When I was a lecturer at the University of Mauritius in 2006, some colleagues and I selected, coached and accompanied students to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Our first batch of students, whom I accompanied to IIT Kanpur in India, did honorably and the university participated until 2008 or 2009. Since then, Mauritius has not participated in this world-class programming contest.
We participated in the ACM ICPC for 3 or 4 times before quitting (and I am using this word in its strongest sense — Mauritius or, more precisely, the University of Mauritius, quit).
But I have also just realised that Mauritius has never participated in:
- the International Mathematical Olympiad
- the International Olympiads in Informatics
- the International Physics Olympiad
- the International Chemistry Olympiad
- or the International Biology Olympiad
International olympiads are intended for students at secondary schools all over the world.
The International Mathematical Olympiad
From the International Mathematical Olympiad website:
The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is the World Championship Mathematics Competition for High School students and is held annually in a different country. The first IMO was held in 1959 in Romania, with 7 countries participating. It has gradually expanded to over 100 countries from 5 continents.
100 countries… except Mauritius. For the nearly 60 years since IMO was created, our Government, institutions or teachers have never felt the need to participate in this international contest. In contrast:
- China started in 1985 and its students have won 138 gold medals, 30 silver medals and 6 bronze medals,
- the USA started in 1974 and its students have won 110, 108 and 29
- while the Russian Federation started in 1992 and has won 87, 48 and 9 such medals.
Some other countries include:
- India started in 1989 and has won 11 gold medals, 62 silver medals and 59 bronze medals,
- Singapore in 1988 and has won 11, 45 and 66 such medals,
- South Africa in 1992 and has won 1, 9 and 38 such medals,
- Trinidad and Tobago in 1991 and has won 2 silver medals and 5 bronze medals,
- and Ivory Coast in 2010 who has won 1 silver medal.
Some countries which have participated but not won any medal include Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The International Olympiads in Informatics
Mauritian students have also never participated in the International Olympiads in Informatics since its creation in 1989. Countries which have participated and won include:
- China has won 72 gold medals, 23 silver medals and 12 bronze medals,
- Poland has won 34, 36 and 27 such medals,
- and Russia 52, 32 and 12 such medals.
Other notable countries include:
- Singapore has won 8 gold medals, 27 silver medals and 34 bronze medals,
- India has won 1, 11 and 27 such medals,
- and Bangladesh which has won 1 silver medal and 3 bronze medals.
and, as I wrote above, Mauritius has also never participated in the International Physics or Chemistry or Biology Olympiads.
What are we waiting for?
I have come to realise that people of Mauritius (including, most probably, me) exhibit a strange trait: we believe we are incredibly superior compared to others (our islanders’ mentality probably) while we are, at the same time, afraid to compete with others (probably because we are so far from other countries and because of our colonial past).
This has to change. Our best students need to participate in Maths, Informatics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology Olympiads.
Or else, how are they going to become world-class?
Of course, I am not saying that our students are not good enough. As a matter of fact, this is untrue. Some of our students shine at international level (O Level and A Level). Participating in Olympiads would allow more of our students to shine and, most importantly, discover their talents. In the long run, the average level of all students is likely to rise. And this is precisely what we need in Mauritius to become Smart.
In fact, Mauritius participated 2 times in the IOI: 2001 in Finland and 2002 in South Korea.
I was part of these adventures and one of the best experience I have ever had.
The competition was really tough but one of the Mauritian delegates missed a bronze medal by only a few points in 2001.
The Mauritian team was sponsored by DCDM at that time and I am so grateful to them for making this possible.
Unfortunately, there was no more participation after 2002.
We had a few national math contests as well, which were also great at that time, also organised by DCDM.
I really hope that we can expose our Mauritian students on the international scene as I am convinced that Mauritius have brilliant individuals who will shine at International Level given the appropriate training and exposure.
Avinash Meetoo says
That’s nice to know.
It’s always the same thing here. We do something once or twice and then we stop. We lack perseverance. I have noticed something over the years: we love the bling-bling associated with new things (the launching ceremonies, the press conferences, the media coverage, etc.) and, sometimes, we forget that, in not persevering, we can’t reach a certain level of mastery and quality. I wonder if this is a mentality issue?
Bilal Anwar says
Its indeed great to find out that someone else also asked exactly the same question which I am asking these days.
I am in a bit of unique situation here. I am an expat here in Mauritius, originally from Pakistan but roamed around the world in the last few years.
Have a math genius 14 year old son. He attends one of the international schools in North of the Island and extremely keen to participate in the International Math Olympiad (IOM). Given his interest and potential there is a genuine chance for him to be a serious participant. Since we will be staying here at least for couple of years and I am looking into every single possibility for my son to participate. I would not mind for him to represent Mauritius in IOM but not finding a way out.
I was thinking to discuss it with University of Mauritius or Ministry of Education to look into the possibility. Any suggestions?
Avinash Meetoo says
I think that it is important that the Government is made aware of the necessity for Mauritius to participate in these events. This can be through the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Technology and Innovation. I would not explore the UoM avenue because, well, it’s better, in Mauritius, to go to the top directly… What do you think?
Bilal Anwar says
Thanks for your reply and I will check out Ministry of Education.
Paul de Speville says
short answer: No funding for students/tutors willing to take part in those competition.
Avinash Meetoo says
That’s a pity…