St Rose of Lima's College outlasted Tuen Mun Government Secondary School to become the Division Three champion of the 14th Nesta-SCMP debating competition.
Debating the topic "Public transport in Hong Kong should be free", Tuen Mun's team of Form Two students - Winsdor Yau Siu-chun, Sharon Lo Hei-suet and Vodka Ho Cheuk-in - supported the motion, while St Rose's team - Form Two students Natarie Tsu Ying-heng and Judy Lam Tsz-wai, and Form One student Natalie Chen Lok-yung - opposed it.
The debate, which took place at City University on Monday, was adjudicated by Tom Spencer, from Law Ting Pong Secondary School; Calvin Foo, from SKH Lam Kau Mow Secondary School; and Graeme Lang, from the Department of Asian and International Studies at City University.
Tuen Mun built their case by arguing that if public transport were free, it would give people more of an incentive to use it, instead of taking private cars. This would help cut down pollution caused by traffic.
The negative side rebutted that it is not feasible to provide free transport, as the cost would be too much of a burden to the government.
St Rose took home the win because their speeches were more coherent, and they worked better as a team, the judges said.
"All the speakers from St Rose were able to restate the team line, while presenting their ideas in a logical sequence," said Spencer.
Tuen Mun lost points for losing focus while speaking.
"The affirmative side got carried away while discussing whether providing free public transport could reduce the number of private cars on the roads," said Spencer. "They should have instead built on the point that it reduces pollution."
While the judges thought both sides did a great job researching their topics, they said the amount of data they presented was a little overwhelming.
"Sometimes less is more," said Foo. "It is easy for adjudicators to miss points if they are presented with too much information."
Foo added that there were some points the debaters overlooked.
"Public transport in Hong Kong is quite unique - it is provided by private companies, not the government. This could have been a point of discussion," he said. "Also, nobody considered whether the public would actually want free transport, as opposed to just lower fares."
Lang added that he felt the debaters could have toned down their speeches.
"This is a complex motion that requires sober analysis," he said. "Some of the debaters expressed themselves too strongly."
But Tuen Mun's third speaker, Vodka, who was named best speaker, was not one of them.
"She is a passionate speaker, but she never lost her composure," said Foo.
The contest, sponsored by The Edge Learning Centre, is organised by the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association and the South China Morning Post.