Last week, Intelligence Squared was proud to support a four-day debating workshop in Hong Kong for a group of disadvantaged students. The workshop was run by Debate Mate, the UK’s largest debating organisation, in collaboration with The Women’s Foundation.
Intelligence Squared, Asia’s premier forum for political, economic and cultural debate, is generously sponsored by Deutsche Bank. As part of its education remit, the Hong Kong-based charity is committed to promoting creative thought and challenging dialogue for local children in the community. All profits from Intelligence Squared’s Hong Kong events over the past year were dedicated to bringing six of Britain’s leading, world-class coaches from the UK to Kwai Chung Methodist College to run the Debate Mate programme for 54 students aged between 14-16. The course consisted of three days of workshops and debate training, culminating in a full-day competition to put the skills attained in practice.
The first day got off to a somewhat slow start, with a show debate that attracted only one speech from the floor – it quickly became apparent that the language and cultural barriers were challenges to be overcome. Following the combined efforts of motivational talks and inspirational learning methods however, students began to open up and participate with increasing enthusiasm.
Over the course, interactive workshops highlighting the working format of a good debate as well as practice exercises saw even the most reticent of students take part in public speaking. The evident increase in the students’ self-confidence was matched by a dramatic improvement in communication skills.
The programme reached its crescendo in a full-day competition that featured topical motions on gambling, war games, immigration and a final deciding debate on Chinese national education. When opened up to the floor, the well-prepared debaters responded fluently on five critical questions to thunderous applause.
Eager to continue learning, the students have expressed interest in starting up their own English debating club at the school. Even though the Debate Mate and Intelligence Squared Summer Programme may be over, the real impact has just begun.
“Thank you for bringing in the Debate Mate programme to our students. The kids did experience a lot of breakthroughs throughout the four days and these were made possible with the kind assistance of Intelligence Squared and The Women’s Foundation. Hope the kids can sustain the positive momentum and keep the ‘debate fire’ burning!”
Ms. Alice Lau, English teacher
“The Debate Mate programme is a rare opportunity, we need and we must try our best. It is our responsibility as students.”
Student from the programme
“Although we were initially surprised by how quiet the students were, the change they made over just three days was amazing. The tailored lessons encouraged them to voice their opinions, and by the final competition day, the number of students volunteering to speak in front of their peers was astounding. In the process, the students’ English improved and the mentors even managed to learn some Cantonese!”
Matt Lever, Debate Mate mentor