A bit more time for an argument could make a world of difference, said the adjudicator of an inter-school debating contest.
Dr Chan Wing-ming, head of the Department of Chinese at Baptist University, was speaking after the final round of the 12th New Territories Joint School Debate Competition, held recently.
'Three minutes is far from adequate,' Dr Chan said. 'A debater needs more time to state his points and develop them. If the time limit is too short, he will confine himself mostly to attack, and the whole debate will end up sounding like a bickering match, not an exchange of ideas.
'Of course, a bit of verbal sparring is part of the fun of a debate. But the art of debate is more than just hitting out at your opponent. It should be a civilised exchange of thoughts, a learning experience for both debaters and audience.' With a little more time the speakers can rise above the battle of words to reach a more inspiring plane of intellectual exchange, Dr Chan said.
The winning team, Immaculate Heart of Mary College, agreed with Dr Chan.
'A debate is not a game that you win with loud voices and aggressive faces,' said team captain Vivian Cheuk.
'There was a lot we could have had a hot argument about, but we didn't squabble. We listened closely to the other side's points and gave the appropriate answers.
'To perform well at a debate you must be organised in your material, do research, and make sure you give a good presentation,' said Vivian, who was named the best speaker. It was the ninth best speaker trophy she has won since September last year.
The all-girl team beat St Francis Xavier's School of Tsuen Wan in an argument about whether the fixed charge system for residential telephones should be continued or not.
'We see no problem with the existing system, and therefore there's no good reason to replace it with any other kind of charging system,' Vivian said.
Her teammates, Angela Wai Pui-yee and Annie Lung Wai-sum, backed Vivian with a long list of drawbacks to replacing the current system.
At the semi-final, Po Leung Kuk Centenary Li Shiu Chung Memorial College beat Buddhist Sin Tak College. Po Leung Kuk's Wong Kit-wai won the best speaker title in this round.
'A good debater should be natural and confident. She should be convinced of her arguments before she goes on stage, regardless of what her own personal views are on the matter,' Kit-wai said. 'You have to be ready to put in a lot of time and, of course, hard thinking if you wish to take up debating seriously.'