How inclusive is our education? Does higher education only mean the “elite” institutions in advanced nations?
The bane of the education system in the country was dissected, enumerated and presented with vehemence by 16 debaters at the final rounds of the 24th edition of L. N. Birla Memorial Invitational Debate, hosted by Birla High School, to mark their foundation day at Vidya Mandir Auditorium on July 11.
Moderated by cardiac surgeon Dr Kunal Sarkar, the motion of the debate was, Higher Education is an Exercise in Elitism.
The best speaker, Suchetana Sen of Delhi Public School, Ruby Park, presented her case for the motion with lots of wit.
“The question is not about merit here. Do mediocre poor students have the same option as the mediocre rich in our country?” she asked the audience.
Suchetana ended her argument with her tongue in her cheek. “Even if I fail to perform well, I know will get into a private engineering college, or worse, start one,” she said to rapturous applause.
Her closest opponent, Ram Daftari of the host school, also did a good job of holding on to audience’s attention. Speaking against the motion, he said: “Higher education is in fact an agent against elitism.” He added how higher education has empowered many, including women. “We live in a liberal world. Higher education is an exercise in inclusivity...the IIT and IIMs and Ivy League comprise just 1 per cent of it. The purpose of higher education is to find your own niche,” he said.
Ram and his teammate, Md Anas Ali from Birla High School clinched the first runner-up trophy while Suchetana and Mainak Biswas of Delhi Public School, Ruby Park, won the debate. Mainak, speaking against the motion, was adjudged the best runner-up speaker. He touched upon virtual universities and tutorials that are helping even disadvantaged students reach their goals.
Arguments ranged from how most top-quality colleges always come with exorbitant fees to elitism being a mere excuse for the insecure. The audience, however, voted for the motion. A rebuttal round followed every speaker.
The other participating schools were Sushila Birla Girls’ School, Loreto House, Indus Valley World School, Modern High School International, La Martiniere for Boys and Modern High School.
Sixteen schools had fought it out in the preliminary rounds of the debate. The judges for the final rounds were trauma and orthopaedics surgeon Dr Baijaeek Sain, entrepreneur and debater Swati Gautam, author and debater Pradeep Gooptu and journalist Monideepa Banerjie. The chief guest was Kevin Goh, deputy consul-general of Australia in Calcutta.
“This debate was started to encourage talents in the city. It helps students argue with thrust on global issues. We have been successful in our goals,” said Birla High School director Mukta Nain.