Debating and the 4 essential skills for thriving graduates

12 April 2023

School has such an influence over the rest of our lives.

It’s where we learn so much about the world and how it works – from algebraic equations to coastal erosion – with the goal of propelling ourselves into a successful (and hopefully rewarding) career.

But with so much uncertainty – and with stubbornly high youth unemployment rates even more than a year out of the pandemic – it’s important to take a greater interest in other aspects of school life to help set you apart and improve the skills that matter. This is especially true given the recent uptake of Generative AI, such as Chat-GPT.

Debating is one such co-curriculum that helps build the skills and resilience that students need to thrive!


What skills do kids need to thrive?

According to a growing body of literature, there are four key skills that students need to succeed, all of which conveniently start with the letter ‘C’:

  1. Critical thinking, which refers to using logic and reasoning to solve problems and make decisions;
  2. Creativity, which requires children to be able to think outside of the box;
  3. Collaboration, which involves working with others to reach common goals; and
  4. Communication, which relates to how students are able to express themselves (and listen) to other people.

Each of these skills not only help set us apart from our peers but also help separate us from the incoming upheaval that machine learning and artificial intelligence are likely to unleash over the coming decades.

Let’s look at how debating can be formative in helping students develop these skills to help build their resilience!


Critical Thinking & Debating

This one is a no-brainer.

Debating revolves around analysing a topic – one which you’ve often not seen before – and coming up with a persuasive and logical case on why that topic is a good or a bad idea.

Given students are often not experts on topics like banning zoos or the US Electoral College – and even if they were, they don’t have the time in a debating speech to express all that knowledge – debating instead tends to rely on us taking a critical approach to the topic at hand, and developing cases without a huge amount of specific knowledge.

There really isn’t a better way to work on critical thinking skills.


Creativity & Debating

This one is a little more interesting.

As mentioned above, debating involves students looking at topics they likely don’t know all that much about. Without extensive reading and research, it’s likely that students won’t be able to come into debates with a pre-prepared response – and it is here that creativity & inventiveness flourishes.

There is nothing like staring down the barrel of having to speak to an audience in less than 60 minutes about the possibility of invading North Korea, or perhaps the economics of Brexit, to get the creative juices flowing!


Collaboration & Debating

It is often easy to forget that debating is a team activity – you win and lose as a team, rather than as individuals, and need to share your ideas and help others express your thoughts in order to claim victory.

This type of teamwork – time-limited, and under pressure – brings out both the best and the worst in people and replicates high-pressure circumstances that commonly occur in workplaces. But, with practice, students learn how to deal with the pressure, and come out much calmer and more collected when dealing with others.

This is so important (and often so lacking) when people need to collaborate, especially in the workplace.


Communication & Debating

Debating obviously assists with communication skills – students need to be able to present a coherent case over a short speech with limited preparation time.  But debating actually helps students communicate in so many other ways as well.

One of the most important is speaking with, and being pleasant towards, those who you would otherwise consider adversaries. At debating tournaments – particularly at university – it is very common to see teams go outside and socialise whilst the adjudicator comes to a decision. The ability to separate argumentation from personal relationships – and often being able to form friendships with rivals – is a communication tool that can be practiced and developed in few other forums.


Should my child learn debating?

In short – yes.

We offer a range of debating programs for students in Year 3 and above, but most schools also have internal programs that can help set your child apart from the pack and develop into a more resilient and employable adult.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how debating can help benefit your child!