Making the case for a UNIS debate team

“I think having a debate club or a debate team here at UNIS would be a spectacular thing to have.” – Ms Frose, DP History, DP Theory of Knowledge, MUN Coordinator

Think about it. UNIS has a large variety of sporting activities, ranging from swimming to basketball, each with multiple levels of competitiveness. For each competition, the UNIS teams get to travel to different countries around Southeast Asia like Korea, China, Cambodia, etc., every victory leading to titles, recognition, and a plaque.

But for students who don’t have an aptitude for sports, we miss out on creating memories, the learning opportunities, the friends and experiences from such competitions. Only one major public speaking competition is widely known and participated in at UNIS: MUN, available to 9-12 graders, with one official and one unofficial assembly a year. There are also niche opportunities for debate, such as the science debate that occurred last October. However, one cannot possibly expect this alone to expose students to the life-changing skills that speeches and debates offer.

A school’s extracurricular activities should be balanced between sports, academics, and cultural activities. Currently, at UNIS, there is a preponderance of sports activities with a wide variety available in a competitive format. These sports activities provide the opportunity to a UNIS student to hone their skills in their chosen sport and take part in competitive sports at the regional level. If such an opportunity is available for athletes, we should make sure that students are also exposed to other academic competitions. Adding debate to the list of activities would allow students to improve their critical thinking and speaking skills in diverse ways.

Many would think that MUN and debates are similar activities. Ms Frose, our MUN Director is in agreement that despite exercising similar skills, both activities are different:

“No, I don’t think it would be the same because the debate has an entirely different format, which is very formal. The more practice our students get from this, the better it would be. You learn the same thing in terms of physical fitness and skills when you play volleyball as when you play basketball as when you swim. So why does UNIS have all of those sports? Why don’t we just have one? We need variety.”


Personally, I can say from my 4 years on a competitive debate team, it is an academic asset to any school and student. Every competition exposed me to new ways to look at an issue. I was always forced to keep up with the news to improve my arguments in debate rounds and to organise myself to find my evidence whilst speaking. MUN, while valuable to understand the international policy, isn’t as effective when it comes to knowing the pros and cons of an issue. There is also a need to be as politically correct as one can be. The MUN format is critical to engaging students and raising awareness about the past and current trends in international politics. Yet, it cannot cover all topics that can be debated upon in depth.

Within the speech and debate format there are 4 choices students have:

1. Public Forum – Where a team of two (total of 4) debate upon one international topic.

2. Lincoln-Douglas – Single debate where the debate leans more towards philosophy, and morality.

3. Congressional Debate – Similar to the MUN where local politics and new policies are debated by ‘Congressmen’

4. Extemp – Impromptu debate where one is given a topic at random at the day of the debate

It would be very appropriate if there is an initiative to start a debate team so that UNIS students can overcome their fears of public speaking, learn how to think on their feet, be exposed to international, national, and local politics, and instil confidence to raise self-esteem.

Speech and debates are essential life skills in today’s world whose practical applications extend to every possible career, and every student, regardless of background (in speaking), should have an opportunity to develop this skill to the very best of their ability. The truth is debating teams of schools all over the world have emerged as the strongest brand ambassadors for their schools at the international levels winning laurels and contributing to the rich intellectual ferment that shapes the citizens of tomorrow. UNIS students are missing out on an opportunity that could truly shape their lives for the better.

Even if a professional speech and coach are not immediately available, there is an immense merit in starting a debate team because I believe that immense enthusiasm and dynamism exists, and the discipline and passion of the students can kick off this debating team initially.

Similarly to how we have variety of sports, it’s about time that we have change for speech and debate.


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