View From The Ringside



I've just returned from the Young World trail. I was trailing with the better half - better known to the world as (ahem!) the charismatic quizmaster of the The Young World Quiz. For those of you who don't know - The Hindu Young World Quiz is a national level live quiz for middle school children. 2009 was the tenth edition of this popular quiz.

This year, I accompanied my husband, as his assistant, to thirteen cities where it was held. Three weeks of travel from city to city-Hyderabad, Vishakapatnam, Vijayawada, Chennai, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Cochin, Calicut, Mangalore, Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore. Phew!

In each of these cities, a regional round was held. This consisted of a round of written preliminaries. On an average 250-300 teams participated in the prelims. In the metros like Chennai and Bangalore, close to 600 teams participated. Out of these, the top six teams made it to the regional finals. The winner of the regional finals represented their city at the national finals.


Here are some impressions and opinions I gathered during the past month.

Given how I'm a 'raving feminist', my very first observation is that quizzing seems to be a male dominated sport. In most cities, very few girls made it to stage for the regional finals. I can recall only one team in Pondicherry, one in Vijayawada and two in Coimbatore (Note how smaller cities had female representation and not the metros). I wonder why this is so? Are girls less informed than boys? Or is it that boys are better at retaining trivia than girls? Or are girls simply not interested in quizzing and more interested in performing arts?

Second, schools from smaller towns mostly (and I say MOSTLY for a reason) did not perform well. For example, in Trichy, teams from the nearby districts participated. Unfortunately, only the city based schools made it to the top 6 teams. This of course, could be due to better teaching standards (one hopes) in cities, children having better access to information like the internet and also more opportunities to showcase their talent.

There were two teams with whom I was very impressed. Both these teams were from small cities / towns. One was a school called Marygiri Senior Secondary School representating Calicut city and another is St. Paul's High School representing Hyderabad. These boys were amazing. Shy and bashful, they were powerhouses of information, getting question after questing right and annihilating their opposing teams. Why is this remarkable? Both these teams are from village schools. One from a panchayat in Kannur district and another from a taluka in Nalgonda district. The former went on to become the 2009 champion and the latter came as second runner up. And all done with quiet confidence and dignity. I was so impressed! And oh! The feminist in me was also satisfied. The first runner up was the girl-boy team from Coimbatore!

Apparently, youngsters of today do not read the classics. Or perhaps I should stop at 'do not read'. To this question - 'In which celebrated novel would you find the characters Bill Sykes and Nancy' - the overwhelming majority of children wrote....hold your breath...Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew!!

Then there were the cheeky ones. Here's one: 'Which common part of a building or a house would one relate to a product from a company associated with persons called Allen and Gates'. (the answer is Windows). And one bright team wrote 'Kitchen'! And my favourite: 'In Indian mythology, who is the Goddess of knowledge, music and arts' - to which one answer boldly proclaimed ' V.V. Ramanan' (that's the better half).

So that concludes my sojourn in the world of children's quizzing. Overall, a good and different experience. I'll sign off with a couple of suggestions for the organisers - next year, perhaps you will consider inviting some women as chief guests. Also, chief guests need not be from the entertainment industry alone. I know they're popular and will attract crowds. But hey! children get to see them all the time. Lets give them some other role models to emulate.

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21 Responses to View From The Ringside

  1. sounds like quite an interesting experience! i guess the closest thing we have here (other than TV game shows) is the Academic Decathlon, which is a local, regional (and maybe even national) competition among high school teams.

    p.s. being the ignorant american that i am, i must admit to not knowing the answer to the bill sykes & nancy question, either. but i did finally go to the library and check out pride & prejudice and am in the middle of reading it now!

  2. Deepa says:

    Bill Sykes and Nancy are characters from the Dickens classic Oliver Twist. Dickens is taught in most schools here in India - usually in 6th or 7th grade. Do read it. Its interesting. How do you like P&P?

  3. Interesting observations! I think participation depends on what proportion of students going to school were girls and how many were boys.

    Also now soon, atleast in some parts of India, there will actually be a smaller number of girl population anyway :(

  4. Wow! I used to be an avid quizzer during my schooldays. That spilled over to my time at college too. Then I guess it became a casualty to various things. But I do try to read and acquaint myself with the goings-on around us...

    Can't imagine how kids can stop reading Dickens though. Probably the 'Pottermania' to blame...

    P.S. Keen to know your views on my latest post...

    Also pls remove the word verification on the 'comments section'.

