Why do we learn to debate?

This year Cherwellians traditionally take part in the Debating Competition organised by the Oxford Union.

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Katya Kryvonos, representative from Cherwell College Oxford: “We are very fortunate at Cherwell College Oxford to be able to partner with the Oxford Union and be able to host some of the national debating competitions which run annually in November and March every year. As a reciprocal gesture, the Oxford University undergraduates, who are also the committee members at the Oxford Union, run weekly workshops for our students during the Michaelmas Term, which is the autumn term here, in Oxford. Extra-curricular and enrichment activities are considered as a very important part of the College life at Cherwell. And this forms part of that curriculum where students attend weekly debate workshops, which are not just mere discussions of topical issues…”

Watch a video of Katya reporting on this topic:


Max, A-Level student at Cherwell College Oxford: “It was refreshing and unique experience. I’ve never done public speaking before. The most difficult was the time. We were given very little time to prepare a speech and very little time to, actually, deliver the speech. The overall consensus I feel was that it’s a good thing to try make yourself more concise. I think public speaking is very important through all areas of society – business, politics. It’s very important to be able to articulate yourself. I feel that public speaking helps people in our society learning to communicate. It’s incredibly important for learning about other people and getting one’s point across in a clear and concise manner, avoiding misunderstandings. I’d like to study linguistics at a university and it’s the very key part of the course, understanding different people through learning their language.”

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Watch a video of Max talking about his experience:

Lydia, A-Level student at Cherwell College Oxford: “I think debates are very useful because when you take part in debating, you are really developing your team skills, your ability to be confident in a social context and express different views with clarity and persuasion. Even things you might not agree with or things you disagree with. You learn to express yourself in a way that you haven’t before. It’s very beneficial I think for people who want to work in Government or any public office.”

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Patrick Rees, second year student at the University of Oxford, Oxford Union Debating Coach: “I find public speaking is quite important for two reasons. The first is the more obvious answer in that it has helped me articulate may thoughts and opinions. This has been through presentations but also discussions with my peers and professors. Things such as finding the right words or explaining concepts in ways that are succinct and intuitive make communication easier. Particularly when I have been struggling to understand difficult content, being able to efficiently get across what is confusing has better enabled me to progress. The second reason is about confidence and assertiveness in the presence of imperfection. My speeches, especially an impromptu debating, are never perfect due to a host of reasons, but that is fine as long as the important information has been communicated. Public speaking has taught me to just “go with it” and not dwell on making everything perfect. This has allowed better prioritization for the things that really matter. In my academics, this has been an important skill as I’ve never had time to do everything that I want to do, but as long as I remain focused on the parts that do matter, I have been able to succeed.
I think there are lots of good reasons why it’s important to teach public speaking to students: improves communication skills, encourages one to be more involved in global affairs, teaches critical thinking on many different issues, etc. For me personally, I always love teaching students as it gives me an opportunity to do the same as what many of my teachers have done for me. I like to give back and help others develop and grow. Debating and public speaking is a huge part of my life and has given me new and insightful ways at looking at the world and I always am willing to share it with others.”

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Oxford Schools’ debates, run by the Oxford Union, is the largest British Parliamentary school-level debate competition in the world, and the largest debating competition in the UK, aimed at students aged 14-18.

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