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Around the globe with World debate

Imagine getting to travel all over the world, meeting people from many different cultures, and getting to exchange views with them in a highly-charged, competitive atmosphere? Well, World Debate (WD) offers you all that. Dying to know more? RS talks to Mr. Sarfaraz Ahmed, General Secretary of the World Debate Council, to dig up more for our readers.


World Debate (WD) dissected:

'World debate is the largest student gathering ever in the world' says Mr., Sarfaraz. "65 nations bring in 1200 teams from 500 universities to debate. World debate evaluates THE BEST FROM THE BEST. The British parliamentary debate format is followed. This format is the most tough and technical form of debate existing in the word today. There are 4 teams debating on one topic, and three debate judges adjudicate one debate. Together, in World debate, there is a total of 900 judges, 1200 teams, 400 organizers and ex debaters. Every year, World Debate takes place from December, to January 5.

Each year, the member countries bid to host the world debate. The host nation is given two years of preparation time. The wannabe hosts carry out a three-day-long presentation focusing on the facilities that they can provide to the debaters, like proper medication, infrastructure, financial stability, and so on. On the third day, the delegates vote, and the country with maximum vote wins the offers. The official sponsors are TIME Magazine, Business Week, British Petroleum, and British Airways.

The format of the debate itself is exciting. Unlike the prehistoric system followed here in Bangladesh, there are NO points of privilege and order, and each contestant gets exactly 15 minutes to prepare the speech instead of the traditional one hour allowed here in Bangladesh. The topics are unpredictable, and require a lot of deep thinking, so unless you're well versed on a variety of subjects, ranging from Economics to Philosophy, you practically get eaten alive.

So who's eligible to participate? Any university student can debate. Which debaters get to go depends upon the university that sends them. The basic judgment is Matter, Manner, and Method. Matter is the diversity of knowledge, manner is the way one presents himself, and Method is the combination of both.

The next question that pops to mind is Bangladesh's position on the global debating arena. Our country Bangladesh has been an active participant since Glasgow 1988. Out of 600 universities, Bangladesh's rank is 35. This means we are in the top 5%. Meher Nigar Jun and Abdun Nur Tushar are the name of some great debaters who did us proud.

Even with such a strong standing, we do have problems, the main one being a dearth of sponsors. Only some private universities are financially stable, and interested in sponsoring. There are debaters from many public universities who are as good as any Cambridge student, but cannot enjoy the limelight because of inadequate funding. Companies are not interested in the intellectual sphere because that does not bring them the exposure they want. Another problem is English. We have oodles of talent and maturity, but since our debaters are not that proficient in English, we fall back.

Other than that, we are fine. None of the debaters has fled as it happens in Olympics. The BDF ensures that debaters do come back. Who's the BDF, you ask? The Bangladesh Debate Federation (BDF) is the organization of debaters in Bangladesh. BDF's greatest initiative is promoting English debates. Thanks to Mr. Kiron who introduced BTV English Debate championship. BDF carries out workshops, provides training, and builds them up as debaters.

East West University will soon be hosting the South Asian Debate Championship. In 2015, World Debate will be in Bangladesh. As Sarfaraz Ahmed puts it, "I am not optimistic but damn sure. This is one region where Bangladesh has excelled. It is time to show the world that we are intellectually developed. We are only waiting for some companies to sponsor us."

Sarfaraz Ahmed goes on reminiscing his personal experience

RS: In how many World Debates did you participate?

Ans: Two so far. One in Toronto 2002, and another in Singapore 2004.

RS: How did you get into the debating world?

Ans: That is something interesting. I never liked debating. I always thought it a waste of time. Then one day, my friend and I were hungry, but had no money. There was a debate workshop going on, so we went there for some snacks and drinks.

That is when I discovered the amazing art. I realized the depth of it. I was hooked. Initially, I lost a lot. Then I broke into the finals. In 2002, I judged the National Championship in Notre Dame. Now I do all the National level judging. I have been ranked to level three by the AIDA. I have trained Master Mind School, Turkish Hope School. I provide such training voluntarily.

RS: How did you prepare yourself for debates?

Ans: Everyday, I used to find a topic. I thought about it for 15 minutes, and then spoke for 8 minutes. I uttered whatever came to mind. Everyday, I practiced like this for half an hour. I studied extensively. I read Time Magazine, daily newspapers, I browsed the Internet. Another important thing I did was to listen to BBC Hard Talk. There is a lot to learn from there. Trainers cannot teach you; they can set up roads, but you have to walk through your way. My parents were always there to help me. My father guided me through. After them, I am grateful to three persons: Mr. Farhan Adel, my former partner. Mr. Chowdhury Quaseed, and at last but not least, my guru Mr. Mokhless Hossain (Topon)

RS: How was it like to debate on an international platform for the first time?

