Parliamentary Debating Competition: A Unified Standard?



This taken from Handbook for Parliamentary Debating (Second Edition) by Jogja Debating Forum. A fragment from Chapter IX: How To Win a Debate, page 134-138. I hope that evaluations can come in so that this can be improved. Happy reading ^_^



A Unified Standard?
As perhaps one may have noticed, many similar competitions held by different hosts would perhaps have different criteria of judgement. For example, some speech contest judges will appreciate more if a speaker does not bring notes while others will see first the extent of its contribution to the performance.


Such is true for debating competitions. There are some debating competitions whom which its judges simply say ―both teams have good arguments, good english, trying hard to convince the judges, but team Pro has more scores so they win. Some competitions say that it is good if you can quote your sources of facts to atest its reliability, while others prohibit so on the grounds of ethics.


Other competitions elaborate both teams arguments to an indepth and comprehensive detail in an analytic comparative manner. Some others would take their time to not only elaborate arguments into a great depth but also criticizing public speaking skills, speech arrangements, technicalities, and so much more.


This handbook, was created as result of an unyielding tradition of debating competitions. We understand that debating clubs and competitions are numerous in Indonesia, but a very sygnificant majority of these competitions are held under the same origin of standard.


It is only fair to flash back to 1997, when Indonesia held the first debating championship called Java Overland Varsities English Debating Championship (which still exists until today). This competition was held under cooperation of university students, the core of which were those who had just came back from The ASEAN Intervarsity Debating Championship (University of Malaya, Malaysia 1996).


These international level competitions (All Asians –now called United Asians Debating Championship, Australs, Worlds University Debating Championship, Worlds Schools Debating Championship, and so many more) are all held in generally a common understanding and a common standard as to how debates are judged (despite having differences in types of format, score ranges, and certain emphasis).


This similar trend happens also in Indonesian debates. JOVED 1997 gave birth to the first generation of a trend of a certain standard of (english) debating activities in Indonesia, and such standard derived into a greater variety of annual national level competitions started to come up such as Indonesian Varsities English Debate, ALSA UI E-Comp, EDS UI Founders Trophy, Highschool/National/Indonesian Schools Debating Championship and so much more until we have so many local and provincial level competitions. Almost all of which are organized or co-organized by elements of those who are affiliated to JOVED 1997: Former participants, judges, or trainees of the aforementioned in their respective institutions, participants and judges and observers of JOVED 1998, and so on.


Such standard has grown and passed down to most Indonesian debating competitions we witness today. Such standard, which certainly deviates to certain degree (as the works of mouth to mouth proliferation naturally go), is preserved in many ways and among which would be the adjudicator accreditation methods. Instead of selecting adjudicators based on educational/professional background (apparently ―debate adjudicator was [once] not an exact study or profession), we start giving trainings followed by a standardized accreditation test in order to qualify as an adjudicator.


This is the standard which will be elaborated under this chapter.


Why We Need A Unified Standard
It has been mentioned previously that there can be differences in how different competitions can have different rules and perspectives as to how a performance is judged.


The difference between British Parliamentary, Asians, Rapid Fire, etc, may be tolerable or infact really good as a variety in the conducts of a debate. But there are several things which should definitely be universal.


There have been judges in some competitions saying that Team Government has the luxury of chosing whether they are ‗for‘ or ‗against‘ the motion, or team opposition can also make any definition they like, or even that third speakers changing definitions is a good strategy to escape a tight corner. Debating is in no way against creativity, but imagine how confusing a debate will become if we do not have an unified standard of at least some basic things?


Many competitions were held not simply for fun but also for educational purposes, to harness certain skills –debating is one of these types of competition. The problem with competitions for education is that if we do not have a consistent evaluation measure, it is hard for one to truly measure their advancement on the skills.


This is why it is indeed imperative to have some sort of unified perception on some basic things, such as what constitutes a good argument, that definitions should be at the start instead of the end, and so much more.


This is why that although there are various debating formats, many english debating societies around Indonesia (and also the world!) endeavour to adhere also to these standards.


The educational purposes in debating, mainly in critical thinking, is one that we hold dearly. The idea behind these standards were not just established by mere creativity, but by experts and highly experienced people whom have dwelled in this field for quite a while. Therefore, as much as improvements and creativity are very important and essential, but there are certain grounds which are not recommended to be set aside.