Monday, September 30, 2013

NYP Inter School Debates 2013: SBM and SEG to Talk it Out

It is that time of the year again where we will get an opportunity to witness the best speakers in NYP debating controversial issues in politics, religion and the environment.

The NYP Inter-School Debates Championship 2013 opening rounds were held on 27 July. Here an interview with the Vice-President of the Current Affairs and Debate Club (CADC), Terrence Teh, from the Diploma in Molecular Biotechnology, followed by my experience at the exciting Inter School Debates.

An Interview with the Vice-President of the Current Affairs and Debating Club
Terrence on the extreme left
Q: Tell me more about yourself
A: I am a person with many interests and debating is one of them. I like sports but debating is also a team sport in itself. I like to find like-minded friends so we can debate together.

Q: What is the NYP Inter School Debates about?
A: The NYP Inter School Debates is an annual debate competition organised by the Current Affairs and Debate Club. We just took charge of organising this event ourselves so we are quite happy that the event was quite a success.

Q: What is the purpose of getting students to participate in the Inter School Debates?
A: We think that students will enhance their oratorical skills. Besides presentations and classes, debating teaches them how to think, how to argue and how to convince people in front of an audience. We think that these are very important skills.

Q: What kind of qualities should a debater have when debating?
A: A lot of people think that it is just about speaking. But listening to your opponent is very important as well because you need to pick up what they say, especially the critical points, so that you can rebut or refute their arguments.

Besides speaking, we will say listening and having good analytical skills are also very important because you need be very logical. Good reading habits will also help greatly because you need to be updated on current affairs.

Q: How can debating help students with their careers and future?
A: It helps with your personal presentation so it grooms you to become a person who can talk well. In the future, you would be someone who can speak well and convince your colleagues and boss to understand your views. That is just as important as possessing knowledge and expertise. When it comes to project proposals, ultimately having good oratorical skills will give you an advantage.

Q: What are your roles and responsibilities as a VP?
A: My roles and responsibilities as vice president is mainly the day to day running of the club. We also coordinate trainings and competitions. For example, we just came back from an overseas competition, the Malaysian Debates Open. The executive committee will actually coordinate and organise these external competitions.

Not only that, we also organise internal events such as this one. Leading up to this Inter-school Debating Championships, we had a series of training sessions and workshops for all the participants.

Q: Have you done debating before?
A: In secondary school, I did it for couple of months but I didn't really pursue it. I did not realise the techniques and strategies of being a good debater because it was taught to me in a different way. I also didn't realise the fun of debating until I entered poly. The poly experience really enhanced my interest in debating.

Q: Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in becoming a debater?
A: Read widely because when you do that, you are more informed. For example, the debate on Iran was about what was happening to the current leader of Iran. So, you need to know your subject matter in order to debate well. I would also say that you need to be confident and present what you have to the judges, and of course have good logic, argumentation and thinking skills.

If you are interested in becoming a debater, just come for our training sessions even if you are not that confident in your skills. We are a friendly bunch of people and our coaches are all very qualified.

Release of Motions (first round)

The event started early in the morning at 9.30am. The participants were all neatly dressed and anxiously awaiting the start of the debates.   The debate format is in the Asian Parliamentary Style, which means that there will be three speakers on each side delivering speeches of seven-minutes each. Participants will be given only 30 minutes to prepare from the time the debate topic is released. The use of any mobile devices or internet devices is strictly prohibited which means that the participants need to have a broad knowledge of issues in many topics before going in to the tournament.

The topic for the first round of the tournament was politics. Listed below are the three motions debaters had to choose from:
1) Whether the death penalty for drug traffickers should be abolished.
2) Whether meritocracy has done more harm than good.
3) Whether the restrictions imposed by the Media Development Authority (MDA) may reduce free expression.

The two opposing teams were given two minutes to rank their motion of choice according to their order of preference and submit their rankings to one of the adjudicators (judges). The motion to be debated was then decided by the adjudicator. The adjudicator will decide on which motion is the most controversial and which motion is the most appropriate so that the debaters can come up with interesting arguments.

After a further 30 minutes of discussion on the motion to be debated, it was time for the teams to report to their respective rooms for the debates. The eight teams were split into four rooms. Since it was physically impossible for me to visit all the rooms at the same time, I decided to witness the battle between the School of Business Management (SBM) and the School of Information Technology (SIT). The team from SBM was known as SBM-A (government team) while the team from SIT was known as SIT-A (opposition team).