Ans: Wonderful. I could not speak for thirty seconds. I realized the difference between crossing the border, and debating back at home. Only my partner and I knew what I went through. It is very easy to criticize, but difficult to be on that ground and play 100% right.

RS: What were you feeling when you first stepped down from the plane?

Ans: That was after September 11. At the immigration, they made me open my boot and sock. Since, I came from Bangladesh, they were skeptical about whether my passport was real. After I was done with the formalities, I saw, 35 Bangladeshi boys welcoming us with banner written- 'Welcome Bangladesh, Welcome NSU.' Coming down the plane I could feel the tears well up.

RS: Final words?

Ans: Debate gives a person the confidence to speak. It helps present oneself in a better way. Debaters know what to say, and where to say. They know how to get the flow out. Debate teaches to take instantaneous decision, and find out the best possible solution with in a short time. Summing it up, it is an approach that brings out the best in a person.

By Maherin Ahmed

Aref Chowdhury Honoured: One of top 100 young innovators of the world

MIT's Technology Review has recently announced Aref Chowdhury (Rubel), a Bell Lab's scientist, as one of the world Top 100 Young Innovators under age 35 for the year 2004. Nominees were selected for their outstanding contributions in helping transform the nature of technology and business in a wide range of industries including biotechnology, computing and nano-technology.

Aref Chowdhury earned his Bachelor of Engineering with Honors in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1994 and was named a fellow of the Honors College. He did his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA in 2001 and joined Bell Labs as a member of technical staff in the Physical Sciences Research Division, Murray Hill, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Chowdhury "specializes in nonlinear optics and biochemical detection research. His work in nonlinear optics, a field critical to improving long-haul optical transport networks, focuses on minimizing distortions due to nonlinear effects in optical signal. Using a technique called optical phase conjugation, Chowdhury and his colleagues are able to correct errors in optical communications by reversing the distortions that occur over time, as signals speed through the network. This work has the potential to increase the efficiency are reliability of optical communications.

"Pulses of light interact with each other in two ways in an optical network," Chowdhury explained. "Either within the same channel-with other pulses of the same frequency-or between channels-with other frequencies. Both of these interactions have the potential to cause distortions. To improve optical networks, we need to better understand these interactions and their implications."

Chowdhury also conducts research in biochemical detection, an emerging area of study that analyzes the interactions between materials and light to uniquely identify biochemical materials based on their spectral properties. "Techniques, like the ones Chowdhury is currently developing, could used in the future to help protect against airborne pollutants, or to monitor other environmental conditions."

Technology Review also recognized Chowdhury's work on nonlinear photonic crystals, which he studied as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsion-Madison. He designed and fabricated nonlinear photonic crystals that could be used to switch data between individual wavelengths of light when routing information optically -- also known as "wavelength switching."

RS Desk

Study Buddies

The college of your choice

Since I'm pretty much stuck here where I am, this is perhaps the one Dream Destination in the RS this week that's for the readers.

With your GCE's or SSC/HSC over, the next logical step will be to apply for college. Assuming now that your first preference is to study abroad (I know this is not the case for everyone…but don't worry, RS Study Buddies will soon be introducing special issues on getting into a local institution of your choice), you should be searching for your college now.

If you're planning to study in the US, the place to start is http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/cohome.htm

This link points to a site that gives you a comprehensive list of colleges and universities in the United States according to their rankings. Take time to find one that suits your needs in terms of tuition fees, locations, international student percentages, subjects, and so on. Make sure you shortlist at least ten colleges and universities. The site will also provide you with links to the web-sites of these unis, so make it a point to visit these sites, read the fine print, and find out the requirements.

Most colleges and unis will look at your high-school grade-point-average, as well as your GCE/Cambridge/GED/SSC/HSC scores. Then there are the scores of tests like SAT, GRE, IELTs and TOEFL, etc., and various institutions have varying requirements, so research! Finally, they'll also look at your ECA profile, which is where our "Step Up" column comes in handy, as well as your college essay.

After you've picked out your most-wanted list of colleges, the next step is to start ordering your application forms. One quick way to minimise the hassle this to use the common application form. To know more about this, visit: www.commonapp.com Believe me, you'll be thanking me later.

If you're planning to study in Canada, then the site you want to visit is: www.macleans.ca

It's not as user-friendly as usnews.com, but it's the next best thing, and probably your best bet to study up on those universities. The Canadian unis are a little easier on you in terms of application, because they don't ask for all those essays…at least many of the unis don't. Even if you're planning to go study in the US, make sure you keep some Canadian institutions on your back-up list.

Finally, if you want to study in the UK, check out http://education.guardian.co.uk This site has the universities grouped according to the field of study you want to pursue, so it could make it easier for you to make a choice.

Well, that's all I have for you this week. In case you're wondering, TOEFL Tips continues next week.

By Sabrina F Ahmad






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