World Schools Debating Championships

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The World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) is an annual English-language debating tournament for high school-level teams representing different countries.

In recent years, the championships have involved teams from over 50 nations each year.


The championships were first held in 1988 in Australia, as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. Members of the Australian Debating Federation were aware that the World Universities Debating Championship was to be hosted by the University of Sydney in January that year, but no similar event for high school students existed at the time. However the rapid growth of the university championships since its founding in 1981 showed the potential for international debating competitions. Christopher Erskine took on the task of organising the first world schools championships, which was then called the Bicentennial International School Students Debating Championships. Six countries competed in the inaugural tournament – Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States. The teams flew into different cities in Australia for their first debates, before meeting-up in Canberra for the second week of the competition. The event was ultimately won by Canada, who defeated Australia in the Grand Final.

The success of the 1988 event saw Canada offer to host the second championship two years later in 1990. That year, the event was called the World Debating Championships. Seven teams took part in the 1990 competition, with first-time participants Scotland emerging as champions.

In 1991, the championships were held in Edinburgh, and the event took on its present name of the World Schools Debating Championships. Since then, the championships have rapidly grown in size.

Each country is entitled to enter one team. As with some other international competitions (such as the FIFA World Cup), the nations of the United Kingdom are allowed to take part individually, as are dependent territories (such as Bermuda) and special regions of some countries (such as Hong Kong).

All debates in the championship are in English. This is for practical reasons, but it means that many countries debate in what is for them a foreign language. This has not stopped a number of these teams being very successful. Pakistan, for example, has reached the Grand Final twice; while the Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Greece and Israel have all reached the semi-finals. Special awards have been introduced for the highest-ranked teams made-up of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) and English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) speakers.

To show that debate is universal, hosts in non-English-speaking nations have often showcased demonstration (non-competition) debates in their own language during the championships. A notable example was in Lima in 2003, where the teams from Argentina and Peru gave a demonstration debate in Spanish (but in the World Schools style) in the Congress of Peru chamber.


World Schools Debating Championship debates use a special format known as 'World Schools Style Debating'. This is a combination of the British Parliamentary and Australian formats, designed to meet the needs of the tournament. Each debate comprises a total of eight speeches delivered by two three-member teams (the Proposition and the Opposition). Each speaker delivers an eight-minute speech; then both teams deliver a "reply speech" lasting four minutes, with the last word being reserved for the Proposition. Between the end of the first and the beginning of the last minute of an eight-minute speech, the opposing party may offer "points of information". The speaker may refuse these, but should take at least one or two points during his or her speech.

The style of debate was originally a compromise and not used apart from the championship. However, the style has since been embraced by many countries for their national competitions, including Australia, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Slovenia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Wales.

The WSDC normally takes place over the course of ten days. Each national team competes in eight preliminary debates: four prepared debates (the motion having been announced a few weeks before the start of the tournament) and four impromptu debates (for which teams have one hour to prepare). Once the eight preliminary rounds have been completed, the 16 best teams compete in knock-out debates (known as the Octofinals) culminating in a Grand Final. For each debate, three judges (or more in later rounds) mark each debater on his or her style, content and strategy.

A notable difference between WSDC and the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships – the other major international competition of its type – is that WSDC's primary focus is on ranking each country's team as opposed to its individual participants.

Charter of the World Schools Debating Championships[edit]

The aims of the World Schools Debating Championships are:

  • To encourage and advance the education of young people in communication skills through conducting debating events.
  • To achieve excellence in debating by young people through annually conducting the World Schools Debating Championships.
  • To promote international understanding and free speech through debating to help young people develop their capabilities that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society.

In order to further these aims, all participating nations agree that:

  • The team of any participating nation may be required to debate any issue.
  • The team of any participating nation may be required to debate against the team of any other participating nation.
  • The team of any participating nation is entitled to take part in the Championships on the same basis as any other participating nation’s team.

