In June 2019, SUIS Pudong held its very first whole-school debating competition – the NSHSS SUIS Pudong Debate. The aim of the competition was to encourage students to step out of their comfort zone and to enhance their public speaking skills.
The team created a captivating two minutes video that was screened during assembly to promote the event. They also, hung an envelope on the door to the common room where teams could submit their applications. The first few days after the announcement were disappointing – though many students had expressed their interest, far fewer had had the courage to submit their applications.
Given the small size of SUIS PD, we weren’t expecting applications to come flooding in, yet we had been hopeful of attracting as many teams as possible. Thus, we doubled our efforts, aiming to convince middle school students of the benefits of debating, and to encourage prospective first-time debaters to come out of their shells and try something new. We were delighted when by the end of the second week about a dozen teams had registered for the competition.
The debate, which took place over a period of two weeks, attracted 30 eager competitors from grades 6 to 8, who debated fiercely on topics such as the humanity of genetic engineering, the fairness of adversity scores, and the controversy of euthanasia. According to Tom from A level, an organizer and judge, “Every participant seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Each of them was engaged and tried their best to show their debating skills.The chosen topics were really obscure, which made students think hard and do research beforehand. The last debate that I adjudicated was a close one – each side laid out very valid points and phrased them in the correct format. All the teams worked hard and when we announced the winners, they were happy and loved the unique prizes.
The competitors, many of whom were competing for the first time, had come well-prepared with solid facts backing their arguments and excellent rebuttals. For some, this had been an opportunity to demonstrate their skills, for others, this was a debating breakthrough: “I entered the competition to give my family a break and use my argumentative energy for good. I didn’t expect to get into the final round, I just thought I would give it a try and see where it went. When I first entered the debating room I was quite nervous, but seeing my friends speak confidently despite being just as nervous as I was, I decided to transform my anxiety into competitiveness. Overall, the debate helped me become a more confident speaker,” says Yasya from Grade 8, who was awarded the Best Debater prize.
Following the success of the Grand Debate, SUIS PD is looking forward to launching a whole-school Model UN competition this coming winter.