Online Debate Competition for School Students with UNESCO New Delhi


Competition for school students, organised by Brainwiz in partnership with UNESCO New Delhi Office

15-04-2020, Wednesday

COVID-19 lockdown affected affecting multiple sectors badly. While the focus of nations lies on Economy and Healthcare, UNESCO is closely monitoring the status of Education sectors across the world. UNESCO’s global monitoring system suggests that over 1.5 billion learners continued to stay out of school globally during the lockdown. Going forward, as key stakeholders continue to engage in dialogue to ensure that students do not miss out on their academics, Brainwiz and UNESCO New Delhi Office got together in a one-of-its-kind initiative to engage with school students and understand their perspectives on the impact of this global lockdown on their community.

Brainwiz, in partnership with UNESCO New Delhi Office, organized an Online Debate Competition for school students. The theme of the competition was #EveryVoiceMatters. Students were invited from across the world to participate in the debate competition in a 2 step process. First, the students were asked to submit a short essay on the topic “My biggest learning during the ongoing lockdown is…”. The student community responded to this event with great enthusiasm. Within 5 days, the organizers received over 1,000 applications. The applications came in from multiple cities of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Saudi Arabia. Some key insights from the application process are:

  1. In over 1,000 applications, a total of 60% of applicants were girls
  2. 62.5% of applicants feel that the ongoing lockdown has benefited the student community, while 37.5% feel otherwise
  3. The link that was set up for online registrations was clicked over 8000 times in less than a week’s time

This overwhelming response from the student community goes to show that while the students continue to engage in e-learning and household chores, they miss the extracurricular activities and group interactions that they would otherwise have under normal circumstances.

As a team of five expert evaluators screened the applications, the essays written by students highlighted varied perspectives of students on the ongoing lockdown. The essays revealed that this ongoing lockdown has taught students about the importance of independence, relationships, basic amenities that we usually take for granted, and most importantly, their schools. Students expressed that this lockdown has made them more empathetic towards those who are affected the most by it. While these thousands of essays revealed thousands of new perspectives, the evaluators picked top 32 students who would go on to compete in the Online Debate Competition.

The competition was held on 15th April 2020, at 11:00 AM IST, and was conducted via video conferencing. The students were divided into two groups of 16 each, where 8 students represented the motion “This ongoing lockdown due to coronavirus has benefited the student community”, and 8 opposed. A panel of 2 judges was present in both groups to evaluate the debaters. The judges for the Online Debate Competition were:

  1. Mr. Mame Omar DIOP – Chief of Education at UNESCO New Delhi
  2. Mr Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda – Head of Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO New Delhi
  3. Ms. Aditi Pathak – Program Officer at UNESCO MGIEP
  4. Mr. Abhinav Kumar – works with the Education Team at UNESCO New Delhi

The debaters who participated in the Online Competition were:

Speaking for the motion:

  1. Amiya Patley, N.H. Goel World School, Class X, Raipur 
  2. Arsh Misra, Tagore International School – Vasant Vihar, Class XII, New Delhi
  3. Asish Singh, St. Augustine’s Day School – Barrackpore, Class XII, Kolkata
  4. Haroop Kaur Aulakh, Manav Sthali School – Rajendra Nagar, Class XI, New Delhi
  5. Nanda Vania Qurratu Aini, SMA Negeri 3, Class XI, Depok
  6. Negin Najib, Saydal Nasiri Girls High School, Class X, Kabul
  7. Neha Varadharajanm, The Orbis School – Keshavnagar, Class IX, Pune
  8. Ria Singh, Heritage Experiential Learning School, Class XI, Gurgaon
  9. Sachin Sharma, Ahlcon International School, Class XII, New Delhi
  10. Sahiti Gabrani, Apeejay School, Class XII, Noida
  11. Shivangni Raizada, Prudence School – Sector 22 – Dwarka, Class XI, New Delhi
  12. Shruti Padhye, Blue Ridge Public School, Class X, Pune
  13. Tapasmi Ray Chaudhuri, Delhi Public School – Gurgaon, Class XI, Gurgaon
  14. Tiara Arora, Army Public School – Shankar Vihar, Class XII, New Delhi
  15. Zaid Siddiqui, Tagore International School – East of Kailash, Class VI, New Delhi

