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How to conduct a debate

A fine art every child must learn

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  • EDU_121231 LAURS_RITULaura Everest (left) and Ritu Bhargave, columnists for education.Photo Pankaj Sharma/GuImage Credit:
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Topic: Swimming in the sea is better than in a swimming pool.

For the motion: Laura

The preparation: Laura walks to the podium and takes a firm stance, planting her feet firmly on the ground and holding her head high and looking straight at the audience. Her outward confidence is neccesary to mask her inner nervousness. She places her notes on the podium and rests each hand firmly on either side of the podium. This is so that she can give an impression of confidence and prevent her hands from shaking.

The launch: She takes a deep breath and smiles nervously. “Good morning, ladies, gentlemen and members of the audience,” she says, making sure she is looking at the judges and the audience.

“How many people here enjoy being at the beach and swimming in the sea?” At this stage she almost forgets to pause and check with the audience but her notes remind her to do so).

She continues: “I strongly believe in the benefits of swimming in the sea. The therapeutic benefits of sea salt have been promoted since the time of Hippocrates and recent studies have shown that ocean water contains many minerals needed by your body to help heal and detoxify; conditions such as arthritis and skin disorders such as psoriasis and even depression are improved.” (Looks down at her notes for her evidence but can’t see it, so she panics but then remembers to not hesitate and moves on to her next point).

She dwells on the other health benefits of swimming in the sea, mentions the disadvantages of swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool, before moving on, as her notes remind her, to the benefits of learning to swim, train in the sea….

By now she is well into her defense and using her notes as guidlines, she feels more confident and is able express herself by strongly emphasising certain facts, changing the volume of her voice and remembering to use positive hand gestures.

Now almost at the end of her speech, she starts to worry that she may run out of time and without realising, starts to speak faster to ensure she gets all her information across. “And this is why I strongly believe that….” Laura finishes with gusto, 20 seconds early but redeems herself by smiling and making eye contact with the judges and the audience. She picks up her notes and walks back to her seat, not too fast, not too slow, just keeping her body language in balance.

Against the motion: Ritu

The preparation: Walks across the podium and stands straight. She places her notes on the podium and rests her hands on either side of it.

The launch: She takes a deep breath and smiles confidently. “Good morning, friends, teaches and esteemed judges” (making sure she looks at the audience and judges). “I would like to oppose my esteemed friend’s opinion and convince the judges and the audience about the strong disadvantages about swimming in the sea.In my humble opinion, polluted sea water can be dangerous for swimming. Certain skin infections may be caused by exposure to salt water it has been proved that the bacteria, Mycobacterium Marinum, can cause a chronic infection known as swimming pool granuloma. (Key tip for debaters: The point here is substantiated by facts)

She continues: “What’s more, “Salt water” can irritate skin and eyes. Did you know that in many areas of the world, ocean water is significantly colder than available pool water? The colder temperatures make it harder for your muscles to stay warm and increase the chance of cramping.

Swimming in the sea or the ocean can be dangerous due to tides, deep water, sharp rocks and submerged objects. Unexpected storms can bring rain, hail or even lightning, making your swim in an ocean more dangerous. While in indoor pools, weather is not a factor and plays a very limited role in outdoor pools. If weather changes for the worse in an outdoor pool, you can simply get out and seek shelter.

“Swimming in the sea includes rip tides and strong currents can prevent you from reaching your destination or cause you to become extremely fatigued. What’s more, there is a hazard to life because of natural predators including jellyfish and sharks which exist in some waters and present real dangers to ocean swimmers.

“Last, but not the least, oceans are also far deeper, preventing you from stopping and resting if you become fatigued. LASTLY, friends and esteemed panel of judges, unlike most pools, not all ocean space is monitored by lifeguards or trained rescue personnel.

“With this, respected judges and members of the audience, I rest my case (said in a strong voice.)

Ritu finishes with confidence and conviction, 30 seconds late, but redeems herself by apologising for time overrun by smiling and softening the fact. While doing this she is making firm eye contact with the judges and the audience. She picks up her notes and walks conidently back to her seat.


Fact Box

Dubai: The Inter-School Debating competition has been designed specifically for primary age children. Based on a simple and friendly format, the main objective is to inculcate and encourage demonstration of presentation skills, while ensuring that the students feel confident and keep the “fear” factor to a minimum.

This year’s opening debate is in Safa School, Dubai.

•Debating Format

The debate is being held over 2 days, with a total of 12 participating teams. Each day will witness 6 teams debating against each other, with the top team winning the inaugural WOW trophy. The topic for debate will be separate for each day.


Each speaker will be allocated 2 minutes. One minute will be allowed between speeches for the team to prepare a rebuttal. This will be monitored by the time keeper.

In addition, an extra 2 minutes will be provided at the end of the speech to sum up the main points raised by each team.

•Speaker roles

Each speaker has a specified role that they must fulfill to play their part in the team.

•Judges and Marking

The debate will be evaluated on Matter (content), Manner (presentation style, delivery and audience engagement) and Method (structure and form of argument especially coherence & consistency).