Asian debate champions humble with new crown

CHENNAI: At a time when people bicker about India’s performance in the international arena, here’s a team that made the country (especially Chennai) proud in front of a global audience. Team India with four students and two coaches, which participated in the 3rd Asia World School Debating Championship from July 6-10 in Bangkok, emerged winners trumping teams from 13 countries across the world. And three of the team are from this metro!


Amritha Varshini Ragavan of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School (Adyar), Aniroodh Ravikumar of PSBB Senior Secondary School (Nungambakkam), Tejaswini Krishnaprasad of Bala Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School (Adyar) and Chaitanya Kediwal of Doon School (Dehradun), were picked for the debating championship after a rigorous process involving intensive online rounds, evaluated by a panel of coaches. “We had initial workshops, online research task involving current affairs and had to record ourselves giving speeches and then send it over. When the final four were selected, we were trained in debating and presentation while also researching topics, framing arguments and so on,” explains Tejaswini.
The team faced tough competition from top teams of South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. “Our toughest opposition was surely in the final, when we faced a team from Singapore called the Debate Development Initiative,” says Aniroodh. “They hadn’t lost a debate in the entire tournament nor had they lost the support of even a single judge!”

Debating makes you more humble because you realise you don’t know everything,” says Amritha. “You learn to respect other people’s opinions, and at the same time, it gives you the ability to counter their opinions with your own.

Amritha Varshini Raghavan, Student

Religion has done more harm than good

However, Team India proved their mettle and won the final, successfully arguing for the motion ‘This House believes that religion has done more harm than good in the formation of morality’.
“We won on a 6-5 split between the judges!” beams Amritha, and credits the win to their two coaches — Dhruva Bhat from Harvard University, and Amrithavarshini Venkatesh, from IIT-Madras, both funded by Ramco Systems, which has been sponsoring teams since 2008. “They’ve worked incredibly well as a team,” says Amrithavarshini. “They’re one of the best teams I’ve coached and I’m very happy with their performance.”

All the three team members are also high achievers, with Aniroodh and Tejaswini, who have just completed their schooling, enrolling for higher studies at Cornell University, USA and Durham University, UK respectively. Amritha is in Class 11 and hopes to pursue higher studies in medicine. The team also believes that debating has added a new dimension to their lives. Says Tejaswini, “Initially, it was just an activity to add to my resume, but later I realised that there are 1,000 different ways of looking at things. Debating has made me feel more confident of convincing people about what I believe.” Aniroodh concurs and adds, “It has also refined the way I think and how I present my arguments to people.”


Originally published in The New Indian Express,  by Gokul M. Nair.

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