New Delhi: Gender democracy, open education and a fair judiciary were some of the themes that saw a group of eloquent contestants hold forth as they participated in the final round of the ‘Award for Habitat Young Visionary 2008’ on 30January.
Speaking on ‘My journey to the Parliament through the classroom’ they provided some out-of-the-box solutions to problems they feel are impediments as India moves on to a high growth trajectory path.
Encouraging young people to observe and rethink about things that one often takes for granted or gets complacent about, the 1,500 word essay in English or Hindi tried to capture a range of issues. From hundreds of entries, 15 were shortlisted. As the competition got intense it narrowed down to five finalists, who in front of an eminent jury presented their visions and reforms for tomorrow’s India.
Vishesh Kothari from St. Stephen’s College was a clear winner as he walked away with the award and a summer programme at Cambridge University, UK. Sayan Ganguly from IIT Madras won an internship with National Geographic Channel in Hong Kong while Rahul Saikia of St. Edmund’s College will intern with National Geographic Channel in India and Utkarsh Amitabh of Delhi College of Engineering and Saahil Chauhan of Hindu College will intern with established NGOs.
Questioning the merit of having a regimented education system that does not allow free flowing exchange of ideas and creativity, finalists were unanimous in making education more practical and relevant. They built a case for a shift from classroom teaching to a more practical format that incorporated social dynamics and marketing principles. An interesting element was brought out while questioning the need to have an overarching influence that politics have on society today, discounting every attempt at turning it into a selfless service.
Using sharp wit and repartee they handled questions with confidence and composure. Kothari bagged the first prize for his clearly presented reforms for an open-ended testing of knowledge at schools and breaking of the arts-science divide at university. He compared examination papers in India and the UK, asking why the former reduced knowledge to rote learning and the latter encouraged dynamic, rather than passive thinking.
Judges included Lakhan Mehrotra, former ambassador to China & Sri Lanka; Rajiv Mehrotra, managing trustee - PSBT; Nikhil Mirchandani, MD, National Geographic Channel, South Asia; Dilip Simeon, senior research fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library; Renuka Narayanan, author-columnist and Pankaj Pachauri, senior editor, NDTV