Finnish National Schools Debating Competition 2015
24th – 25th January
I have just spent an outstanding weekend in Kouvola at the annual Competition. There
were 14 teams attending this year's competition at Kouvolan Lyseon Lukio and there was
a buzz of expectation when registration started on Saturday. The students were already
starting to meet and make friends with other debaters as they awaited the start of the
We settled ourselves into the auditorium where we were welcomed by Aira Ranta, the
Convenor of the competition. She introduced Steven Rajavinothan, the Chief Adjudicator,
who had joined us from London. The other judges were all members of various university
Debating Clubs from around Finland.
The organisation of the competition was explained to us. It was arranged so that all the 14
teams would have four debates, three on Saturday and one on Sunday, before the final
would take place in Kouvola Town Hall. The four debates were a mixture of pre-arranged
motions, for which the debaters had had a number of weeks to prepare, and impromptu
motions for which they were given only a short time for preparation.
None of the motions were simple to argue. Subjects like infidelity should be punishable by
prison sentences, developed countries should not take skilled labour from developing
countries, imposing quotas would ensure company boards would be composed of 50%
women and finally approving the use of drones to kill known terrorists. The final motion
was that western states should ban the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.
I followed the progress of my local school through the four opening rounds. Our students
were definitely nervous at the start, but clearly, over the course of the four rounds, they
rallied and grew in confidence. This was a common view of the teachers present, who all
commented on the way that their students had grown throughout the competition.
All of the students made the competition go so well, but I was struck by how the teachers
enjoyed themselves as well, having the opportunity to meet their colleagues from other
schools and have deep and meaningful discussions about their debating problems and
issues. Everyone involved said how much they had enjoyed the weekend and how much
the students had learnt. The judges were all able to give important feedback to the teams
and individuals after each debate and the subsequent comments from students showed
how much the students had learned from these remarks.
After the fourth debate we returned to the auditorium where we were able to take
advantage of Steven's debating skills to have a question and answer session while
awaiting the judges deliberations as to who would be in the final. The judges eventually
announced that Mattlidens Gymnasium and Tampereen Lyseo were the finalists based on
the points awarded over the four preliminary rounds. After lunch we moved on to the Town
Hall, where we found that an audience had assembled for the Final. The winner of the
2015 Competition was Mattlidens Gymnasium from Espoo.
Many thanks are due Marja-Liisa Villikka and her team at Kouvola Lyseo for the general
organisation of the venue; to Aira Ranta for the organisation of the event; but above all to
the participating students who made the weekend so outstanding.