If Picasso's work had been turned into a letter, what would the last line be? Would Pi make a great father? Does the world need more ninjas? If any of these questions spark your interest or you're ready to wax lyrical on any of these subjects, The World Scholar's Cup (WSC) could be for you (strictly for under eighteens with a penchant for alpacas*1).
Here at Tanglin we have had plenty of alpaca-hungry students who have pwaaformed*2 with alacrity at the WSC tournament since 2013. And they're not alone, this celebration of learning attracts thousands of participants each year, connecting students from different countries, curricula and cultural backgrounds who share a passion for learning (and alpacas).
Sophie Tottman (TTS graduate and WS), described WSC as an "international academic competition that never fails to satisfy my ceaseless curiosity about the world. I truly believe I've encountered some of the most brilliant minds this generation has to offer."
Teams from over 40 countries come together each year to explore a current global theme within which are specific topics based on six subject areas (Arts, History, Literature, Science, Social Studies, Special Area e.g. Crime & Justice). The four WSC tournament events: team debate, scholar's bowl (group quiz), scholar's challenge (quiz) and collaborative writing enable "students of all backgrounds to discover new strengths and practise new skills." (World Scholar's Cup 'Values and Vision' 2008). By bringing together subjects in team and individual events, not only do students deepen subject understanding, they also learn how to work together, connect subjects to each other and relate them to the world around us.
"Scholars has taught me many things, perhaps the most important is to keep an open mind. An open mind to the perspectives of my teammates whilst participating in team events such as debate but also to entirely new ideas, and experiences." Sasha, Year 11
For a competition that doesn't take itself too seriously, there are serious benefits to be gained from taking part. Students hone skills in public speaking, essay writing, logical and analytical thought, how to structure their ideas and build an argument as well as how to think on their feet and deliver cogent, on-the-spot responses. Above all there is the bond forged between Scholars.
"The relationships formed, both with members of the Tanglin Scholars Group and the wider World Scholar's Cup community, are ones to be cherished. The nature of the global round in particular allows students to meet and make ties with their peers from around the world. This is such a valuable part of the competition as students compete together and push each other to do the best that they can, creating lifelong memories along the way." Ryan, Year 11
Teams are composed of three students and there is no limit to the number of teams that can participate from each school. Participants are split into two divisions, Juniors (11-14yrs) and Seniors (15 years +), and the tournament is made up of three rounds: the Regional Round (over 60 locales worldwide), the Global Round (taking place in Barcelona, Melbourne or Kuala Lumpur this June), and the Tournament of Champions which is held at Yale University. Last year at the Global Round in KL, out of 12,000 students competing in the Junior division, a TTS team came first and a Tanglin Student came second overall.
Tanglin students have a particularly strong track record in debating. The Debate Showcase is an event that invites the best debaters from the competition to the stage, where they are put into teams and debate the motion given to them in front of hundreds of other scholars. Last year, Tanglin was proud to be represented in the showcase in all three rounds: Regional Round, Global Round and Tournament of Champions.
This March, over 400 students from top local and international schools took part in the Singapore Regional Round, which is known as one of the most competitive*3 and in every part of the competition Tanglin had students in the top five. Some highlights – Tanglin students won best Junior and best Senior individual debater; came second in the Junior team debate; and first in the Senior team debate.
"WSC is a proudly global competition aimed at those students who want to satiate their intellectual curiosity outside of the classroom - here, we celebrate learning for learning's sake, studying everything from Machiavellian political theory to forensic entomology, from classical conditioning to Holst's Planets Suite. I've seen a whole generation of Scholars grow in confidence and develop their knowledge of our world, from timid Year 8 students to eloquent Year 11s; in recent years, the programme has expanded such that our students regularly place highly among the thousands that participate annually, and Tanglin is now known (and feared!) on the global stage." Dillon, Year 13
Our students' results are a clear reflection of their dedication and enthusiasm and of course, the support and guidance that comes from the coaches. This programme would not happen without their invaluable input and commitment. Every Wednesday in the Scholars CCA, students refine their skills to become better writers, debaters and thinkers whilst also discussing a range of interesting subject matter, be it philosophical, political, artistic or scientific. There are various talks where they learn from teachers who are passionate about specific subject areas. From these lectures and our students' own research, students plan and write a collaborative document of 250-400 pages called the 'TTS study guide'. Workshops are given on debating and essay writing, covering diverse subjects from the study guide.
The WSC is part of our Scholars programme and students participate in other competitions, such as UWC U14 and the Singapore Secondary School Debating Competition (the Tanglin team reached the semi-final this month), all of which enable students to broaden their horizons, in every sense. They enter a worldwide community of friends, curious minds and continual learning that supports them to find and grow their passions within and beyond the classroom.
"Participating in other competitions around Singapore has helped to make me a more well-rounded debater and member of the WSC community." Hannah, Year 9
"The all-round nature of World Scholar's Cup is perfect for a curious, dedicated learner and the skills and friendships gained, from the club and the competitions alike, stay with the students for life." Ryan, Year 11
We can't wait to hear more in June from the Pwaala Lumpur Global Round!
*1 The alpaca was elected the mascot of the World Scholar's Cup in 2006. Students nominated potential mascots online, and from that pool came the final three: The alpaca, the emu, and the penguin. Theorists speculate that the reason the alpaca won is due to a split among bird-lovers. (Wikipedia)
*2 "Pwaa", explains WSC founder Berdichevsky at the start of every cup, "is the sound that a happy alpaca makes". The word "Pwaa" is used as a pun in various places during the contest. Examples of usage: Pwaasome (Awesome), Pwaala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur), Singapwaa (Singapore), Pwaalified (qualified), Live long and pwaasper (live long and prosper) or just "Pwaa". (Wikipedia)
*3 Singapore has one of the most developed high school debating networks in the world. Singaporean teams have been world champions 3 times in the past 5 years (World Schools Debating Championship) and there are currently Singaporeans in the debate teams of Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/M.I.T.