English Olympiad has set its foot on a journey to globalise Bangladesh and inspire leadership among hundreds of young volunteers who have tirelessly worked together to organise the selection rounds in different corners of the nation. With around 50,000 participants and 3,500 active campus ambassadors, we take a look behind the story of such a massive event from the founder and chairperson of English Olympiad, Mohammad Aman Ullah.
Ullah felt the need of a nation-wide awareness on the importance of English language first in 2016 when he was organising the World Orphan's Day in around 130 countries around the globe. “We had many international volunteers wishing to talk to us for instructions and I realised that our volunteers from Bangladesh were unable to communicate properly,” he says. “It was not that they did not know English but there was a certain fear clinched with speaking English. In an effort to defeat that fear and hesitation, English Olympiad was connceptualised.”
In December 2016, Ullah conducted the first workshop on spreading English as a tool to overcome challenges, but unfortunately, people were not interested to participate in such workshops, and so, he decided to create a competition. With 35,000 participants, Ullah and his crew embarked on a journey to visualise English as a medium to foster global opportunities.
He was the Principal of a school in Chattogram when he thought of involving some strong extracurricular activities in it. “I wanted something that would increase knowledge and be fun for students at the same time. There was a desire in the students for more knowledge and I realised that English as a language could never be learnt just by memorising spellings,” explains Ullah. Gathering ideas from IELTS, TOEFL and various other examinations for non-English speaking nations, he designed the idea of a selection round based on vocabulary, grammar, spelling and creative writing. They also came up with a theatre round where they would judge a student's listening, speaking and presentation skills and a finale where the best participants would be awarded.
Ullah believes in developing the manpower of the country and the talented youth. “At English Olympiad, we are teaching the young minds on how to connect with people, how to foster their leadership skills, how to express their opinions clearly and how to make wise decisions,” he says. “It is a development programme for the youth where they get to meet various people and earn valuable lifetime experiences.”
The impact of English Olympiad has managed to cultivate a culture of reading among the students, a trait we all have forgotten with time. Parents come up to Ullah saying that their kids now read the newspapers regularly and are keen to learn new words. English Olympiad has made students hungry for more knowledge and has found many young leaders with huge potential to change the world around them. The Primary Education Ministry wishes to collaborate with them to spread the passion for the English language, to students across the nation. “I feel that we have tried to create a strong extracurricular base in our students which will help them compete in the international arena,” asserts Ullah. The next major event in the English Olympiad is the theatre round where students would be further qualified based on their listening and presentation skills. For the grand finale, Ullah has set the standards higher than before. The team plans to invite 25 foreign ambassadors from their respected embassies in Dhaka. They have targeted non-English speaking countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Ghana, United Arab Emirates and many more. In Season 3, they plan to take English Olympiad in 25 countries. Next year, they hope to launch their own app which will help them connect more efficiently with the world.