Speaking against the motion:

  1. Angelina, DLF Public School, Class X, Ghaziabad
  2. Ajwad Abbas, Sunbeam Varuna, Class VII, Varanasi
  3. Ayushi Singh, Fr. Agnel School, Class IX, New Delhi
  4. Daania Fathima, Smt. Kamalabai Educational Institution, Class X, Bangalore
  5. Dhriti Narang, ShreeRam World School, Class X, New Delhi
  6. Gariyasi Garg, Pathways School – Noida, Class XII, Noida
  7. Jyona Roy Biswas, ITL Public School, Class XII, New Delhi
  8. Nandini Khurana, KIIT World School, Class XII, New Delhi
  9. Nathan Miranda, Pinegrove School, Class XII, Mumbai
  10. Neti Verma, Bal Bharati Public School – Noida, Class IX, Noida
  11. Rashi Agarwal, Lotus Valley International School, Class XII, Noida
  12. Shreya Gautam, Indus International School, Class VIII, Pune
  13. Shwetambhari, Gaur’s International School, Class VIII, Greater Noida
  14. Tejas Trivedi, St. Columba’s School, Class VIII, New Delhi
  15. Tejkirat Singh Sukhija, The Indian School, Class XII, New Delhi

The winners of the competition were:

  1. Shruti Padhye and Abbas Ajwad in Panel 1, as adjudged by Ms. Aditi Pathak and Mr. Juan Pablo
  2. Nanda Vania Qurratu Aini and Nathan Miranda in Panel 2, as adjudged by Mr. Mame Omar Diop and Mr. Abhinav Kumar

Shruti Padhye, speaking for the motion stressed on the fact that this ongoing lockdown has given students some time for self introspection and overcome their insecurities. She also explained this using popular internet slangs like #FOMO. Abbas Ajwad of class VII reminded everyone of Einstein’s famous quote “Education is what remains after one has unlearned everything they learn in school”. Speaking against the motion Abbas structured his argument around the impacts of this ongoing lockdown on students’ learning, mental & social competence, and mental development.

Nanda Vania brought in the perspectives of the youth of Indonesia. She informed that 68 Mn students in Indonesia alone are forced to stay at home due to covid19. Stressing that we learn more in crisis than in comfort, Nanda Vania argued that this ongoing lockdown has led to an increased social awareness among the student community. Speaking against the motion, Nathan Miranda stressed on the fact that while everyone is trying to study at home, amidst distractions like television and mobile phones, they can barely focus on academics. He pointed out the importance of schools and other workplaces as places you can focus on the task you are assigned to do.

Speaking to the kids after the event, Mr. Mame Omar DIOP informed everyone about UNESCO’s role in protecting the Right to Education for all individuals and how UNESCO is taking on the challenges put forward by the ongoing lockdown. He mentioned that it remains a collective responsibility to come up with solutions that will have far reaching impact after the lockdown is over. Mr. Juan Pablo told the kids about the importance of their thoughts and their actions during this crisis, as it is their actions that are going to shape the world they will grow up in. Appreciating the efforts each participant had put in, Mr. Juan asked kids to stay motivated, and continue the dialogue not only in their heads but also in their communities. Ms. Aditi Pathak thanked the students for participating and highlighted the importance of such events that offer insights into students’ perspectives. She mentioned that the entire event was a great learning experience for her too.

Speaking at the end, Mr. Tarush Jain, founder of Brainwiz thanked all the students for participating and UNESCO New Delhi Office for partnering with Brainwiz to put this event together. He also thanked all the judges for their active participation in the event. Brainwiz associates, Ishween Mehta and Manya Kapur were also acknowledged for their efforts in organizing this event.

This was the second online event that Brainwiz and UNESCO New Delhi organised together. Both events, the ‘Online Group Discussion on Futures of Education’ and the ‘Online Debate Competition’ have been well received by the community and hence, encourages us to organise more such impact oriented events in the future.

Online Debate Competition - Panel 1

Online Debate Competition - Panel 2

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