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Pune students off to UK for debate

india Updated: Jan 22, 2009 00:55 IST
Barney Henderson
Barney Henderson
Hindustan Times
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Will Barack Obama change the world? Why is Israel attacking Gaza? How can we solve the global financial crisis?

These are just some of the questions that the Indian champions of Debating Matters — S.M. Choksey High School in Pune — could face when they square off against the UK champions in July at the historic Royal Society of Medicine in London.

Debating Matters was created by the Institute of Ideas in the UK, which brought the concept to India with the British Council.

The S.M. Choksey High School team comprising Vignesh Gundesha, A. Shivanand, Mrinalini Shinde and Auzita Irani — all Class 11 and 12 students — has won the Indian final of Debating Matters in Delhi, having progressed through the regional finals earlier this month.

S.M. Choksey beat Don Bosco school of Liluah, West Bengal, in a tense battle of wits in the final on January 15.

“We are really thrilled with the result and how the programme went,” said Manjula Rao, head of programmes at the British Council, west India.

“The judges reported that compared to the Mumbai event, there had been a considerable improvement in the quality of the debates in the national final. Increased two notches, so all this bodes well for next year’s programme, for which we expect more schools to enter — it is a very successful formula for debating.” About 250 schools across India entered this year’s contest.

“Indian students have put a huge amount of energy into their research and passion into their arguments. They have proved capable of debating at the highest level and it will be fascinating to see the showdown with the UK champions,” said Claire Fox, the director of the Institute of Ideas, who chaired the Indian final.