5 July 2010

Obstacles in Programming Contest : Bangladesh perspective

Though Bangladesh is a third world country, we have many limitations here but we are doing well in programming contest the majestic competition of wit and wisdom. We have done well not only in online contests but also in the ICPC or real-time contests. But it is centralized (conceptually and geometrically (in the map)) in one area – *Dhaka*. Only few university students from capital city are doing well. All are renowned Public or Private Institutes (especially BUET, DU, NSU, EWU, AIUB, SEU) and under extreme facilities than the other universities all over Bangladesh. Good teachers, rich library, better students from all over the country are the main factors of doing well in contests. What about the institutions or universities situated in a rural area and about miles away from the main town. You may wonder! In many public universities outside the towns do not have adequate internet connection for its computer science students. Some of our students come to town and browse in the cyber-cafes and submit problems. Don’t think that it is cheap; it is costly for the students. The students from outside the town don’t get extra money from their parents to do programming contest like extra curriculum. They do these things by saving money by working as a private tutor in the town. No coach, no good new books, no internet or communication facilities are making this meritorious students just a lay man! But recently some universities out-side of Dhaka (like SUST, CUET,RU-one/two teams) are doing better, it is only because of their students’ own effort.

Another important thing is, we have coaches for our programming teams, but what they really do? A Coach has to take all the responsibilities of his team. His team’s success or failure also represents his responsibility for his team. It’s not the matter of “just saying some good words to the team members, that mean…do like this…do like that…” but also teaching the technical details of different strategies, algorithmic concepts, special functions, memory managements, compiler’s limitations and many other things which are generally not written in available books or references.

A couch is a grand-masters! He must gather this knowledge from his past experiences in different programming contests/problem solving. He will try to spread out this knowledge to his team, so that they will not face any silly problem during the contest hour. But unfortunately, this is not coming true for our programmers most of the time.

Here we learn the methods/algorithm to do things not how these methods developed; how the researchers have came across to these methods; Where should I apply it and where not. Actually our weak educational structure and the boring text books don’t make us creative; they are full of “what” few “how” but not “why”.

“There still you can find some teachers who dislike such co-curricular activities like Programming Contests. They do not understand contests are far more interesting and challenging than whatever slides he was showing in the classroom.”

To be a good contestant, one needs to be resourceful. Apart from a working brain, the primary resource for a contestant would be books. And a good source of books and training materials is the Internet. Internet connection is also required for submitting solutions to different online judges and participating in the online contests. If a school wants its students to uphold its name and add to its fame, shouldn’t it be responsible to look into these trifle matters?

One thing I want to say that you all have seen Picard, Jimmy, Stefan, Adrian done so well in the contests. How they have done it? There may be many reasons like: they have practiced well, they are very meritorious etc. But one thing I know they have build up like they are from the childhood. If you go to their homepages you will know it. They are familiar with PC when they were baby; they are doing programming contests when they were at school. Many of them participated in (IMO) math Olympiads like Barton and Dimitry. That is why they are now what they are!

In our country, you can find many more who have first touched computer after passing the college exams. And as they are also doing well that means they have got much acceleration and improved a lot. So, if someone wants to be a programmer he/she can start it from the ground, instead of seeing movies, cartoons through home computer. If you don’t have any computer, still no problems as you can also start problem solving with pen and paper and one IMO/ Math Olympiad book!!

* First Author (Arefin)- PhD student, Newcastle U, AUS/ Second Author (Moni)- Engineer, Grameen Phone. Both were contestants at CUET and participated ACM/ICPC Regional 2002 (Dhaka Site).

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2 Responses to “Obstacles in Programming Contest : Bangladesh perspective”

  1. tafhim 18 October 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Well, truth comes out one day or the other. Most varsities other than the above mentioned stars, don’t care about students who want to do well in PContests. They think we can’t go too far. A contestant who wants to do well can do it himself, yes, but on his own 4 years is not enough. We need tutors to believe in us. I’m ready to spend the whole night in the varsity lab. I can sacrifice my weekends. Because I know, the feeling of solving most of the problems in a contest is like haven.
    My humble request to our teachers and professors. Please believe in us. Try to show the uninterested students the fun of finding all the divisors of a number in miliseconds. Throw contest every evening. We don’t care. All we want is to have the fun, in real terms.