Luis Corvini reports
When you think what a teenager could be doing in a common Monday evening, you may cogitate anything but talking politics. Wrong. That was what four students were doing last Monday in a high-level debate at the Schools National Debating Championship final.
The challenge, which happened at the Temple of Peace, in Cardiff, was established over one topic - coalition politics and if they were good or bad for Britain. For 45 minutes, the students expressed their reasons from being favourable or opposed to the idea of the cooperation process between different political parties.
At the face-off, the proposition team said the formation of a coalition government could make the country less democratic. The opposition declared that the organisation of a coalition-alliance helped Britain over difficult times, such as during World War II.
A board of five experienced adjudicators, including Wales Assembly Member Julie Morgan, analysed their performances. They were impressed by the high-standard discussion and the way the teenagers presented their arguments.
At the end, Cardiff’s Bishop of Llandaff High School students won the competition. Being part of the victorious team for the second time in a row, 16-year old Rhys Steele revealed his tactic: “Confidence is the main tip. You don’t have to know everything 100 percent, as long that you stay confident, a lot of people will believe it”, he says.
14-year old Ed Philips, Mr. Steele’s colleague in the competition, played a little joke about his debating experience: “I am one of four brothers, so in the house I have always to get your case”. He then said that he was very happy to have joined the debate group at his school.
The runners up Sam Costa, 15, and Amy Jones, 16, both students from Ysgol Ardudwy, from Harlech, North Wales, debated superbly and can proudly say that they reached the Grand Final having surpassed 53 other schools from around Wales.
For Martin Polland, chief executive of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), which organised the event, debates like these help teenagers to learn important skills for their future: “They are developing not only the ability to speak, but also to listen actively, understanding and engaging with somebody else with a different opinion. They also develop knowledge about important political and social issues”, says Mr Polland.
Bill Burson, representing the British Council Wales, says that discussions like these promote ideals and make young people understand that there is always two sides of opinions in democratic processes and arguments.
The Wales Schools Debating Championships has existed since 1990. Earlier this year, Wales finished second in the World Schools Debating Championship in Cape Town, South Africa after beating England in the semi finals.
The 2013 World Championship is scheduled to happen in January and February, in Turkey and four young debaters have been selected to represent Wales.