When a group of Vancouver students were brought together for an event called The World Scholar’s Cup, they never thought they’d have the opportunity to jet off to Australia to compete academically on the global stage.
On top of that, they never imagined they’d reach the final stage of the tournament held at the prestigious Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
But they have.
The 21 students from Norma Rose Point School and University Hill Secondary School have pushed their learning boundaries to make it all the way.
The World Scholar’s Cup is an international team academic program with students participating from more than 82 countries.
Each year, the program is centred on a theme with six subjects students have to learn. Students’ knowledge is then tested in four ways: team debate; Scholar’s Bowl, where students race the clock to answer questions using a special clicker; collaborative writing; and, the Scholar’s Challenge, a chance to win individual medals and other prizes across multiple subjects.
This year’s theme is ‘A World on the Margins,’ and students have been busy learning about unsolved mysteries, neglected histories, enabling technologies, art, music, literature and society.
While it looks and sounds very much like a competition, Daniel Berdichevsky, founder and executive director of WSC, writes that “it isn’t one at all”.
He instead describes the event as a “celebration of learning.”
That’s just one of the aspects of the event that led Vancouver teacher Rachel Lin to set up a club based on the WSC program at PACE Learning Community. PACE offers kids a range of after-school enrichment programs that teach math, speech and writing.
Lin said she started teaching students the WSC curriculum last September as an alternative way to grow their love and interest for learning.
Students got their first taste for the challenge at a regional competition back in May at Mulgrave School in West Vancouver. The students shined at the event and were invited to attend one of six global rounds, which led the group to the land Down Under.
In August, the students competed against 1,500 participants from around the world at a two-day program in Sydney, Australia, bringing home top trophies and medals.
“We weren’t expecting them to excel so much — it really surprised us on the global stage,” Lin told Vancouver Is Awesome.
“I think as an educator the thing I want people to realize is that our students didn’t come into this with any innate skills for debate or writing, but because they stuck with it and worked hard they were able to reach heights we couldn’t dream of.”
All 21 scholars walked away with awards in recognition of their hard work.
One Grade 7 student, Art Yu, won two Asimov Awards in his first year of the event. The prestigious award is given to the highest achieving student in the Scholar’s Challenge, representing his vast knowledge and understanding of the curriculum.
Student Jennifer Zhang, Grade 8, whose team took home four trophies, said there were a lot of late nights and early mornings of study, but it was all worth it.
“WSC is truly an amazing experience to be part of and is so much more than a mere competition,” she said.
“You join a group of people with the same love and curiosity for knowledge as you and you meet people from all over the globe.”
For Angela Lu, Grad 8, every moment was a highlight.
“It was an infinite highlight which didn’t end when we received our 45 medals and four trophies as a team on closing day, but instead continued and still continues to be a highlight in the form of the friends and memories we made,” she said.
Lin said since taking part in the competition, her students’ mentality towards learning had shifted.
“I would really encourage people to look at the competition and see if it’s something their kids would love, because a lot of people don’t even know it exists,” she said. “The experience has ignited a spark in the students.”
The young scholars will now be studying for this year’s final competition, being held at the prestigious Yale University in early November.