4th Term Madness

Life as normal, or as normal as it can get here at UWC Atlantic College, and with the IB. It was probably a good decision not to go to WSDC 2012, because life is getting as busy as it can get, without debating eating up time. Mock exams are starting the week after next and coursework final deadlines are starting to creep-up on me. I am spending more and more time holed up in my carrel unit studying away, and my vow not to bring work back to the house after check-in has been broken numerous times.

This weekend we had AC MUN 2012 which I was organizing and took up quite a bit of time. More on that later. Our 2nd Math IA is due today, World Lits next week and mock exams looming after that. Lots of revision to do and I’m starting to realize how messy my notes are. All the academic work aside, life at any UWC is busy as usual. Activities and various initiatives are taking their own time slots in my timetable, although I’ve come to realized that subtly and strategically dropped about a ton of stuff at the start of this term was a good decision.

Just a quick update. Time to get back to work!

Top Posts of the Year 2011

2011 is coming to a close, and has grown another year older, 27 months and counting. There have been over 88,700 views since this blog began in October 2009, and over 550 posts (recall just 12 months ago, that number stood at a little over 180) which means that the “Posting at least once every week in 2011” commitment became more of a ‘Posting once a day’. It’s been an amazing year in terms of the blog, nearly 66,000 views just this year. So here’s a look back at the top posts of 2011.

1. WSDC 2011 – Team Lists [1st all time]
Part of the WSDC 2011 series, the posts resided in sidebar of for over 8 months in the run-up to WSDC 2011 in Dundee, listing the team members attending WSDC 2011, at least those I could find.

2. Fire at UWC Atlantic College [2nd all time]
Other than debating, this was undoubtedly the second biggest story of the blog this year. I started this post 2 hours after the incident itself and continued updating it as a running summary of the situation.

3. TOK Essay – May 2012 [3rd all time]
Let’s just say this has not been the highlight of my Christmas holiday.

4. Fire at UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 1 [4th all time]
The first images of the aftermath of the fire. Incidentally, April 14th was the busiest day on the blog with just under 1,300 views in just 24 hours.

5. [RESULTS] LSE Open 2011 [Tab]
A tournament I attended with David as my debating partner, joined by other Team Wales member Cat and Sarah. An amazing experience and my first peek into university level debating. You can read about what happened in my de-facto diary entry 1, 2 and see how Team Wales fared.

6. WSDC 2011 – Official World Rankings
Also part of the WSDC 2011 series, the official world rankings followed my earlier, and rather more controversial, post with my own calculations (which were quite accurate, even if I say so myself)

7. AC IB Results 2011
A good year for AC and some good results all together for my dear second years. Sadly, that puts the bar quite high for the UWC AC class of 2012.

8. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round-up
The ultimate summary of my final high-school tournament – WSDC 2011 – before I left the high-school debating scene. An amazing tournament and some unforgettable memories. Thank you to everyone.

9. Fire @UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 2
The second set of photos regarding the Sunley fire, this time with my own photos.

10. SCMP – Profile: Chris Lee (IS) IGCSE Top of the World
A not so original post, but an article that did catch my eye, and clearly attracted quite a bit of attention too.

Honorary Mentions

I think it is worth noting at this point that although only 3 WSDC 2011 related posts were found in the top 10, and only 4 debating related posts, the next 10 posts are exclusively debating related, 8 of which are WSDC 2011 related as well. August 2011 was also the most popular month for with nearly 14,000 views. A final thought: isn’t it interesting that Team Singapore, Team Canada and Team England come in as top posts on their own?

11. WSDC 2011 – Team Singapore
12. WSDC 2011 – Media Guide [UPDATED]
13. WSDC 2012 – Prepared Motions [UPDATED]
14. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 1 & 2
15. WSDC 2011 – Team Canada
16. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Break, Round 7 & 8
17. WSDC 2011 – Team England
18. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 5 & 6
19. ASDC 2011 – Participating Institutions
20. WIDPSC 2011 – Grand Final [RESULTS] + Analysis

TEDxYouth@Bath: The Guardian Report

Just got back from TEDxYouth@Bath. Haven’t had time yet to really write much on it, it has definently be a worthwhile experience. But the first thing to catch my eye was The Guardian report on the event. Here it is, complete with a photo of a UWC Atlantic College student!

