Aspire to break the mould

By Madhushala Senaratne

What does it mean to be a pathbreaker? Is it only about climbing that ladder and reaching the top? Or, is it much more than that? Lighting those unlit candles, perhaps? Well, if you want to know more – tune into ETV this month.

Yep, you've guessed it. Pathbreakers, the pioneers in local English reality TV is back, and this time it focuses on school children.

A television quiz plus reality TV show format, season II of the reality TV show, Pathbreakers, titled, Pathbreakers Aspirations Conquest, promises to be even more exciting and challenging than the previous one. For those of you who missed last year's season – Pathbreakers is something like The Apprentice – a business oriented reality TV show – where contestants analyse issues and decisions of real time organisation and have to stimulate roles of management consultants to an organisation's board of directors.

Last season saw undergraduates battle it out in the middle, but this year, the contestants are school children. Fifty school going boys and girls (between 15 and 19 years) will be competing against each other over a series of challenges designed to test their knowledge and skills. Presented by Aspirations Education (Pvt) Ltd and produced by Vanguard Management Services (Pvt.) Ltd / ETV, season II of Pathbreakers, feature 11 episodes running over a period of three months.

We caught up with several members of the Aspirations Education team who told us about the importance of such a programme and the journey so far.

Aspirations Education is a career guidance service institute, which represents universities and institutions in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, UK and China. It conducts many programmes and services for youth, helping them realise their aspirations. In addition, the Aspirations Foundation provides scholarships to over a 100 rural students.

Chairman of Aspirations Education, Ajith Abeysekera, said there's much to gain from such a programme. And in keeping with the vision of Aspirations Education, the notion behind Pathbreakers is to give something back to the student population and the education system of Sri Lanka.

"Our education system is such that, there's little chance for students to apply their knowledge practically. Our aim is to help students in their higher studies, but for this it is not necessary that students go abroad. There are plenty of opportunities here. There are students who are capable of doing so much, but don't have the finances to go abroad. We want to help these students and give something back to the system," he said.

A programme such as Pathbreakers, help students develop their skills such as leadership qualities and entrepreneurial skills and also gives them self-confidence. It's their chance to showcase their abilities and realise their aspirations, Mr. Abeyesekera further said.

"Through such programmes, we can help these students become better leaders. We can create more leaders," he added. Deepamala Abeysekera, Academic Director of Aspirations Education, said there are a lot of exciting activities to be looked forward to. "Educational programmes are most often branded as boring. We wanted to change this perception and do something for the youth of the country, something that would be educational, but at the same time, fun and attractive," Deepamala said.

The 50 finalists were selected based on an aptitude test and a viva, she explained. A total of 228 applicants sat for the aptitude tests, which was held on September 21 at the BMICH. This was followed by a session titled, 'How to make use of opportunity to realise your aspirations,' which featured some very interesting and motivating speeches.

"One of it focused on what it means to be a pathbreaker. Mr. Uditha Liyanage who was the head judge at last year's competition spoke on the difference between ability and capability and how we need to shift from our comfort zone, to take that initiative, to be a leader and the importance of realising your aspirations," Deepamala said, explaining the notion behind Pathbreakers.

However, she added, being a leader is nothing if you don't lend a hand to your fellow human beings. "It's good to be a winner, a leader, but if you are selfish, there's really no point, you have to reach out to others, you have to help them light their candles," she says, adding that the session which began with Gloria Estafan's "Reach," ended with Michael Jackson's "Heal the World," the songs which seemed to summarise the concept of both Pathbreakers and Aspirations Educations.

A total of 90 candidates were shortlisted following the aptitude test which tested applicants on their general knowledge and IQ. A viva was held the following week, at the end of which the 50 finalists were chosen.

Two weeks prior to the aptitude tests, a team from Aspirations Educations had been travelling to schools in Colombo, speaking to principals and students on the show, its benefits and importance to students.

"Some principals loved the idea and some others didn't. But we got some tremendous feedback from the students," she said, adding that several sessions were conducted at schools and there were always plenty of questions from the students.

Explaining the benefits of participating in such a programme, Deepamala says that students can develop various skills and knowledge and experience real life situations. "The students will be tested on team working skills, leadership skills, entrepreneurial skills, analytical skills and a whole host of other skills and knowledge relevant in certain fields. This is their opportunity, not only to showcase their talents, but discover and explore their abilities as well," she said.

"True, this is going to be hard on our budget, but we wanted to offer something to the youth of the country," she said.

The main sponsor for the event is Navitas, while the print media partner is The Sunday Times. Pathbreakers Aspirations Conquest would be telecast on ETV and Derana TV from the second week of October.

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