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Our debating competition began about 22 years ago when a small group of native English-speaking teachers (NETs) introduced competitive debating in secondary schools to develop local students’ English language skills. The Native English-Speaking Teachers’ Association (NESTA) organised the competition for many years, during which, numerous organisations contributed to its development through sponsorship. A Primary Competition was introduced in 2010 and in 2016, following a vote by the NESTA membership granting autonomy to the organising committee, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) agreed to take on the competition, preserving a legacy of teachers working together for the benefit of Hong Kong students.
Broad Range of Participating Schools
In the past, debating mostly catered for top schools and senior students. Our competition, however, has always given priority to making debating accessible to students from the broadest possible range of backgrounds and age groups. This currently includes students from local primary and secondary schools as well as some primary international schools. Separate divisions were created to cater to students from Chinese medium of instruction (CMI) and English medium of instruction (EMI) secondary schools and even students with special educational needs (SEN) are known to have excelled in our competition.
Competition debating is a popular and exciting learning activity in Hong Kong schools and combines a surprising number of skills. It involves research, brainstorming, logically organising ideas, and teamwork. The best teams integrate a broad range of rhetorical public speaking skills and build rapport with their audiences through passionate but humorous speeches.
We encourage coaches to nurture students with an appropriate level of support throughout the whole process of preparing for debates, and to provide constructive feedback after debates.
Debating and Language Learning
Debating provides a purposeful context in which language and higher order cognitive skills can be nurtured and extended. Indeed, this intellectual “sport” has become increasingly popular in Hong Kong schools in the last two decades and is taught both as part of the mainstream English curriculum and as a popular extra-curricular activity.
An Enjoyable Social Experience
While debating is an adversarial encounter, it is also a rule-based and friendly team activity as well as a great opportunity to meet and learn together with students from other schools.
Safely Maintaining Inter-School Debates During Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic made holding face-to-face inter-school debates problematic mid-way through our 21st HKPTU Debating Competition we introduced a pre-recorded video mode of debating quotes provided in a table of points to rebut. This format was used for the entirety of the 22nd HKPTU Debating Competition and proved almost as popular as the original face-to-face format. It is envisaged that the 23rd HKPTU Debating Competition will commence with a pre-recorded video format rebutting quotes provided in a table and that the best four teams in each division will progress to live semi and grand final debates face-to-face or if that is not possible using Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
The HKPTU Debating Competition is run by a committee of volunteers which includes native-speaking English teachers (NETs), local English teachers (LETs), and representatives from the HKPTU Executive Committee and staff. It holds regular meetings for which agendas are prepared and minutes kept.