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Bringing the fun to the learning

November 29, 2016: The fifth season of CMC Quiz Mania is geared for its final showdown with India-Modern School (India) and Government Science College and Notre Dame (Bangladesh) taking centre stage on Thursday. Having found national success in the past four seasons, this year the show adopted a SAARC-level format and pitted students from the region against each other.  In his interview with the Post, Quiz Master and movie-star Rajesh Hamal reflects on why competitions like these—that make learning fun and interactive—are important and what plans the contest has for future seasons. Excerpts:

Can you tell us about how the idea of hosting a SAARC-level quiz contest came about?

It was a natural progression. This is the fifth season of CMC Quiz Mania and we have always wanted to take the show to a higher level and to expand it. Last season, we felt that we had reached a saturation point at the national level, so the next step was naturally to go international; and hosting a SAARC-level contest was the most feasible for our first attempt. The next target is to go international.

Through the auditions, you travelled to several countries—Pakistan, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh—hosting audition rounds. How was the quiz received in those countries?

Luckily we had a very good reception everywhere we went, primarily because our regional partners were very efficient. Over the past four seasons, CMC Quiz Mania has become quite popular in Nepal and on the internet, which helped as well.

But more than that, our visits worked as a form of soft diplomacy and cultural exchange as well. Everywhere we went, we made sure that the students realised that apart from being a quiz contest, it was also an opportunity for them to represent their respective countries at a regional-level competition. So, even though the quiz was the main objective, all these other aspects gave our visits a different dimension. In our small way, the competition brought together the people of the region. For instance, a Kathmandu to Islamabad is maybe a two-hour flight; but because there are no direct flights, or flight connections from India, we had to fly to Doha then to Islamabad. So, those kinds of tensions do exist in the SAARC region and it was great to be able to bring representative students from both India and Pakistan, and other countries, together with CMC Quiz Mania as the medium, which was fulfilling in its own way.

Why are events like CMC Quiz Mania that take students out of the classroom and textbook routine important for their overall development?

In today’s digital age, people grasp things and learn better when education is made fun and interactive. Young people don’t want to be preached or pontificated upon like it was done traditionally. Students are more concentrated and focused when learning is made fun, which is what CMC Quiz Mania seeks to do. We get serious, academic things across in a fun way and it is always encouraging to see the level of learning that takes place when that is done.

During the competition, Nepali students were pitted against the best and the brightest students from the region. How did they compare and did that reflect on our education system?

I always made it a point to let all the participants know that the moment you participate in the quiz, you are already a winner. Ultimately, there are so many factors that come into play that decides who wins and who doesn’t—it could be luck, it could be what kind of question they receive, it could how well they follow the rules. So if a team wins or loses, it doesn’t necessarily reflect on their education. Winning and losing does happen, that is the nature of competitions; but what was more important is that they wanted to participate in the contest and prepared themselves to that end.

But that being said, for the Nepali auditions, we travelled all over the country and I found the students to be very competent. There were times when I myself was surprised by how knowledgeable they were. Based on how prepared and well-rounded Nepali students were, I feel they can rub shoulders with students not just from the region but anywhere in the world.

You have been a quiz master before, and you certainly seem to enjoy it. What keeps bringing you back season after season?

What really keeps me coming back is the interaction I have with the participants. I love interacting with students; and as a quizmaster I am not there to teach or pontify, I am there to interact. Quizzes are also a two-way learning process and I walk away with a lot new lessons every season. You could say that the students are being motivated or inspired by me in certain ways, but I am also constantly learning and am inspired by them. I don’t get to do that in my day-to-day life.  The youth are also completely tuned to the present and they really keep me updated on the pulse of the ‘here and now’, which I really value. That is why I keep coming back.

With the finale approaching, this season of Quiz Mania is winding down. Looking back what were some of the major takeaways from this season. Are you going to be coming back bigger next year?

Like any other field, this quiz is no different—every new season, we keep evolving and keep learning new things. Even after completing five seasons, we are not complacent—we keep learning new things and continue to try and make the show better. We have made our share of mistakes through the years but the mistakes were never regrets; we always saw them as opportunities to improve.

Obviously, making the jump from a national-level contest to the regional-level this season was a big challenge, but we intend to keep growing and hopefully draw students from more countries next year. Going forward we envision CMC Quiz Mania as a international quiz contest that is based out of Nepal and we hope to continue to work towards that end goal.

The grand finale of the CMC Quiz Mania will be aired on Kantipur Television on December 1 at 9 pm.