Battle of Mind: Uncovering Cambodian Youth's Potential

by Somalinavann | Jun,12,2021

"This show will be the revolution of Cambodia's educational entertainment."

_Mr. Chin Thomith: Judge and Producer of the Battle of Mind.

Battle of Mind (សង្វៀនគំនិត) is a novel debate competition and educational reality show that allows 24 Cambodian high-school students (of grade 10 and 11) to learn, practice and unleash their potential in various fields: debating and speech construction; data research and analysis; exploring the subjects of science and technology with hand-on experiences.

This is the first debate reality show to ever been produced in Cambodia: concept written in 4-hour time by Mr. Chin Thomith, powered by Apsara Media Services, and organised by Tech for Kids; the show started officially filming on December 19, 2020 by 606 digitals with the support of Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Ministry of Economy and Finance through Khmer Enterprise. The first episode was aired on March 20, 2021 on the official Facebook page of AMS Education.

The competition was carefully designed for both amateur and experienced candidates by providing a 5-week intense training and mentoring by professional trainers such as Mrs. Lay Sivhuang, Mr. Kuok Chamroeun, Ms. Sou Rosanich, Mr. Nay Maneth and Ms. Chey Sotharoth. Each weeks, candidates will partake in unanticipated, diligent challenges, assign into random teams, and compete under extreme time pressure; tasks are given to candidates after each learning session in order to cultivate individual's ability through putting knowledge into real practices.

How has Battle of Mind helped build candidate's potential?

Debating, in general, has been proven to deliver experiences beneficial to the development of candidate's cognitive and presentational skills: enhancing their abilities in analysing, researching and note-taking; developing an impromptu speech for a rational rebuttal using solid reasoning and evidence; reinforcing teamwork.

In this digital era where our lives are cocooned by technology and overflowing data, debating is a mirror that reflects a small aspect of the society where learners are taught to look at subjects from various angles, in other words, understanding that there is more than one perspective to look at things. Likewise, the format of Battle of Mind helps candidates make analytic judgement of the data acquired during research to form the best-suited arguments, and to distinguish between the cause and effect of different topics (referencing from Mrs. Lay Sivhuang).

Due to scarce opportunities offered to Cambodian high-school students, especially in the subject of debating, Battle of Mind is an open door offering to nurture youth's mindset and training them to develop different tangible and intangible skills crucial for their personal growth (referencing from Ms. Sou Rosanich). For instance, weekly tasks challenged candidates in various skills: ability to communicate effectively; teamwork and leadership; independence and discipline; creativity and critical thinking in order to solve problems assigned to the team; management and flexibility.

The competition was always layered with thick tension and nerve-wrecking atmosphere with every candidate aiming for the championship and not to mention, the surprises which startled them into consternation. For this sole reason of ambition and uncertainty, candidates were not just putting in extreme effort but they have proven to possess the tolerance to endure 168 hours of tough training at the end of week 7. 

Additionally, each candidate possessed different skills, values and knowledge; Battle of Mind had acknowledged this and allowed students to grow at different paces, according to Mr. Kuok Chamroeun. However, there are common qualities that unite these young candidates together: the assertiveness and confidence to step up on stage and make their voice be heard; the feeling of attachment to one another that orchestrated this experience into unforgettable moments which have embedded in their memories–these are what candidates have to say about their experiences:

Q: Did Battle of Mind give you the opportunity you have never experienced before?

"Battle of Mind broadens my mindset and perspectives in Science by allowing me to explore new topics such as space." –Chhith Sreylang, the best speaker and champion of Battle of Mind.

"I got a chance to change my mentality: coping with my temper problems, and I am grateful because i got to have so many special people in my life after this." –Lin Rattanak Visoth

Despite the joys portrayed on the show, there were remarkable moments that deserved to be heard. Under unbearable responsibilities to compete and survive in the Battle of Mind, candidates would undergo anxiety and stress during the preparation period. In the semi-finale week, with one restless night to research and plan out suitable arguments, a notable story occurred:

“The night before the Semifinal, distress betrayed my will to keep calm. Every candidate was sleeping at each other's home in order to work that late night. We thought that we could sleepover at a coffee shop as there was an appropriate room, spacious enough for us to work comfortably; unfortunately it was closed so we had no choice but to spend the night in a net cafe. The atmosphere was agitating with hysterical laughter in a blizzard-cold, confined space. Kongkear was knocked out cold as my shaky fingers started typing for information; the more I looked into the topic, the more desperate I was: none of the data was good enough to support our claim. This doesn't mean I was willing to give up so we ended up conducting a 6-hour research. I am proud.” —Nath Bunleng: Battle of Mind’s candidate


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