The new school year has seen students attending classes online due to the COVID restrictions. The limiting of engagement between the educational institutions and students has inspired Notebook, India’s first after-school learning app to launch the Notebook Zero Hour, the largest online inter-school public speaking event for school students. Powered by Stayfree®, India’s leading sanitary napkin brand, Zero Hour is the largest competitive public speaking event ever held for schools in India and abroad, where schools have a chance to pit themselves against the best speakers from other schools from India and across the world.
In its first edition this year, the online debates commenced from July 18th with 64 marquee schools from India and abroad ready to face off against each. Played in a league format, the initial face-offs will see 8 schools proceeding to the quarter-finals. The winners of the 4 quarter-finals will participate in 2 semi-finals and the subsequent winners will face off in the Grand Finale to be held on August 15, 2020 to mark India’s 74th Independence Day.
Manoj Gadgil, Vice President Marketing, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Division said, “We are glad to be associated with Notebook Zero Hour. With students stuck at home, the online debate competition offers the youngsters an opportunity to enhance their communication skills through fruitful interactions with their peers. It helps them overcome fear, encourages them to express their opinion and increases their self-confidence. Stayfree® has been driving safe menstrual health and hygiene education and adoption initiatives in schools and Notebook Zero Hour gives the brand a platform to continue to encourage young girls to be informed, feel confident, pursue their dreams and not let anything hold them back.”
The first online face-off on July 18th saw a scintillating debate between Orchids The International School Thane and Indian School, Al-Ghubra that was won by the team from the Muscat-based school. The quality of the debate and those that followed were indicative of the high level of preparation that the students had undergone with facts and figures backing the emotionally charged discussions.
Achin Bhattacharyya, Founder and CEO, Notebook said, “We at Notebook are extremely humbled at being able to host Zero Hour for students, powered by Stayfree® and also supported by Save the Children. Our Together for Education webinars for esteemed educators and parents have already been a huge success with more than 12,000 attendees from more than 50 countries during our last 27 sessions. Notebook Zero Hour is our effort to provide a platform to encourage young school-goers from across the nation and also from Middle East, Nepal and Africa to engage in meaningful discussions. It’s very important to encourage students during this hour of pandemic when they are confined to their home for months, away from their schools, friends, and outdoor sports. Hence we wanted to connect all these isolated centres of excellence, to form a virtual community of like-minded educators and students through Notebook Zero Hour debates. We have been thrilled to have more than 300 schools registering, but could accommodate only 64 in the current format. We are very happy with the enthusiasm that we have seen in students and teachers who have worked hard to make this event a huge success. The art of public speaking is an indispensable asset in today’s fast paced world and irrespective of any profession that a student wants to pursue its role in ensuring career growth is unquestionable. Also debate, discussion and public discourse are at the heart of any vibrant democracy and hence it is very important that we encourage our future leaders to not only have articulate speaking skills but also tolerant listening skills and hence the format of the debate has been customised accordingly for rebuttals which also tests listening skills.”
The debate topics cover contemporary and relevant issues and range from online privacy to international trade that motivate the young students to research and widen their knowledge base while developing critical thinking skills. The debates will be moderated by Subhayu Roy, Co-founder, Notebook and judged by esteemed educators, eminent thought leaders and other luminaries from various walks of life.