Nesta-SCMP competition continues to grow in popularity and is drawing younger age groups
The number of entries to the Nesta-SCMP Debating Competition has tripled in the last three years.
The contest is jointly organised by the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association and the South China Morning Post.
More than 50 school teams have registered for this year's eight rounds of debates.
Competition co-ordinator Stan Dyer said: "The format is easy to follow so students who are reasonably proficient in English can put their arguments together and debate teams with similar strengths.
'Each team gets at least three rounds from January to June and if they're successful, they can go on to rounds four to six and then to the finals.'
Dyer, who is also a native English teacher at Kwok Tak Seng Catholic Secondary School, said a greater focus on training was starting to pay off.
Attendance figures have been doubling each year and teams from a wider range of schools are joining because they now can be matched against teams of similar age and ability.
'This gives them the chance to steadily develop their debating skills over a period of more than five months,' Dyer said.
He added this was unlike other mainstream competitions, in which 'most new teams only get a few weeks of training ... before they compete and are eliminated'.
Nesta's competition is also the only mainstream competition that allows new teams to watch the final round of debates from the previous year as part of their preparations.
'This gives them a good idea of the format as well as the standard to aim for,' Dyer said.
'Students can explore issues in liberal studies, as well as in NSS pop culture and social issues in greater depth. Students can equip themselves for a career in the many areas where negotiating skills and persuading international clients are important.'
The competition, run by senior debate coaches and adjudicators, will also have open debates and demonstrations, as the finalists are whittled down before the March 5 finals which will be held at the Baptist University of Hong Kong's Shek Mun Campus and sponsored by the school's College of International Education.
According to Dyer, the increasing interest in the debate is trickling down to younger age groups. Now in its 10th year, the competition mostly comprises Secondary Three and up debaters, but the number of debaters from lower forms is continuing to grow.
Stewards Pooi Kei College Form Six student Matthew Lo Kim-wing said there were more pressure, less preparation time and harder topics in other competitions. He said Nesta debates gave speakers almost a minute longer to speak, allowing for more time to address the audience.
On top of giving students more opportunities and a better chance to develop their speaking and debating skills through topics they can easily relate to, the competition also includes debate workshops for teachers.
These workshops will be held from 4.30pm November 17 in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Dyer said the competition is also gaining popularity with teachers because it has a clear framework to build debating skills over a number of months without adding to teachers' workloads or disrupting normal school schedules.
Interested students and schools with at least three debaters can join the next competition, which starts in January, and applications are now open.
Contact Stan Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org