Ideas have the power to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world, and TED - a global community under the non-profit Sapling Foundation - operates on that belief to spark conversations and make ideas more accessible.
The concept of TED was born in 1984 from a convergence of technology, education and design, and from 1990 onwards it was an annual conference. However, the nature of TED as it is known today is vastly different. The platform is likely most familiar to us through brief videos or audio podcasts that grace Facebook and YouTube feeds. The content is no longer limited to just the three initial subjects either; rather it encompasses topics from every field imaginable under the banner of ‘ideas worth spreading’.
As TED branched out, there were a number of additions that brought it to where it stands. One of those was the creation of TEDx in 2008. TEDx programs are independently organized events executed globally under the platform’s license.
Fast forward 10 years and TEDx sessions have made their way to schools in Bangladesh courtesy of A level students. On December 15, Sir John Wilson hosted TEDxYouth at Sir John Wilson School with the theme ‘Thinking outside the box’. From acquiring the license to carrying out an event that retains TED’s standards, the students showed impressive drive and capability.
“I hope this experience will make a mark on their lives and inspire participants to think outside the norm and move forward with positivity, for themselves and for Bangladesh at the same time,” shared principal Sabrina Shaheed.
Speakers included Sifat Hasan of Pathao, architect Marina Tabassum, Sajid Iqbal of Change (Botol Bati), Kamrul Hasan of Little Farmer, Ashna Chowdhury of Thrive Women, female chauffeur Yasmin Kona, photographer GMB Akash, Jashim Ahmed of ODDUU Limited, Farzeen Alam from Oggro Ventures and singer Farzana Wahid Shayan.
With ten speakers from multiple disciplines, the event provided its participants with a balanced stream of content. As inspiring speakers shared their stories, there were many topics under the spotlight that day. The concept that failure and criticism form sizable components of the journey towards success resonated with students. They appreciated the detailed insights the speakers shared about their own journeys and careers.
Usually, the image of a school event where speeches are involved is immediately followed by one where students are stifling yawns in bare-minimum efforts to mask their boredom. However, it was surprising to note that at TEDxSJWS, participants were actually engaged with what the speakers were saying. They would nod their heads in agreement or laugh along, and it suffices to say that most, if not all, of the sessions were met with standing ovations.
What made this event different from some of those of ‘Career Week’ monologues or dreaded morning assembly speeches that immediately come to mind from the description above?
While one of the reasons behind it may be the fact that participation was voluntary. It is definitely worth considering that students are perceptive of the quality of content they are presented with.
Zafirah, a student of Sunbeams, said, “It feels empowering to learn about the stories and successes of amazing women. To see and hear about the work they do and how they carry themselves so confidently is really inspiring.”
Many teenagers struggle with public speaking. While some are more candid about it, others dismiss it with a wave of their hands as something that they can avoid indefinitely. On this topic, Auhona, a student of Sir John Wilson, shared, “For people our age, our fear of public speaking stems from certain basic insecurities that come with this phase of growing up. To hear people share their stories this way in such detail serves as a reassurance that we can do it too.”
Participants had a lot to take away from the event, as each speaker presented them with something different. Wreath Shams, a student of Scholastica said, “It was really cool to learn about things we previously didn’t know were happening in Bangladesh, like the innovations and activities we found out about from the agriculture-based talks today.”