The world of English-speaking debate within Taipei is quite a small one. Over time and competitions, debaters get to know one another, and get to know the teams that they want to avoid. Last week at Chingshin Academy’s debate competition, three teams of TES students were those teams that everyone wanted to avoid.

It has been quite a journey to get to this point. Debate was not something we have always done too much of as a High School, but over the last few years there has been an increased focus on oracy within the classroom, a dedicated CCA with an external coach, and talented students who enjoy the cut and thrust of intelligent argument. This combination has led to a healthy sense of supportive competition, in which teams are able to work independently and collaboratively, to great effect. (None of the three teams that entered last weekend’s debate had much help from a teacher, as none of them needed that help.)

What became crystal clear at Chingshin Academy last weekend was the progress that our debaters have made in confidence and competence over this last year. Of the three TES teams that entered, all were in the junior section (Grade 9 and below). There were 21 other teams - juniors and seniors - that they were up against. Every team had four debates, before seeing who would make the semi-finals in both the junior and senior competitions. After those four rounds, each TES team had beaten every non-TES team that they faced. The only loss incurred by one of the TES teams was to another TES team. The rankings at the end of those four rounds saw the three TES teams in first, second and fourth place, out of all 24 teams.

In the event, it was the youngest of the three teams - with a year 7 (Henry) and two year 8s (Emily and Jude) - who were crowned champions, having won all six of their debates. In both impromptu and prepared debates, no other team could hold a candle to them. The other six TES debaters involved - Bella, Duncan, Enzo, Mason, Mathew and Tristan - were also brilliant, but (all having H1 exams in the following week) possibly less prepared than their younger school colleagues.

These are certainly exciting times for debate at TES. We will continue to be feared by other teams in all debate competitions that we enter from now, which is a reputation that our debaters will have to live up to. Where do we go from here? In the next few years, we should be at the heart of English parliamentary debating as it continues to grow in Taiwan. When current restrictions are lifted, we will be able to host our own debate competitions, inviting other schools with a tradition of debate, ensuring that our students can continue to test their skills.

As pleasing as the weekend’s results were, validating much of the work of the last two years, the fact remains that winning debates does not matter in itself; what matters is that all of our students should become better at speaking, helping us in our learning and as people. Debate at TES will continue to flourish over the next couple of years, but its primary purpose is to make our learning experiences even better than they currently are.