The youth segment of the population has oft been called the future of the nation. As dark clouds hang over our political future, we sit down with the debating community to talk about what lies ahead for youth leadership.
What has the local debate community been up to recently?
Over the last few years the local debate community has been working very hard at establishing and consolidating Bangladesh’s position as THE emerging power in the debating world. Three years ago, we were considered, “also rans” or that country which attended a lot of tournaments and were never a threat. After some very strong performances in World Universities Debating Championships (the “world cup” of debate) including winning the English as a Second Language Championship in Berlin 2013 as well as strong finals and semifinals appearances in big regional tournaments such as the Asian BP and the Australasians, Bangladeshi institutions such as IBA, BRAC, IUT, IUB, BUET etc have been accepted as the champions from South Asia and one of the champions from Asia as a whole.
Right now, the circuit is thriving with over 25 tournaments per year. Frequent participation in international tournaments (though tragically almost always at personal expense) and by stream lining the pipeline of school debaters has gradually raised the bar. The Bangladesh Debating Council (BDC) promotes and trains English debating in Bangladesh, and also organises the nation’s World Schools Debating Championship (WSDC) program. This is the premier school debating championship on the planet. Most of todays top university debaters were once school debaters themselves. Hence the focus we give in grooming the next generation of world champions.
You have obviously traveled different countries yourself while debating, what are your observations regarding the involvement of youth (particularly the young debaters) in policy making.
More than debating, I’ve found it insightful to travel as a debate trainer. I’ve been a faculty in debate training programs for about 10 countries now, which makes for a varied spectrum of experience. Different countries have different levels of engagement, and I love how Malaysia has a lot of ministers were themselves former debaters and there is massive government sponsorship for improving the circuit (contingent on international performance). A lot of Malaysian debaters go on to hold positions in the offices and ministries of MPs there or even become “youth spokesmen” of sorts. That is an amazing supply chain for leadership.
In Europe I’ve seen Youth Parliament programs being organized where students from both school and universities discussing the same bills and issues their national parliament has either raised or will raise in the future. It allows us to contrast the perspectives and aspirations of the young to the old.
How do you feel like a background in public speaking such as debate and the Model UN leads to the shaping of a future leader?
I’ve done Model UN as a school student and competitive debate as an undergrad. The best way I can answer the question (before I get into leadership) is the personal changes I’ve experienced. I definitely used to be very anti-semetic, very homophobic, and didn’t have a lot of respect or concern for womens issues or rights, or for ethnic or social minorities in fact. All of these “values” are impossible to maintain when you’re a debater, especially an international debater. The culture exchange dispels so many stereotypes you form in your head, the respect people show each other in these spaces sets an example on how you feel ashamed if you don’t follow. The fact that you frequently have to analyse and justify the things you stand for, forces you to nitpick the values you have and discard those that you cannot defend or justify, simply because they’re wrong or prejudiced/contrived. I’d argue that most people have a lot of prejudices and almost all Bangladeshis who have been involved in debate for a while end up with a lot more progressive and accepting values.
This is important to the question because I believe an important hygiene factor for leadership is not being narrow minded and being open to discourse. More than the comfort at communication and public speaking or the knowledge that comes with debating, this funnel for developing good principles is a massive contribution debate makes to shaping future leaders.
What they say
S I M Shadman Sheikh and Fahmida Faiza, two young Model United Nations (MUN) figures of the country have recently been to Japan to attend specialised training on Model UN. They are hoping to spread the spirit of Model UN amongst the youth of Bangladesh, to cultivate the concept and practice of diplomacy and negotiation.
Fahmida Faiza (United Nations Youth Newsletter Editorial Panel and Executive Director LIGHTHOUSE Imperium): To me MUN means freedom and a MUNer is a true global citizen concerned about the world politics and international affairs. The essence which inspired me to join Model UN is that it is the platform which gives the freedom of thought and expression. With the best intellectual minds from home and abroad it is a unique opportunity to learn, share and grow with exchanging ideas for making the world a better place.
Besides MUN has developed our research, communication and presentation skill and one of the most important skill for a law student, drafting.
S I M Shadman Sheikh (Model UN trainer and consultant working for national & international Model UN): I think the educational value and confidence Model UN ensures is truly worthy to join this global environment. And that’s what made me interested to join MUN. It is a unique opportunity to meet, network and negotiate with the best minds from wide range of background. The learning from Model UN creates a lifetime impact which in fact helps to build negotiation skills among the participants.
Policy Café, as a pro-democratic floor and open discussion, intends to looking inside major policy subjects of the country with the present of the young politicians, professionals, young enterprisers and the future generation. To execute the aim the Centre for Research and Information (CRI) have been organising many “Policy Café” session with the young politician and IT Adviser to the Honourable Prime Minister, Sajeeb Wazed Joy. Joy conduct plenty open discussion session about Youth Entrepreneurship, Youth in Community Development, ICT and many more with the stakeholders. on regard of ICT and Freelancing he said “Bangladesh holds the third position when it comes to freelancing On a global scale. However, most freelancers lack marketing knowledge. Therefore, they are being trained in business principles to make them even more efficient.”
Joy always sheds some light on his experience and listened to all the questions, suggestions, queries and recommendations with utmost patience and interest to making his own personal notes of everything on regard of bring a fruitful changes in our society.
Argue your way to a win
Debate is a platform of public speaking where one can gain confidence, the ability to think rationally, analysing a point intensively, and applying logical thinking in their argumentation, that in turn leads to a positive solution or understanding of the issue being debated.
When one debates, s/he gets to gather more knowledge through researching, fact-finding and investigation in order to make their points full-proof and viable. Thus working on the glorious skill of organisation.
A debater can make prompt, mature judgements on a matter that is being discussed. It is an interactive way to learn more about the unknown, understanding the opposition’s viewpoint and someone else’s thought process.
Debate also focuses on one’s writing skills as to getting their points across clearly, and develops purposeful inquiry.
Debate, in general, aids in providing a person with vital social skill set, which in turn allows him or her to play an active role in the society. Ultimately, and most importantly, debate helps in shaping future policy makers and leaders of the next generation.
“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed”
- Nelson Mandela
“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress”
- Mahatma Gandhi
“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it”
- Joseph Joubert