees in yesterday's ceremony.
"It's all because of my teachers, parents and friends," said Imran.
He is now studying mechanical engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) but he wishes to become an aeronautical engineer in the future.
"It is a sector that is gradually growing in the country. And I would like to be a part of it."
For his peers, he said: "Never give up on anything. You can achieve anything with passion and hard work."
The Maple Leaf International School student gave credit to her parents, the school, teachers and friends for getting five As, including the top score in Further Mathematics, in A level exams.
"I am proud of myself, and I would especially like to thank my study partner Riasat."
Now a student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Buet, Mahnaz feels that the present generation lacks patriotism.
Referring to Bangladesh cricket team's recent performance that brought the whole nation together, she said such things are needed to spur patriotism in the country's youth.
The O level student, who scored 10 As in a single sitting, said he had never felt happier.
"The credit goes to my parents, my school, teachers and of course my friends," said the student from Manarat Dhaka International College.
Ameen said he has always been fascinated by engineering, and seeks to build a career in the sector.
Always listen to your heart, he advised his peers.
"I did not expect to do this well!" said Shahruk, who scored 10 As in O level exams from Bangladesh International School and College.
He thanked The Daily Star for the recognition, and also his parents, teachers and friends for their support.
Shahruk wants to study biochemistry that immensely fascinates him. "I would like to know more about biology and go abroad for higher studies. But I want to work here".
The student of Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT), who scored 10 As in O level, gave the credit to his parents for this achievement.
"They have done everything to ensure the highest-quality education for me. They deserve the credit."
Saadman says he is interested in a lot of subjects but prefers law.
"I want to be a doctor although I did well in Accounting," said Samira, who scored 10 As in O level from Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT).
She said many students go abroad for higher studies and settle there. But they should come back and serve the nation.
"After all, the country has given them so much."
Pulok, who scored 10 As in O level, aspires to become a doctor.
"The country lacks efficient doctors. That's why a large number of people go abroad for treatment," said the student of Maple Leaf International School.
Pulok wants to go abroad for higher studies. But he would return home and work for the health sector.
Samiul Karim Khan
The A level student from Academia with five As under his belt said his achievement was a stepping stone to something bigger in the future.
Karim seeks to pursue higher education in a foreign university. But he would come back and do something for the country.
"I want to be a computer engineer."
He thinks Bangladesh lags behind many nations in computer technology, and he wants to contribute to this sector.