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(Clockwise from left) Himakshi Shastri, Aryan Kundra, Viha Kedia, Siddhaarth Chakravarthy and Aryaman Arora shine at the World Schools Debate Championship.

Dubai: Five students from the UAE took part in the World Schools Debate Championship (WSDC) and ranked 16 out of 74 countries, the highest position in the MENA region and the UAE’s individual best.

Organised by International Debate Education Association, WSDC is said to be the highest and most prestigious platform for competitive high school debating in the world. The 2022 WSDC Championship took place online from August 7 to 18.

Himakshi Shastri, Viha Kedia and Aryaman Arora (from Dubai College) and Aryan Kundra and Siddhaarth Chakravarthy from GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai represented the UAE. The students debated with counterparts from across the world including India, Hong Kong, Oman, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and other countries.

“Team UAE is thrilled to be amongst the top 16 nations this year and to have ranked highest in the MENA region,” said the UAE’s Team Manager Glenda Clark, who is also the head of the Social Science Faculty at The English College in Dubai.

Debate landscape

Clark, who took on the role of Team Manager alongside Gareth Wright in 2015, said: “We had both worked on organising Gulf Debates, a debate competition in the UAE. What we noticed most was that feedback from WSDC was not impacting what was happening in UAE debating.”

The duo then set about changing the debate scenario in the UAE and engaged with alumni debaters, Pranav Anand, a student at Purdue University, Indiana, and Rohan Goda, a student at University of California, Los Angeles, to coach the team and development squad for 2022.

“Trials this year included a two-day process where all schools in the UAE were invited to send their top debaters. We held a series of debates on day one and then selected the best 12 to 24 debaters for day two. A general knowledge quiz and interview were added into the day alongside debates. From that, the team of five were chosen, alongside 11 other students who formed the development squad,” said Clark.

Strenuous or exciting?

All debaters underwent training from February. A Team UAE member, Himakshi Shastri, said with a giggle: “The training sessions, research files and hours of practice – whether this sounds exciting or strenuous is debatable. But every single bit of it was worth it. It has been a phenomenal experience debating with countries from all over the world. Economics, Politics, Narratives and more – debate has its own way of sparking an interest. One moment we are talking about environmental protection and the other about trade blocs. That is the magic of debate – you can never be disinterested.”

On behalf the team, Himakshi added: “We are honoured to be representing our home, the UAE, and are thankful to both our coaches, Pranav and Rohan, who put in their full efforts into ensuring we were ready for this competition. We are truly delighted to be amongst the top 16 nations and the highest scoring team in the MENA region this year.”