  5. sampavar says:

    Nope even I did not get Skyes and Nacy. would have gone with Nancy Drew!! :)
    And methinks you are right as far as classics go. I have absolutely no recollection of Dickens even though I have read Oliver Twist. Way back in the early 80s. but then I do remember quite a few things from phantom, tin tin, bahadur, and host of other pulp fiction stuff.
    may be the heavy prose of the classics isn't exactly interesting enough for kids used to texting on mobiles.

  6. Deepa says:

    @ IHM: The socio economic class YWQ is targeting would mostly send their girls to school. Lots of girls do participate in the written prelims. But very few seem to make the cut for the finals. Its very intriguing. And thats not just in children's quizzing. Even for the grown up quizzing the scene is the same.

    @ Roshmi: Quizzing is fun if you're into it (like my husband). I tried for the Landmark quiz last week - fared poorly. :)

    @ Sampavar: Nancy Drew!! Come on!! Besides, in 6th and 7th class, the classics are taught in abridged versions. Not even the original. But perhaps you're right. Reading as a hobby is dying.

  7. Sudeshna says:

    Very nice post....felt happy to know that you were with your better half in 13 cities in such an intellectually stimulating and challenging engagement ...what more can one ask for?

  8. Sandhya says:

    This post of yours is very interesting. My children used to participate in many quiz competitions when they were in school.

    Your observation about girls not involving in competitions is new to me. All these days I was thinking that girls study well than boys...everything from school books to story books. They don't have much distractions like boys. Hope this will change in the future.

    Nice knowing you, Deepa!

  9. Deepa says:

    Hi Sandhya. Thanks for the comment. Welcome to my blog. Hope to see you here often! :)

  10. Karthik says:

    Maybe a reason for the boy-girl division is the format/style of questions in the quiz.

    Maybe if the questions were different, things would be different.

    PS: BTW, I know Ramana & Shankar for a LONG time :)

  11. A very interesting and pleasant take on the Young World Quiz.

    For someone working with The Hindu, this surely provides a ringside view rather than the journo seat view.

    Keep posting, would wish to read more of the kind... and Yes, nice blog format you have :)

  12. Deepa says:

    @ Venkat: Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. Hope to see you here often.

    @ Karthik: A gendered format? Now that's interesting. Did you mean that girls tend to not know much about sports etc? (I confess I am a total 'DUH' on sports. The IPL and EPL questions fly high over my head).

  13. Knock! Knock!

    Hello! Hello! Anybody there... ???

    Echoooooooooooooo

  14. manu says:

    can anyone post the questions asked in the Young world quiz??

  15. Deepa says:

    @ Manu: Thank you for visiting my blog. I should inform you that this is not a quizzing blog. It is a personal space which I use to express my thoughts, feelings and perspectives on various issues. The post on YWQ contain only my observations. You might want to contact the quizmaster about the YWQ questions. Thanks

  16. manu says:

    can anyone post the questions asked in the Young world quiz??

  17. sampavar says:

    Nope even I did not get Skyes and Nacy. would have gone with Nancy Drew!! :)
    And methinks you are right as far as classics go. I have absolutely no recollection of Dickens even though I have read Oliver Twist. Way back in the early 80s. but then I do remember quite a few things from phantom, tin tin, bahadur, and host of other pulp fiction stuff.
    may be the heavy prose of the classics isn't exactly interesting enough for kids used to texting on mobiles.

  18. Deepa says:

    @ Venkat: Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. Hope to see you here often.

    @ Karthik: A gendered format? Now that's interesting. Did you mean that girls tend to not know much about sports etc? (I confess I am a total 'DUH' on sports. The IPL and EPL questions fly high over my head).

  19. Wow! I used to be an avid quizzer during my schooldays. That spilled over to my time at college too. Then I guess it became a casualty to various things. But I do try to read and acquaint myself with the goings-on around us...

    Can't imagine how kids can stop reading Dickens though. Probably the 'Pottermania' to blame...

    P.S. Keen to know your views on my latest post...

    Also pls remove the word verification on the 'comments section'.

  20. sounds like quite an interesting experience! i guess the closest thing we have here (other than TV game shows) is the Academic Decathlon, which is a local, regional (and maybe even national) competition among high school teams.

    p.s. being the ignorant american that i am, i must admit to not knowing the answer to the bill sykes & nancy question, either. but i did finally go to the library and check out pride & prejudice and am in the middle of reading it now!