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28 November 2017

Confident in the heat of debate – Sanskruti's story

Sanskruti began Kumon English when she started primary school. A keen writer since a young age, Sanskruti was awarded a medal in Year 5 for narrative writing in ICAS – this meant she came first in her year group across all test-takers in New Zealand. Since then she has continued writing fiction and even participated in the National Novel Writing Month competition which required her to write a novel in just one month. On top of these achievements, Sanskruti completed Kumon English, has become a keen public speaker and championship debater.

Sanskruti says, ‘The rich vocabulary in the latter levels of the English Programme inspired me to start writing. I had to read my pieces quite a lot in front of the school or to teachers, so it really started there. We had speech competitions from Year 3 and in Years 4 and 5 I went to the speech finals’.

Once she hit intermediate school, Sanskruti was encouraged by her English teacher to begin debating. ‘She said I’d be good at it but I didn’t really think I’d like it’, admits Sanskruti. ‘When I started I really enjoyed it because I enjoy thinking from different perspectives and having to argue from a certain position’.

Sanskruti soon began debating competitively. As with all competitions, the longer one lasts the tougher it gets, but she was no stranger to hard work. ‘One thing I’ve taken away from Kumon is perseverance: just to keep going and power through everything. Even if it gets hard you should never give up. You should just keep trying’, said Sanskruti.

Those competitors who move through to the final rounds in debating not only face the top remaining performers, but must tackle socially relevant issues requiring critical consideration under the pressure of time.

‘As we progressed through the competition the debating topics became more difficult’, recalls Sanskruti. ‘One topic was “Changing Cinderella’s love interest to a girl would be better for children to learn the story”. It was quite a hard topic because we had to dive into issues of equality. It took the judges about two days to come to a decision as to who won. That was when we won the semi-finals’.

During debates, Sanskruti adopts what is possibly the most daunting role on the team. ‘I’m usually the third speaker whose main job is to rebut the other team. That’s usually the most difficult because you go in with no preparation.’

According to Sanskruti, two qualities are key to managing this role. The first is a good sense of vocabulary and ability to use formal language. The second is confidence. ‘It’s important to have the confidence to stand up in front of an audience. In our finals, there were 80 -100 people watching. Sometimes I got really nervous. In the finals all of our hands were shaking, but it was cool. I had my whole team with me so there was a lot of support.’

For a number of years now, Sanskruti has been able to support those students who are just starting out in Kumon through her work as an assistant at the Kumon Epsom Education Centre in Auckland, where she herself studied Kumon English.

‘I really enjoy working with the little kids and helping them to understand the mistakes they make in English’, shared Sanskruti. ’ Sometimes they’ll leave an answer blank so I encourage them to think and give it a try. When I was younger I’d sometimes do the same. On a few days when the books did get quite hard I did tend to get quite frustrated, but then what motivated me to keep going was that my parents and my friends always encouraged me’.

In a few years’ time Sanskruti will finish high school and take the next step in shaping her life. She’s considering a career in law, but not only because it relates strongly to her joy of debating and writing. ‘I’ve always wanted a job that keeps me on my toes’, she shared, ‘and I really enjoy the idea of helping people through something.’

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