Vijaybhoomi University, India’s first liberal professional university, hosted the 2nd edition of ForNotFor, an international debate competition for high school students. Despite its virtual format and being born during the pandemic, the competition has grown twice this year in terms of scale, participation, judges, and the diversity of countries participating. The winners of this international debate competition are Ratyansh Garg from Jayshree Periwal High School, Jaipur, and the runner-up is Fiona Raj from Shri Shikshayatan School, Kolkata. The winners were awarded with the prize money of Rs. 100,000 and Rs. 50,000 respectively.
In an effort to enhance public speaking skills, the University organised several workshops with well-known debaters and public speaking experts prior to the rounds as part of the organisers’ ‘Initium’ skill building initiative. The debate is designed for high school students to express their thoughts and opinions on current issues confronting humanity and the world. This year’s International Debate Competition attracted 230 school students from 10 countries and 162 schools. Many prestigious international schools participated in the competition, including Delhi Private School, Dubai, Dhaka, and Doha; Singapore Intercultural School, Indonesia; and St. Josephs Abu Dhabi, among others.
The judging panel included prominent Indian and international speakers, writers, and debaters such as Mr. Pradeep Gooptu, Founder of the Calcutta Debating Circle and Ex-Editor of Business Standard, and Ms. Priyanka Srivastava, Senior Editor, Education Times. The competition was judged by 75 renowned debaters, principals of well-known schools, eminent lawyers, and supporters of free speech.
After ten days of gruelling eliminations, the 16 participants from schools across India and abroad advanced to the quarterfinals, which was judged by eminent and popular debaters. Each elimination round concluded not only with the announcement of the results, but also with a feedback session from the top judges, who provided participants with feedback on their content and delivery. Over the course of two days, the finalists from Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata, Jayshree Periwal School in Jaipur, Bharat National Public School in Delhi, and DPS Modern Indian School in Doha qualified. The final round was spectacular, with many people in the audience joining in to enjoy the discussion.
Speaking about the debate competition, Mr. Sanjay Padode, Founding President, Vijaybhoomi University, says, “Students should be taught to speak up and share their thoughts because they have the ability to influence others. We should start this early because if they can influence, they can change people’s lives. During the lockdown, we at Vijaybhoomi University came up with a concept like this to engage students and give them a break from their daily routine; what began as a small-scale activity for school students has now grown into a full-fledged event. The response from students and principals at the participating schools has been overwhelming. Through this competition, we hope to instil confidence and make students fearless in expressing their views and providing solutions to our societal problems.”
The students who took part in this debate were well prepared, hardworking and were given right guidance to win. We are proud of the winners,” he adds.
The principals of the participating schools praised the organisations and provided very positive feedback on the competition format, particularly the selection of topics ranging from paternity leave to the commercialization of surrogacy, the glorification of martyrdom, and whether the WTO should grant a Patent Waiver for Covid -19 Vaccines.
Speaking about the debate competition, Ratyansh Garg, winner, from Jayshree Periwal School said, “The format of the debate is very unusual and impressive; it not only required us to conduct research but also allowed us to think critically and improve our public speaking skills. The topics for the debate were not typical of debates.”
Fiona Raj, runner-up, from Shri Shikshayatan School said, “Not only did this platform give the youth a voice, but it also allowed us to present our voices in a way that was acceptable to the rest of the world. The judges’ opinions and pointers allowed us to learn our strengths and weaknesses, which will help us for the rest of our lives. Debate competitions such as ForNotFor allow us to apply our knowledge and skills in real life.”
The third edition of ForNotFor will be held in 2022, and Vijaybhoomi University is confident that it will expand further, as more schools from more countries have already expressed interest in participating.