Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Glenn Tucker | Leave Ardenne alone

Published:Wednesday | July 8, 2020 | 12:06 AM

I remember, in the days of my youth, scoring a deciding goal shortly before the final whistle blew in a football match. My elation was short-lived as, on leaving the field, I was bombarded by supporters of the other team shouting “teef” in my direction. They claimed that it was an “offside” goal and that the whistle signalling the end of the match “shuda blow long time”.

Interestingly, it was a noisy community member with no known background in sports who saved me from what looked like a certain lynching.

He shouted them down and asked, “Him a di reffaree? Him a di linesman? Den nuh dem you fi go to.”

Two weeks ago, I heard a woman complaining to a talk show host, Cliff Hughes. She was expressing dissatisfaction that the school her son attends did not make it to the finals of the Schools’ Challenge Quiz (SCQ). Mr Hughes did not seem to be too sympathetic. So she attacked the school that prevailed – Ardenne. Mr Hughes remained unmoved.

So she needed a ‘whopper’. Something that would shock the talk show host into supporting her position that some hanky-panky was afoot. She declared – quite falsely – that the principal of Ardenne was on the TVJ board. Eventually, Mr Hughes gave her a brief but excellent guide as to how to teach her child to lose graciously.

Ardenne won in the finals. Sure enough, there was an article in The Gleaner raining on Ardenne’s parade and claiming that Ardenne should not have won. Much of the complaint rested on a question about Cambodia. Did Ardenne formulate the question? Were the judges from Ardenne? And while we are at it, was that question intended to elicit an answer, or start a discussion? It is the greatest piece of malapropism since Mrs Malaprop was rendered speechless. All Ardenne did was make a valiant attempt to provide an answer. And the judges accepted it.

But if Ardenne school was in the business of cultivating a culture of complaining, the following could be considered valid: in the finals, St Jago was shown a picture of one of our most enduring cricket icons and asked to give his name. They answered quickly and correctly. Ardenne, however, was shown the picture of an Australian cricketer with less than stellar statistics. They stumbled for the first time. That would have been a reasonable ‘complaint’.

It would seem to me that the burden should be on TVJ to do some soul-searching, respond to critics – where it was justified – and fix what needs to be fixed.

Let me make a suggestion for the speed section; (My questions)

Question to Team A:

Which of the following is a Noble gas?

1. Nitrogen

2. Oxygen

3. Argon

4. Carbon dioxide

Question to Team B:

If there is no carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, the temperature of the earth’s surface would be:

1. Dependent on the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

2. Higher than the present temperature

3. Less than the present temperature.

4. The same

In a section where seconds count, Team A would have a clear advantage.

SCQ has been with us for decades. It has been a tremendous advantage for a variety of reasons. Apart from dealing with these matters I have mentioned, the programme could be spiced up with a few adjustments.

Here are a few suggestions.


• Each team will be shown a picture with a quotation. The team has to complete the quotation. The team gets points to complete the quotation.

• The teams will be asked to listen to an audio clip. The team has to state the name of the song or sing three lines from the song, as asked by the quizmaster.

• Questions will not be passed to the next team.

• No negative points for wrong answers.


• Each team will have to choose their favourite subject out of history, physics, chemistry, mathematics.

• One member of each team will be asked to answer five questions from their chosen subject.

• Two points will be given for each correct answer. But 12 points will be given if all questions are answered correctly.

• Unanswered questions will not be passed to the next team.


• The public will be invited to send questions by email. A committee will select the suitable ones. Each team will be asked one question from the approved list.

• Three hints will be provided for each question.

• Four points will be awarded for the correct answer after the first try.

• Two points will be awarded for the correct answer after the second try.

• One point will be awarded for the correct answer after the third try.

• 15 seconds will be given for each question.

• There will be four sets of questions in four sealed envelopes. The envelope containing the questions to be used in the match will be chosen immediately before the match starts in the presence of viewers. There will not be a set of questions for Team A and a separate set of questions for Team B.

• Quite often, in their haste to answer questions, viewers do not hear what is said. It is recommended that the correct answer as well as the given answer be displayed on the screen.

• Organisers, questioners and judges should go over questions several times and come to a common understanding regarding acceptable answers, pronunciations, etc. Any question that has any form of ambiguity should be dropped at this stage. It must be crystal clear that only one answer is possible.


Competition may be one of the most contentious and misunderstood topics in education. Although some may argue that there are potential detriments from competitions, they are outweighed by the host of positives. They include improvement of teamwork and collaboration, enhancing social and emotional learning, as well as beneficial peer comparisons, strengthening academic self-concept and building mental toughness.

I hold no brief for Ardenne. I attended a school in the country which won the competition only once, decades ago. But we are not burdened with notions of entitlement. Each year – around this time – we happily resend that old photo of the cup we won and the four heroes that brought us glory.

But it cannot be denied that Ardenne has strong, creative leadership and is producing well-rounded individuals. No one likes to lose. And that is exactly why life’s lessons require us to help our children to learn to lose gracefully.

It is critical that educators, coaches, parents and competition organisers understand the best practices in executing competition design in ways that silence detractors and ensure the benefits – mentioned earlier – are realised.

Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. Email feedback to glenntucker2011@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.