The World Schools Debating Championships have their genesis in Australia’s bicentennial year. Members of the Australian Debating Federation were aware that the world universities competition was coming to Sydney in January 1988. There was no similar event for secondary school pupils, yet the world universities championships showed the enormous potential for an international debating competition involving students from all around the world.
Called “the World Debating Championships” in Winnipeg, the competition has been titled “the World Schools Debating Championships” since 1991. The number of countries competing effectively doubled from 1988-90 to 1991-4.
The number of countries again rose significantly, 25 attending in 1998, 31 in 1999, 27 in 2000, 33 in 2001 and 28 in 2002. The pattern became established during this period of there being four prepared motions for the preliminary rounds (as opposed to two prepared motions and teams having to debate both sides, which had been more common in the past). The larger number of teams made billeting less practical, with the result that everyone stayed together at a central location, enhancing the opportunities for teams to mix now that the tournament was a lot larger and teams no longer debated at the same schools.
During the last sixteen years, a “world schools” style of debating has evolved so as to provide a measure of consistency from one world championships to another. However expressed, good debating comes down to skills of preparation, argumentation, and presentation. What impresses is the scale of the World Championships today, the number of teams, the diversity of countries, the opportunities to meet so many more people, and to share in quite remarkable experiences.