Matter of debate gets serious
The Nesta-SCMP Inter-school Debating Competition, which began in 2000, has become Hong Kong's largest debating competition.
The competition, jointly organised by the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association and the South China Morning Post, is sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The 2010 event has now reached the semi-finals The first semi-final will take place tomorrow between Pui Tak Canossian College and Ying Wa College at the Mariners' Club. They will debate the motion 'Hong Kong is taking care of animal rights'.
The other semi-final, between Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club College and TWGHs Kap Yan Directors' College will be held on February 16.
Tomorrow will also see the launch of this year's 12th annual competition, which will feature 128 teams. The competition builds up students' confidence and inspires them to conduct in-depth research on social and cultural issues.
Michelle Yam Suet-yi, a semi-finalist with the Pui Tak team, says debating significantly improves her language skills and expands her knowledge.
'I speak English better, and my listening skills have improved. I'm also more knowledgeable now.
'Debating has also developed my critical thinking skills as I have to anticipate the opponents' arguments, and prepare arguments and rebuttals.'
Pui Tak's debating is all about teamwork and it is important to learn how to work as a team under pressure, Michelle says.
'We need a thorough knowledge of our teammates' speeches and refer to them in our rebuttals and stick to the team line. When we have to come up with rebuttals within a short time, it's important to help each other stay calm.'
Peony So Sin-man, a Form Six debater for Kap Yan, thinks being well-prepared is the key to success in debating.
'Once the motion is announced, our team looks at the possible meaning of every single word to make sure we are not off-track. Then, we think of fundamental questions behind the topic. Next, we do research and select the strongest arguments among a wealth of information out there. After preparing the speech, we have to practise it to make it as good as we can. The golden rule is 'practice makes perfect'.'
Peony has learned how to deal with stress through debating. 'Debaters face tremendous stress. My coach taught me to focus on what I am doing and take deep breaths to calm down before giving my speech. I definitely have more control over my emotions now,' she says.
Bon Bong, a Form Three debater at Ying Wa, thinks a good debater should speak with confidence and style. 'Debate is included in many academic subjects, such as English, liberal studies, economics, mathematics, science and history. Debaters must be good at these subjects and be able to speak confidently and persuasively.'
Two years of debating has helped Bon improve his presentation skills. It has also helped him gain a better posture. 'While debating, I have to pay attention to how I walk, talk and stand,' he says.
The Grand Final will be held at the Academic Community Hall at Hong Kong Baptist University. If you would like to attend the semi-finals and grand final, e-mail co-ordinator Stan Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org