Photograph: Stephen Shepherd for the Guardian

Over a buffet lunch a huddle of teenagers is trying to work out if any have yet had their “ah-ha” moment – the instant when an inspiring, perhaps life-changing thought hits.

Across the room at the TEDxYouthDay event in Bath other young people are discussing the meaning of happiness with a bright-eyed adventurer who gave up his nine-to-five job to skateboard across Australia. More than 100 teenagers are crammed into a theatre in the Georgian city to hear talks from artists, entrepreneurs, travellers of all sorts who, organisers hope, will help them shape their lives.

“We’re learning more today than we would at a normal day at school. It’s opened our eyes,” says Indra, 16. “Usually when you go to talks it’s about being a doctor or accountant or something. Here we’re talking about jobs you’ve never even heard of and thinking about concepts that aren’t tangible – that you feel but haven’t got a name for.”

The TED (Technology Entertainment Design) concept appears unstoppable after beginning as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago. It became an annual event to which the world’s leading “thinkers and doers” are invited. They speak for no more than 18 minutes and the best “TEDtalks” are posted on the TED website. Bill Gates and Al Gore have contributed.

November Nights

Life in Wales just keeps getting tougher. As usual, there’s the mountain of work that inevitably finds its way into my diary. Things just keep piling up and you never seem to be able to get rid of them quickly enough. Honestly, sometimes it drives me mad. You can’t go without sleep. But you can’t seem to not work either.

To add fuel to the fire, the school just introduced a new rule that means we have to ask for permission to work between 11:30 and 12:30. Not the best idea in my personal opinion, but we’re running with it for the time being. We’ll see how things go, doesn’t look like they’ll get much easier.

And then there’s the weather. Winter is approaching, leaves are scattered all over the ground, and while I look forward to snowy days, the cold isn’t really that welcome. Thankfully I’m next to the heater again this year so warm November Nights.

Yesterday, we had the first of what I call ‘Days in the Dark’. As usual, I was up and out pretty much before the sun had risen. And because it was Friday and we don’t finish classes until 4:45, the sun had already set by the time classes had finished. So essentially, the entire day occurred in the dark.

How to get rid of dreams

The last year at Atlantic College has been a rather interesting experience. With the IB and the UWC Experience, life is busy to say the least. It is a constant struggle between doing everything and doing nothing, academics and extra-curricular activities. More often than not, the choice ends up being – To sleep or not to sleep? That is the question.

Despite the mountain of articles about the benefits/harms of sleeping too much/too little/not enough, this post is not about that. Rather, it’s about how a lack of sleep conveniently rids of you your dreams. Perhaps it does this in a literal sense of ruining your plans by making you a living zombie, but it certainly does so in a practical sense by making you so tired you, well simply stop dreaming.

Legco By-elections – A comprehensive rebuttal

A well written article in the SCMP from 7 June 2011 that effectively destroys the government’s logic for changing the legco by-election rules.

Baffled by an empty seat

The government’s proposals for new ways of conducting by-elections are ill-considered and may well lead to more confusion, say analysts

The government’s controversial proposal to fill midterm vacancies in the Legislative Council by installing the next-best-placed candidate would serve the intended purpose: preventing lawmakers from claiming a by-election to be a referendum.

But it may lead to some unintended consequences, and even tricky scenarios that officials may not have thought through.

The proposal arose because, in January last year, five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers resigned, triggering a by-election they hoped would be a de facto referendum on political reform. But the other main political parties did not put up candidates, and all five were voted back into office last May. Turnout was just 17.1 per cent and the government said the by-election, which cost HK$126 million, had been unnecessary.

Nevertheless, the government’s proposed solution is causing even some allied lawmakers to baulk.

An ending…

The final days of this academic year have been a concoction of emotion, nostalgia, fear, anticipation and rush. For some odd reason, we still had classes on Monday despite it being our penultimate day before departure. Frankly, there was little real learning going on, but in some cases it was useful in tying up loose ends and preparing for the summer holidays. I also lunged my library of stuff from the school library back to the house. I had no idea I had so much stuff – textbooks, workbooks, papers, notes, files – until I had to carry it myself. 😀

Tuesday was a bit crazy. We spent most of it running around, packing our stuff, writing in yearbooks and recycling/rubbishing lots of stuff. The house looked a downright mess but it eventually got sorted out. Just before dinner, we had the Graduation Assembly for second years. It’s suffice to say that both Valerie and Bill (both Americans, 2nd and 1st year respectively) gave top of the notch speeches. A buffet dinner followed but it were the many group photos that inevitably followed which seemed most important.