Past championships[edit]

Year Champions Runners-up Semi-finalists Venue
2016 England Canada Australia & Hong Kong Stuttgart, Germany
2015 Singapore Canada Australia & Pakistan Singapore
2014 England South Africa Canada & Ireland Bangkok, Thailand
2013 Australia Swaziland Ireland & Singapore Antalya, Turkey
2012 Scotland Wales England & Philippines Cape Town, South Africa
2011 Singapore Australia Ireland & Scotland Dundee, Scotland
2010 Canada England Singapore & Wales Doha, Qatar
2009 New Zealand England Greece & Singapore Athens, Greece
2008 England New Zealand Greece & Scotland Washington DC, United States
2007 Scotland Singapore Canada & England Seoul, South Korea
2006 Australia Ireland Canada & Singapore Cardiff, Wales
2005 Australia England Argentina & Pakistan Calgary, Canada
2004 Australia South Africa England & Greece Stuttgart, Germany
2003 Australia Singapore England & Scotland Lima, Peru
2002 Ireland Australia England & Scotland Singapore
2001 Australia Scotland Singapore & South Africa Johannesburg, South Africa
2000 Australia England Israel & New Zealand Pittsburgh, United States
1999 Scotland England Australia & United States London, England
1998 Australia Scotland New Zealand & Peru Jerusalem, Israel
1997 Australia England Pakistan & Singapore Bermuda
1996 England Pakistan Scotland & Singapore Canberra, Australia
1995 New Zealand Scotland Australia & England Cardiff, Wales
1994 United States Pakistan Australia & Scotland New Zealand
1993 England Scotland Australia & United States Medicine Hat, Canada
1992 New Zealand Scotland London, England
1991 New Zealand Australia Edinburgh, Scotland
1990 Scotland Australia Winnipeg, Canada
1989 not held
1988 Canada Australia Australia

Future championships[edit]

Most successful nations[edit]

Nation Wins Runner-ups
Australia 9 5
England 5 6
Scotland 4 5
New Zealand 4 1
Canada 2 2
Singapore 2 2
Ireland 1 1
United States 1 0
Pakistan 0 2
South Africa 0 2
Swaziland 0 1
Wales 0 1

ESL & EFL awards[edit]

Special awards are presented at each year's World Schools Debating Championships to the best-performing English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teams. These awards are open to teams from nations where English is not an official national language. To be eligible for the EFL award, a team must be predominantly made-up of students who do not come from English-speaking homes and who do not attend schools where English is used as a medium of instruction. The ESL award is for teams predominantly composed of students who are not first-language English-speakers, but who attend schools where some or all of the teaching is in English.

The EFL award was instituted in 2005. Prior to that, there was just one award for teams from non-English-speaking countries. Before 2005, the WSDC rules stipulated that teams who reached the semi-finals or Grand Final of the championship were not eligible to receive the ESL award. After the EFL award was introduced, the rules were changed so that there was no restriction on teams reaching the semi-finals or Grand Final being able to receive the ESL or EFL award.

English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) Award Winners[edit]

Year ESL Award Winners
2016 Pakistan
2015 Pakistan
2014 Peru
2013 Peru
2012 Greece
2011 South Korea
2010 Slovenia
2009 Greece
2008 Greece
2007 Pakistan
2006 Pakistan
2005 Pakistan
2004 Israel
2003 Israel
2002 Kuwait
2001 Pakistan
2000 Pakistan
1999 Argentina
1998 Argentina
1997 Israel
1996 Israel

English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) Award Winners[edit]

Year EFL Award Winners
2016 Denmark
2015 Croatia
2014 Netherlands
2013 Indonesia
2012 Lithuania
2011 Netherlands
2010 Netherlands
2009 South Korea
2008 Slovenia
2007 Slovenia
2006 South Korea
2005 Slovenia

Best New Team Award[edit]

In some years in which there have been a significant number of nations entering the championships for the first time, an award for the Best New Team has been given to the top-ranking team from one of these nations. Past winners of this award have included Rwanda (2016), Bahrain (2015), Macau (2014), Swaziland (2012), Barbados (2011), the United Arab Emirates (2010) and Thailand (2009).

See also[edit]


External links[edit]