Inter-School Debating Competition 2019/20

Each week, towards and during the Autumn and Winter, the President tells us of the forthcoming School Debating Competition, but does anyone think about what goes into organising it and what goes on from the Schools in taking part? Well, even if you do, let me tell you.

The most important thing, of course, is to get the Schools on board. This can mean meetings with potential participants which then become “new” participants and e-mail exchanges with the ‘regulars’. In addition, we have to get the sponsors – for the final venue, prizes, refreshments. Then there is the task of finding enough people to act as Judges. Obviously, they have to be able to apply the marking criteria to the individual speakers and do it quickly so that after the debate has concluded – only lasts 40 minutes maximum – a winning Team and the Best Debater can be announced within 10 to 15 minutes  of the conclusion AND in doing so, the Lead Judge must be able to articulate, by reference to the criteria, why one team has won and the other lost and why they have chosen the Best Debater. Feedback is very very important to the Teams and their coaches, as well as the Schools themselves.

Once that is done, it’s down to the grind of setting a timetable for the debates so that we have four Schools in the finals to compete for 1st and 2nd place and 3rd and 4th places. How difficult, you may ask, is it to organise a time table? Very, is the response, when it comes to dealing with Schools. There are the half-term breaks – and each of the international schools can pick and choose when they have those (and do) – there are Fiestas – there are mock exams. On top of that, Schools need time between one debate and another to do their research and prepare for the next one. So, all of that has to be taken into account in order that the Finals can take place in February, thus the preliminary stages must be over by mid-December!

However, a Timetable does emerge and usually, after a couple of tweaks, it is settled by the end of September in time for the competition proper to start in early October. In parallel, amend or change the Rules to take account of any points arising or difficulties which arose in the last Competition. Then we have to devise the motions to be debated. Again, sounds a straightforward task. But when you are dealing with intelligent, inquiring individuals you have to make sure there is no room for doubt as to the meaning of the terms you have used otherwise a debate might turn into a discussion about the meanings of the terms used in the motion or the two Teams are poles apart in the subject matter.

So far, the article sets out what the Club does but the Schools themselves are busy too. Because the age group for the debates is between 14 and 16, the Schools need to find new Team Members, sometimes each year. Then prepare them for the events. This means teachers/coaches leading/directing on debating skills, research and just the practical aspects of getting their students (and any fellow students) to the venue of the event. In the preliminary rounds, the home school hosts the debate.

On top of that, the Club are often invited along to the Schools to talk to the teams before the Competition gets underway to remind them of the Rules and in particular to set out the do’s and don’ts of debating. This generally turns into a Q&A session with the most popular topic being ‘Point of Information”. Points of Information are the vehicle that members of the opposing team use to intervene in submission to ask a question or make a short observation. In practice, they can be used as a tactic to put a speaker off their stride.

The standard of debate is generally high, not least because of the amount of research that all the teams undertake in preparing for the debate. There is certainly a lot to listen to and learn from the presentations made. This is all the more challenging because until 30 minutes before the start of the debate the Teams don’t know whether they are arguing for or against the motion. This helps to ensure a more dynamic debate.

So, please come along to some of the debates and see for yourself how good the Students are and appreciate what talented young individuals we have in the community.

Well, after all of the work that has gone into organising this year’s competition, we are only 24 hours away from the opening debate, as this is written. The Schools have been given their dates and the topics for their debates for all of the preliminary rounds, which takes us up to the middle of December.

Mike and Jan have been to visit a number of the Schools and in particular talked to the Students who will be making up the teams. Even those schools who have been regular participants are having to field new team members because the age limits, 14 to 16, means that after a couple of years the students are no longer eligible to take part.

Timetable 2019

So, at this point, the Students, team Members, Judges and organisers are nervous! So, tomorrow it will be, ‘let battle commence’! In the meantime, for all of you members, here is a timetable for the debates and the subjects to be discussed – the first-named school on each date is the host for the event:

2 October.              Agora v Queens –  “ Criminal justice should put rehabilitation before punishment”

16 October.           San Cayetano v Bellver –  “The United Nations is an outdated Institution”

24 October.           Academy v BICs –  “Democracy isn’t working”

13 November.       Queens v San Cayetano –  “It’s too late now to stop or reverse Global Warming”

15 November         BIC v French Lycee –  “An international agreement must be reached for a “cashless” society”

20 November.       Bellver v Agora s –  Decriminalizing the use of all drugs would, in the long term, benefit society”

28 November.      French Lycee v Academy s –  “Due to the cost of hosting, a permanent home should be found for the Olympic Games”

10 December.       Queens v Bellver –  “Drones are dangerous and their use should be licensed”

12 December.      Agora v San Cayetano –  “Alternative energy will never replace fossil fuels”.

Come along to at least one of the debates and support the competition. You will enjoy it and learn a lot from the facts, figures and views put forward by the students.

               byline Kate Mentink, Jan Siegl & Mike Knight