The first group of first years left at 10pm Tuesday night. I myself left on the Wednesday morning bus. Although no tears did flow despite what I’d anticipated, it was none-the-less a heartfelt departure. My second years have had a real and major impact on me in the last year and they will be sorely missed.

Best Wishes to all of you.
I love you, truly.

To first years – see you after summer, 2 months are a long time, but a 9 month bond isn’t that easy to break.

Results Bristol Schools Debating Competition 2011 [UPDATED]

The Bristol Schools Debating Competition 2011 was held on Saturday 12 February 2011 at the Language Department at Bristol University, Bristol, UK. For my personal recount, see this post.
Currently, no official tab has been released, but here are the results I copied down. All errors are my fault only.
[UPDATE] Ben Walker, Convenor, has released the tab in an email saying:

Dear Debaters,
Please find attached the tab from the Bristol Schools competition on Saturday.
Many thanks to everyone who took part, as well as to Sheraz Qureshi for CAing.
We had a lot of fun, and we hope you did too!
Best wishes,


R1: THW require all schools to admit a mix of student representative of the socioeconomic make-up of the country as a whole
R2: THBT developing countries should nationalize their resources
R3: THW ban pornography
R4: THBT religion has, on balance, caused more harm than good
GF: THBT violent protest is legitimate in western liberal democracies

Grand Final

Note: The one day tournament featured a direct break into the Grand Finals.

  1. Cheney A – 11 team points – 612 total speaker points
    • Emily Fernandes – 306
    • Elizabeth Romanis – 306
  2. City of London Girls B – 11 – 601
    • Siofra Dromgoole – 301
    • Mercy Hadfield – 300
  3. St Paul’s A – 10 – 600
    • Freddy Powell – 303
    • Zac Levin – 297
  4. Composite A – 9 – 613 [As a composite team, Composite A were not permitted to break]
    • Paul Lau – 307
    • David Wigley – 306
  5. City of London Girls X – 9 – 607
    • Imogen Hamilton-Jones – 304
    • Sarah O Keeffe – 303

Champion: Cheney A – Emily Fernandes and Elizabeth Romanis
Best Speaker: Paul Lau (Composite A)

Full Tab

Atlantic College: Education and Geography of Thought Conference 2010

As a leading educational institution, it was hardly surprising that the United World College of the Atlantic constantly ‘reflected’ on the learning and education at the school. Indeed, this concept of ‘reflection’ or ‘metacognition’ has been exactly the aim of our new ‘Approaches to Learning’ (ATL) courses that closely resemble what I was taught during my ‘Learning to Learn’ lessons in Hong Kong, a few years back. However, it was quite a surprise for me to learn that as part of the schools’ new ‘Atlantic College Mission Initiative’, entire weeks would be taken out of term time in order to be dedicated to certain academic enrichment programs.

In this case, the 4 days from Sunday the 26th to Wednesday the 29th, were dedicated to exploring the various ways we learn, how education can be enhanced and to what extend various factors affect our perception of the world. Drawing on the knowledge of a large number of experts in their respective fields, we the students, broke into smaller groups to discuss these issues on a more practical basis and its application to the Atlantic College community. The conference was well attended with the Principals of the UWC in Norway and the UWC in Hong Kong as well as visitors from the International Baccalaureate offices.

However, the highlight for me was the speech by the founder of the initiative, John Abott, who devoted nearly 3 hours to discussing the human capacity to learn and how this can best be exploited and unlocked. Drawing together a multitude of education theories and concepts, he explored with us ideas such as Flow (something that is so engaging that you don’t get tired going it), Internal Drive (interest that comes from one being the best motivator) and Mentorship (how assimilation is often ineffective but where copying a mentor and improving on it is highly effective). I look forward to reading ‘Over-schooled and Under-educated’, John Abott’s book, in the near future.

Other memorable presentations and discussions included (more…)