East High School students go far in the International Public Policy Forum competition
By International Public Policy Forum student group
17 March 2023
The International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) competition is a prestigious competition sponsored by the Brewer Foundation and New York University. It is also the first and only competition that gives High School students around the world the opportunity to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy.
The topic for this year’s competition is "Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an effective model for international cooperation". Six students from UWCSEA East Campus are taking part in this competition, and have made the top eight teams, advancing to the finals which will be held in New York City in early May. This is no small feat considering the fact that 220 teams submitted essays in the first round.
The idea to take part in the competition arose out of a chance meeting with a a previous competitor who had recommended it as a great learning opportunity. The students were immediately excited at how unique the style of the competition was, as it is the first and only one that gives High School students around the world the chance to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy. This aligned with many of their individual interests in writing, debate and politics, while creating a unique opportunity for collaboration. They also found the topic of NATO’s effectiveness really intriguing, especially given how relevant it is to current events like the Russia-Ukraine war.
The nature of the competition is that the teams have to write collaborative essays. This proved a challenge at the start as they had to get used to writing each essay as a team and through trial-and-error, created a system that worked for them. This involved condensing information very concisely, simplifying complex topics, debate (style) writing, teamwork, time management and a lot of perseverance.
Our writing process involves a combination of researching, drafting and editing. We usually brainstorm ideas and come up with a structure all together, then divide everything into sections to tackle individually. Over time, we have all naturally developed some interests and specialties that we tend to gravitate towards. The process is quite hectic, but at the end, we always make sure to come together and collaborate to polish the final product.
They were able to build on their prior experience as members of MUN and the Debate Club. Amelia, Harshini and Hanqi are in the Debate Club, so they bring experience in debate competitions, and Jason, Jeenaev and Niru are quite involved in MUN. However, the team still found that debating through essay writing was quite unusual and novel for them, stating that it really stretched them to combine their experience in debate and essay writing in a new format.
The most challenging aspect of the competition was figuring out how to work together effectively to produce an essay that flows well. Considering that none of us had previous experience in writing collaboratively, it took us a couple of essays to get the hang of allocating sections and tasks. The competition was also quite time-intensive and involved many deadlines, so there were periods where we had to stay back late at school and even on calls until 2am!
The team adds that they have learnt a lot about current affairs and the world around us, citing key world topics such as the US-EU relations, Russia-Ukraine conflict, the impact of NATO’s humanitarian and military interventions in nations across the world, NATO’s internal structures and mechanisms, and China’s rise. The way of thinking critically and writing about real world issues is especially relevant to many of the subjects they study at UWCSEA. Amelia and Jason take IB Global Politics, which explores related topics in international relations and public policy, as well as case studies that relate to the topic of NATO. Niru, Harshini and Jeenaev take the Critical Perspectives course and this ties in very well with looking at a complex global issue from various angles and lenses. The team sees the IPPF competition as being aligned with UWC’s mission and spirit of learning in general, which emphasises a global outlook.
Most importantly, they feel that they have developed important skills that will carry forward with them in the future: collaboration, argumentative writing, time management and perseverance. Through their experience of the IPPF, the team found that debating really challenged a lot of their assumptions and forced them to think more critically about the world. While researching the topic of NATO, they got to see the dynamic nature of global politics and how there may never be perfect policy solutions to the problems that world issues present. In the future, they are all interested in pursuing different subjects in university ranging from economics to law to computer science, but at its core, the team all hope to continue incorporating learning about global issues into their careers and fields of study.