When Minds Clash Khulna University Excels
Quazi Zulquarnain Islam
Step over private universities. The real boys from the public universities are here to stake their claim.
After two months of progressively enticing action, the Battle of Minds (BoM) reached a crescendo with the final held at the magnificent Radisson Water Garden hotel in the outskirts of the city on January 24.
It was a venue worthy of the occasions as eminent personalities, teachers and the competing teams alike graced the occasion each hoping it was to be them who would be crowned champions at the end of the day.
But as the saying goes, when the going got tough, the tough got going.
Khulna University (KU), who had been in the shadows for much of the tournament, finally came to the fore, delivering an exemplary presentation on how to develop the shrimp industry in Khulna.
It was a performance that justifiably won them the title of champions and having been there or thereabouts for much of the time, it was a prize they justifiably deserved and one that they celebrated with a unique rendition of the (in) famous “who let the dogs out.” One for the scrapbook, that one.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg for the public institutions.
Dhaka University's management guild (DUm) took second place meaning that the top two prizes went to the public institutions.
They were rewarded for their thorough research and good delivery about how to develop skilled labour for international markets and hence increase the flow of remittance in the country.
North South University (NSU), was the sole saving grace for the private institutions, their presentation on ways to develop the aviation industry handing them the consolation of a third place finish.
For the rest, a scrapheap dominated by renowned universities like the Independent University (IUB), BRAC and East West University (EWU) it was a bitter pill to swallow some took it well, while others pointed the finger at technical glitches that had disrupted their presentation.
One suspects that the sumptuous lunch would hardly have been considerable compensation for them.
To maintain a level of transparency, this final event was judged by three well-known personalities.
QM Shahed, representing BATB as head of their HR.
Reputed media personality Samia Zaman and CPD Research Fellow Fahmida Khatun bringing up the trio.
And to further the transparency card, it was made sure that the judges did not know which teams were participating so as to ensure an impartial result.
And fair it was, with Khulna the deserved winners, describing their feelings as “simply wow!”
“This is a good message to the people of the country. The decentralization of business (and other) education is a good thing. We at Khulna University have proved it beyond any doubt,” they said after the initial reaction had simmered down a tad.
“The standard of education we are used to is quite high,” they said dispelling the myth that Dhaka is the be-all and end-all of tertiary education in the country.
“Our students were confident and we believed from the off that we could win this thing,” was muttered amidst hurried phone calls to friends and faculty members.
But the real eye-opener from the champs was when they said that they were used to tougher competition at home then they had faced at BoM.
“The culture of our education there (in Khulna) entails us to make presentations whenever.
It is thanks to our peers that presentation programs are held continuously in our university and for us the pressure we face at the intra-level prepared us for this.”
The winners were quick to thank BATB as well, muttering profuse gratitude for providing them an “unforgettable experience, with more to hopefully come in the future.”
The management guild of DU had seemed delighted at their coronation into second place, but the members were nowhere to be found for an interview and we can only congratulate them for their outstanding achievement. The third place finishers NSU were however present to share their views and the look on their faces was the prerequisite for the expected answer of “disappointing” that issued from their lips.
“We did not present as well as we could have. There was a great deal of scope for improvement,” was how they summarised their efforts. Not good enough in the final reckoning but a third place ought to provide them with enough to lick their wounds over.
For IUB, BRAC and EWU though, it was a tough judgement. While the latter were left fuming after their defeat blaming technical glitches in the process for not being able to leave an enduring mark on the judges, the others accepted defeat more graciously.
For the all-female bar one group of IUB, their creative news-skit roleplay during the presentation still fell short of the mark. Interviewed right after their turn at presenting, they also felt that their efforts had been a tad underwhelming and were not completely satisfactory.
Not completely satisfied were BRAC as well, but it was about something else entirely as their challenge, stiff to begin with, petered out towards the end.
The losers on the day resembled the dark sky outside and most would pass for the murky clouds that dotted the skyline in an atypical winter weather display for Dhaka in January.
The judges however proved far more revealing, with QM Shahed pleased to announce that they were contributing towards “national interests with competitions like this.” The head of HR, revelled in what he said was “a very rewarding experience, although the content may not always have been as prolific as the presentations themselves.”
He also expressed a desire to take the competition beyond national borders in the very near future with an international competition mooted pitting the winners of Bangladesh against the best of the rest of South Asia.
Samia Zaman, perhaps the most well-known judge in the panel, said that the event to her had been a “pleasant surprise.”
“You expect to be bored during these presentation competitions. I did! But it sure turned out differently,” she joked, adding that she felt delighted to be a part of the whole event.
She professed herself “impressed” with the depth and research that went into these presentations and the on-stage performances of the students and congratulated all the participating teams for putting on a good show and making it tough for the judges.
But she was quick to point out that there was still a lack of practicality, a trait she put down to the students being very young.
“Young people need to be more aware of generalizing solutions to crisis situations. They will realize in due time that things are more often grey than they are black or white.”
Fahmida Khatun put a seal on proceedings by praising the “clarity of thoughts and the creative and innovative ideas of the students.”
A quick recap to round of proceedings then.The BoM 2007/08 started with 42 teams from 14 institutions.
After numerous 'roadshows' the number whittled down to 14 for the semifinals held late December, before seven teams proceeded to the aforementioned grand finale.
Aside everything else, the magnitude of the events meant that BATB performed a logistical miracle to host all these programs successfully. Due thanks should go to people behind the scenes or the 'puppet-masters' of the whole event.
So, Khulna are champions of the 2007/08 edition and Dhaka's reputation as the premier education center is very much under threat. As the former would doubtless say “the dogs are very much out.”
Till next year then!
(R) thedailystar.net 2008