Scottish pupils vie for world debating title

19th August 2011 at 01:00
Participants from 48 nations come to Dundee for schools championships

Five young Scottish debaters are putting their best arguments forward in a bid to win the World Schools Debating Championships, which started in Dundee this week.

Over 420 participants from 48 nations are competing over 10 days at school and university venues across the city. It is the first time Scotland has hosted the competition since 1991, and pupils Ruth Cameron and Calum Worsley (Dollar Academy), Alfie Hinchliffe and Charlie Holmes (George Heriot's), and David McCreath (Aberdeen Grammar) hope to come as close to repeating Scotland's 2007 win in South Korea as possible.

The five youngsters were chosen by their two coaches from over 40 pupils who came forward after an invitation was sent to all Scottish schools with a history of taking part in debating competitions. During the preliminary rounds which lead up to Thursday's final, their competitors could come from as far afield as Israel, Peru, Thailand, America, Bangladesh and Namibia.

The idea to host the event in Scotland emerged after the world championship winning team, with two participants from Dundee, returned home four years ago. City council representatives approached Irene McGrath at the High School of Dundee, chair of the Scottish Schools International Debating Council (SSIC), who has spent the past four years organising the competition with tournament co-convener Malcolm Smart, the local council's Gaynor Sullivan and teams at the High School of Dundee and Dundee City Council.

Debating in Scotland is "healthy", said Mrs McGrath, with national competitions held annually by organisations like the Law Society of Scotland and the English Speaking Union, as well as all-day competitions at a number of Scottish universities.

However, she would like to encourage schools across the country to become involved and develop debating teams.

"Schools are most welcome to come along, find out what is going on, and there are lots of ways to get involved," she said.

Pupils' ability to talk and debate was increasingly important, she added, with students required to hold presentations in subjects they chose to study at university. With demands on teachers increasing and little room in the curriculum for additional activity, what was needed was a national outreach programme rolled out in Scotland, similar to the one in England.

HISTORY OF THE CHAMPIONSHIPS

The World Schools Debating Championships have been held annually since 1998, when the first competition took place in Australia. Each year, it takes place in a different country and is usually organised by its national debating body. Over the years, it has been in Calgary, Seoul, Washington, Athens and Qatar.

Teams are made up of each country's top five debaters, who have to be aged 14 to 19. Scotland has won three times, most recently in Seoul in 2007. Throughout the history of the competition, it has never failed to make it beyond the preliminary rounds. Last year in Doha, the Scottish team came 14th.

julia.belgutay@tes.co.uk.

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