The two sides to the motion are called the government (for) and the opposition (against). The motion for this debate was: that the death penalty for drug traffickers should be abolished). SBM agreed with this while SIT-A was opposing the motion (basically they want to keep the death penalty for drug traffickers).
As you can see, the setting was a serious one and there was intense pressure on the Speakers in the tense atmosphere throughout the session.

The first speaker for team SBM-A was Tan Yao Kun while the first speaker for the opposing team was Wesley Koh. As the debate progressed, team members of both sides were furiously writing and thinking of ways to rebut their opponents’ arguments and better argue their own case. It was very interesting to hear the various kinds of arguments put forward by both teams when discussing the death penalty system for drug traffickers.

Some examples provided by the ‘government’ team included the fact that drug traffickers should be given a second chance in life to reflect on what they have done and make themselves useful to the society. On the other hand, the ‘opposition’ team felt that drug traffickers should be sentenced to death as they can pose a  danger to the public and that they can also influence innocent people to help them traffic drugs. Pretty interesting responses from both teams.

After a series of arguments, the debate was over and the judges were left to decide which team would  win. Later on, I found out SBM-A won the first round of debates.

Match Ups and Release of Motions (second round)

The picture above shows the match-ups after the end of round 1. Debate tournaments normally have a “power-matching” rule and it is no different for this tournament. The rule works like this: the team that won its previous round will go on to face a team that also won its previous round while teams that lost their previous rounds will face each other. This ensures a more consistent and fair match up.

Here are the motions released for the second round of the debates. The theme was religion. All of them were pretty interesting motions and I couldn’t wait to see the teams’ arguments on the various topics.

The teams that were competing against each other for this round were SBM-A (government team) and SEG-A (opposing team). The first speaker for SBM-A, was again Tan Yao Kun while the speaker for SEG-A was Marcus Ng.

The motion for this round was about removing the French ban on conspicuous religious symbols in educational institutes and workplaces. Pretty big topic, isn’t it? Just like the first round of debates, both the arguments and rebuttals were pretty intense. After the second round of debates, it was time for the judges to decide who would  be the winner. Once again, SBM-A won this round of debates.

Release of Motions (Semi-Finals)

Only four teams were left at this point. It was time for the semi-finals; winning this round would allow the team to move on to the grand finals. This time, I decided to check out a different room, where SBM-B was debating with SCL-B (School of Chemical and Life Sciences).

Here are the motions released for the semi-finals. The theme for this round is ‘environment’ with a surprise motion on Iran and their nuclear programme.

The motion SBM-B and SCL-B debates was about ‘making developmental aid to third world nations conditional on environmental conservation measures adopted by them’. Try saying that five times in succession, fast.

For this room, the reply speaker for SBM-B was Daniel Tan while the reply speaker for SCL-B was Denise Ng. The reply speaker is the 4th speaker on each side of the team, and he gets to speak twice. The reply speech is only 4 minutes long and is used to summarize the debate for his side and show why his team should win. Like the previous rounds, it was pretty interesting to hear what they had to say about their chosen motion. I will not really go into the details of the arguments and rebuttals because it will make this article too long. If you really are interested you could always join the Current Affairs and Debating Club for one of their training session.

So who are the winners for Semi-Finals and who will move on to the Grand Finals? All will be revealed after this.

Winners: SBM-B and SEG-A
Prabhmeet Kaur (left), Daniel Tan (centre) and Megan Hon (right).
Eyrica Lee (left), Marcus Ng (centre) and Nathaniel Teo (right)
After three rounds of intense debating, the two teams that will go head to head during the Grand Finals of the Inter-schools Debating Championship are SBM-B (top picture) and SEG-A (bottom picture).


It’s not so easy to be a good debater. You have to read up on current news, watch other people debate, watch parliamentary sittings and so much more. Not only that, you also need to have good presentation skills and lots of knowledge so that you are able to present your point of view as well as counter-argue well. Of course, if you have the passion and the right mindset, nothing is impossible. I had a great time watching the various kinds of debates and their opinions and I certainly learned a lot. Watch out for my next article on the grand finals of the NYP Inter-Schools Debating Championships.

By Hanafi Bin Sedik, Year 1, Diploma in Engineering Informatics

I like to spend my free time and weekends exploring various places around Singapore, taking long walks at public parks and eating delicious food. Not only that, I also like to make videos, write on my personal blog and hang out with my awesome friends and family. I wish to work at a major software company and start my own production company in the future.


  1. I only knew about there is such a competition after the results were released! A pity I didn't get to join!