Debating Threats to Democracy
The Finnish National Schools Debating Championships 2017 were held in Espoo, at Mattlidens gymnasium on 21st and 22nd of January 2017. The Competition saw 4 preliminary rounds and a final, which was open to the public and recorded by a media team, from vocational institution Prakticum.
The British Ambassador Sarah Price spoke at the Opening Ceremony, and the Deputy Canadian Ambassador Francis Uy at the Closing Ceremony. Their inspiring remarks gave encouragement to the participants, and added to the importance of the event.
The Competition provided valuable time for meeting sessions for debate coaches and teachers, to help organize the debate year 2017 as well as possible with mostly voluntary forces. National schools debate events have also given a spark for the schools students themselves: they have established a students' network, with a cross-regional committee of 10 enthusiastic schools debaters. During the weekend's meeting they decided, amongst other plans, to organize an online seminar hosted by an international debate coach, accessible to student debaters all over Finland.
As a prize the two finalist teams will participate in the second edition of Debating Threats to Democracy, to be held in Bratislava in March 2017. The winner of the competition was Etelä-Tapiola, and the team from Ressun lukio was the runner-up. Also at the Closing Ceremony, Porin lyseo team was awarded a Scholarship, for their enthusiastic performance. The Scholarship was designed for a team coming from a less active debating region, and sponsors attendance at a debating event in the summer.
The Championships had approximately 80 participants. There were 12 participating teams, plus the teachers, judges and volunteers.
The motions of Finnish National Schools Debating Championships were:
- Round 1 (Pre prepared): This House Believes That (THBT) the US should withdraw military and development aid to the Philippines
- Round 2: THW ban the display of all art created with the intended purpose or reasonably likely outcome of creating offence
- Round 3 (Pre prepared): THW not allow family members of incumbent politicians to run for public office, or hold appointed positions in public service
- Round 4: THBT university and college education in Finland should be financed by government-backed loans instead of being free
- Final: In areas with high foreign language populations, THW offer lessons in schools in the most commonly spoken language in that area. (e.g. in areas with high Turkish populations in Germany, one would offer lessons in Turkish)
The Chief Adjudicating team chose the motions, and gave extensive support to the debaters and the judges throughout the weekend. Chief Adjudicators were Sharmila Parmanand and Valtteri Walldén. Sharmila is among the top debate coaches in the world and Valtteri Walldén is an experienced debater and a coach.
At the event, other judges came from different university debate societies, representing all established university debate regions in Finland: the hope is that with their experience from this competition they have the know-how of providing coaching for their local schools, in which no chance at debating has been available so far.
The event was reported to the magazine of Federation of Finnish-British societies, in paper and online, and a live stream and recording of the final was made. The video team also recorded an interview with the finalists.
Feedback from participants was largely positive. Organizing of the competition ran smoothly, and volunteers and the contact teacher of Mattliden made sure that the crucial points, like the registration and meals were served on time. The championships are an essential event for Finnish debating; it is a place for students, teachers and judges to network and share ideas, together working towards the goal of making this important educative activity more popular and accessible in regions and schools across Finland.