Rajiv Kacholia, Founder, Speech and Debate India

A Debate Champion in the State of Illinois, the USA in the late 1980s, and the Founder of Speech and Debate India, Rajiv Kacholia, says, “Debate supports intellectual growth while helping to shape the personality of children by polishing both their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Debaters collaborate on teams, think creatively about real-world questions, and learn to effectively present their points backed by extensive research, understanding, and logic. It is an incredible experience for students to engage in!” In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Rajiv Kacholia, who is also an alumnus of Stanford University and Goldman Sachs, talks about how debate shapes personality and polish inter and intrapersonal skills, and where can students find events to engage themselves.

What are the biggest problems with traditional professional development practices, and how can they be fixed?

Traditional approaches to professional development have faced many challenges that have been studied in recent years.

First, most public speaking courses are short courses, taking a surface-level approach with mechanical “tips” designed to impress in a large public setting. But that is not where most of us are communicating day to day. We need to develop our own natural intellectual style, not just adopt a formulaic approach meant for stage presentations.

Second, these courses tend to skew towards extroverts, while often harming introverts further. About half of us are introverts and prefer a more gradual and deep learning experience with time to reflect, practice, and improve.

Third, we wait too long to work on life skills. For example, let us review findings on creativity. In a study by NASA Scientists, 98% of 5-year-olds scored as “creative geniuses” – compared to only 2% of adults who passed the same bar. Life skills are key determinants of leadership and success – but needs to be nurtured in the early years.

What are the shortcomings of the Indian education system right now? Going forward, what are the changes that you wish to see? You have been a Debate Champion in the State of Illinois, the USA in the late 1980s. In your opinion, how debate shapes personality and polish inter and intrapersonal skills?

The traditional Indian Education system has focused far too long on academic test-taking, rote learning, and factual understanding. Students who focus on the “What” are likely to be automated, whereas those asking “Why” and learning how to fail and adapt will emerge as future entrepreneurs and leaders in the next generation. India’s recent NEP (National Education Policy) is a major shift in the right direction to bring focus to skills development and raise academics to global standards like US Common Core.

I found debate in the US to be exhilarating and highly empowering. US Debate is rigorous while supporting the 21st-century skills that employers view as the widest gaps, such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, confidence, and persuasive communication. Debate supports intellectual growth while helping to shape the personality of children by polishing both their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Debaters collaborate on teams, think creatively about real-world questions, and learn to effectively present their points backed by extensive research, understanding, and logic. It’s an incredible experience for students to engage in!

Tell us a bit about Speech and Debate India and the Launch of the Debate Academy.

Speech and Debate India offers students in Grades 1-12 a modern US Debate pedagogy that has been augmented to provide one of the most challenging and rigorous formats of debate globally while making it fun and thrilling for kids. We incorporate student-centred discussions, interactive games, and intellectual drills to reinforce concepts and drive deep analysis. Courses are taught live online exclusively by US instructors.

It takes just a few minutes to signup on our website, SpeechDebateIndia.com/academy for any of our courses. For the 2020-21 academic year, we are offering 7 debate courses in the first quarter starting August 17th. Each course is designed to integrate new students quickly – new kids will start debating by the end of the first session!

Kids enjoy our discussion-based format and practice debates. Courses meet twice a week for 1.5 hours each. We maintain the size of small groups based on academic research to optimize the balance of interaction with a diversity of opinion so that students are actively engaged and learn from alternative perspectives and evidence. We provide an important foundation for success in school and the real world.

During this pandemic, when students are still away from their campuses, what is the need for extra-curricular activities? What is your advice to the students during this time of lockdowns?

Strengthening academic and life skills is an ongoing process and a critical determinant of performance near-term in school and college, and longer-term in organizations. US Debate provides a needed intellectual and social outlet as an activity that tends to pay back not only in near-term academic and soft skill gains but also in enhancing our productivity.

Researchers have found that US Debate helps improve our reading comprehension speed and level, outlining and writing productivity, data analysis, evidence-based reasoning, and attentiveness, all of which can pay back by making debaters more efficient in the long-run. Moreover, debaters often come to find school much easier and tend to rise to the top 10% of their class. So don’t just focus on academic subjects – debate can broaden your skill set while making academics much easier.

Where can they find events to engage themselves?

Speech and Debate India students, depending on their performance in classes, will be eligible to qualify for our Regionals A Tournament in the winter. Students receive points throughout the academic year for their performance in classes, special tournament prep courses, and in Regionals A and B to accumulate total points to qualify for the 2021 National Tournament.

We are also exclusively a part of the largest global speech and debate competition, so a few exceptional students in the Middle School and High School divisions will have an opportunity to represent India in these global rounds next year as well. Debate Tournaments are highly thrilling events where kids bond, meet other students from across India and put their hard work and intellect to the ultimate test!

About Rajiv Kacholia

Rajiv Kacholia is the founder of Speech and Debate India. Elegant debate, encouraging collaboration & balanced perspectives for gifted 1st-12th graders, launched in India January 2020, by Mr Kacholia who is also a Stanford University alumnus & US State Debate Champion.

Kacholia brings 25 years of global experience in entrepreneurship, investments, and research & development. He started his career in corporate finance at the San Francisco office of Goldman Sachs and later in mergers and acquisitions in New York City at Goldman Sachs and at Lazard Freres. He has led the formation and structuring of numerous alliances, joint ventures, restructurings, capital raises, collaborations, and acquisitions. It is worthy to note that Mr Kacholia has completed over the US $22 Billion of transactions across 5 continents single-handedly.

Kacholia studied industrial engineering, sociology, and finance at Stanford University, graduating with Honors. He was the back to back Debate Champion two years in a row in the State of Illinois, the USA in the late 1980s. He was also the first Undergraduate student accepted to take courses at Stanford Law School and the finance curriculum at Stanford Business School.

Related Articles