Debating is a team activity where students are challenged to put together and engage with logical arguments. It is a great way to improve general knowledge, public speaking skills and the ability to be persuasive. It complements many of the skills learned in school. For example, learning about argumentation helps with students’ writing and impromptu speaking builds confidence.
Students can take part in Debating from Years 5 to 12, in both social and competitive settings. The Junior and Senior social Debating classes are where students learn the basics of debating and develop crucial speaking skills.
Kambala enters a number of competitive debating competitions. These include Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA) Junior Debating for Years 5 and 6 and Independent Schools Debating Association (ISDA) for Years 6 to 12, a prestigious debating competition that allows students to debate against other independent schools in Sydney. The final competition Kambala students compete in is Association of Heads of Independent Girls’ Schools (AHIGS) Archdale Debating for Years 7 to 12. This competition allows for Kambala students to debate against other independent girls’ schools in the wider Sydney region. Being selected to represent Kambala in these competitions involves competitive coaching with highly qualified debating coaches as well as attending weekly debates against other schools.
When teaching Debating, it is important that students have fun and feel empowered to take on challenging topics. Students learn to think critically about both sides of big issues and are encouraged to keep up to date with current affairs.
Debating also helps students make connections with each other and form close working relationships, not only within their year group but across the School. At Kambala we have a number of upper Senior girls that volunteer to assist younger students learn about the world of debating and it is often these connections that are so special. I enjoy watching our very talented Senior debaters give back to the younger Kambala generation as they take their first steps in the debating world.
As well as making friends at Kambala, debaters get to know students at other schools. In addition, there are opportunities in Senior School to take part in representative debating, for example by trialing for the NSW State team or Archdale representative team. These additional opportunities can expand horizons; Year 11 student Alexandra Bako was selected for the NSW Debating team this year and has really enjoyed having the opportunity to debate in teams alongside other students in NSW.
Debating is a very useful skill to take through to university – from making friends to competing at international tournaments. Debating will significantly enrich a student’s education and the skills learned can help in group discussions, job interviews and writing papers.
Debaters often find that it enhances their careers. Many employers are impressed when students have excelled at debating, especially in professions that require critical thinking and argumentation skills, like law and politics.
To improve at debating, here are my three top tips:
- Stay up to date with current affairs. Read news from a variety of different sources and think critically about the big issues in the world at that moment.
- Always listen deeply to an opponent’s argument. You are most persuasive when you fully understand and engage with the other side.
- Push yourself to question and explain all of your arguments. Don’t assume that your ideas are true – actually justify why others should agree with you. The best debaters back up all their arguments with reasons and avoid making assertions.
Debating is such an important skill, both in school and beyond. Whenever I am giving advice to students or friends with young children, I encourage them to do debating! Being confident, persuasive and knowledgeable can boost studies and careers and it is an amazing way to meet new friends while having fun.
About the Author
Leigh is a History teacher and the Debating and Public Speaking Coordinator at Kambala. She is responsible coaching and curating the School’s Public Speaking and Debating programs.