The first round of the second annual Vanuatu School Debate Competition was held today at Wan Smolbag Theatre.
Four teams from Efate battled it out on stage with compelling arguments for and against the set topic. The schools participating included Vila North, Ecole Francaise, Centreville, NTM and Central School. The first motion debated was “That kava bars should be banned from urban residential areas”, while the second debate topic was “That government has a responsibility to create jobs for unemployed youth in Vanuatu.”
Ecole Francaise won its round on the first topic while Vila North won the second and NTM won its place in the next round due to forfeiture since its opposing team couldn’t show up.
This is the second year of the national debating competition, whose ultimate winners will then go on to represent Vanuatu in the Melanesian Cup. Last year a mixture of outstanding speakers from various schools represented Vanuatu at the regional competition held in PNG, where the PNG team ended up winning the Melanesian Cup for 2014.
The debate competition is an initiative by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Training.
PiPP’s Communications Director Ben Bohane, who chaired the first debates, said:
“PiPP is proud to support this important initiative which encourages our school students to develop critical thinking, public speaking and research skills, plus build the confidence of students to creatively structure persuasive arguments on any topic. These are really important skills for life and help us to create an atmosphere of tolerance for other people’s views and opinions in society.”
He thanked Mr John Niroa, representing the Director of Education services for their partnership, Wan Smol Bag and all the teachers and students who worked hard to make the debates exciting and informative.
Mr Niroa said “On behalf of the Ministry of Education I want to thank PiPP and the schools involved for creating this great competition which will give our students so many skills. I was very impressed with the students performances today and our Ministry will continue to support this program into the future”.
The next round for Efate schools happens next Thursday, 23 July, from 9am – 12am at the Wan Smol Bag theatre. The debates are open to the public and the finals and semi-finals will be aired live on radio.
Next week schools on Santo will also begin their first rounds. The final winners of the Santo and Efate competitions will face each other in the grand final. Unfortunately, schools on Tanna which were going to be part of the competition this year have had to withdraw due to cyclone Pam damage and disruption.
To prepare teachers new to the activity, PiPP hosted workshops in Luganville and Port Vila in late May. The workshops aimed to provide teachers with the skills to develop an ongoing internal debate competition within their schools. Teachers came together to learn the basics of debating, understanding the individual roles, debate rules, structure and importantly the dissection of the judging criteria.
The workshops came together with a final mock debate between teachers, who scrutinized the 2014 Semi Final motion that “Tertiary Scholarships are the best way to provide employment opportunities for youth in Vanuatu.” The process was a success one, allowing teachers to put into practice the theories and rules that had been discussed the previous day, and provide insight into the challenges but also great rewards of debating.
Now equipped with sound understanding of debate process, teachers have the foundations to initiate debate competitions within their school, providing increased opportunity for student engagement. It will allow teachers to design their own motions for a debate, which could be based on themes they are studying already, or current issues that arise in the community or national news.
Through the debating process, students will be pushed to think critically about issues presented to them, using research and evidence to support their arguments. The skills learned can assist them in many future situations, including simple conflict resolution in the home, through to analysis and understanding of problems at a community or even national level.
Schools will select their best and brightest to compete against other school teams, to debate topics around education, employment, the environment and natural disasters as well as independence.
Caption: Gavika Viduka from Ecole Centreville arguing his case in support of the motion: ‘The government has a responsibility to create jobs for unemployed youth in Vanuatu’