GEMS Education, the world’s largest kindergarten to grade 12 education provider, recently participated at ‘The World Schools Debating Championships 2011’, the most prestigious school-level debate tournament in the world. Held in Dundee, Scotland, from August 16th– 26th a team of five students from GEMS Schools represented the UAE and ranked fifth place out of 48 schools at the tournament. One of the team members, Raseesa Munshi of Wellington International School, received the opportunity of a lifetime with an internship for the President of the Unites States, Barack Obama, following her debating success at the tournament.
Other members of the Team UAE included, Anirudh Sivaram and Rohan Sampath from the Dubai Modern High School, Taahir Munshi from the Wellington International School and Aman Gupta from Jumeirah College. The team was managed by Mr Grant Smith, teacher and Jumeirah College and coached by Mr Lewis Iwu, World University Debating Champion 2008. The team exceeded expectations and won seven out of eight of its first round matches, defeating high calibre teams including India, Pakistan, USA and defending champions, Canada.
Grant Smith, English Teacher at Jumeirah College and GEMS debating team manager, said, “We are immensely proud of our students for representing the nation and GEMS Schools. We are a relatively new and small nation compared to many other participants but our team showed true confidence and made a great impression on all the coaches and debaters at the tournament. This was only our second year at the tournament and with more debating circuits being established across schools, the future of debating in the UAE looks bright.”
Having faced opponents with more debating experience, the UAE team managed to win crunch debates in the preliminary rounds on motions such as, “This House believes that Universal Primary Education is a misallocation of resources in the developing world”, “This house would offer dictators immunity in return for leaving power” and “This house supports the free distribution of music on the internet.”
After brilliant run in the preliminary debates, UAE debated South Africa in the octo-finals, proposing the motion “This House would abandon the use of nuclear energy.” In an incredibly close debate, the panel of judges delivered a split decision in favour of South Africa, with one judge dissenting. In the Finals, Singapore managed to edge out Australia, to clinch a well-deserved title.
Along with the team’s achievement at the tournament, all participating students benefited from the experience. Three of the GEMS students finished in the top 40 of 250 speakers, including Anirudh Sivaram from Dubai Modern High School who finished as the thirteenth best speaker at the tournament. Three of the speakers have now moved to prestigious universities Yale, University of Pennsylvania and New York University, and two have already been successful in their trials for their respective university debating societies.
Rohan Sampath of Dubai Modern High School was grateful for his experience at the tournament. “The World Schools Debating Championships 2011 was much more than a mere competition – it was a wonderful intellectual experience for us. Interacting with world-class thinkers and debaters, and forming close bonds of friendship and camaraderie with students from 48 nations opened us up to new perspectives and avenues of thinking, which will be of great benefit in the years to come. The credit for our performance goes to our teachers and coach for their great support and guidance,” he said.
GEMS has already reserved a place to represent the UAE in next year’s tournament which takes place from January 17-27, 2012 in Cape Town.