Debate team does S'pore proud in world contest

Five JC students, from Anglo-Chinese, Raffles and Victoria, secure second place, the Republic's highest ranking so far.

FIVE junior college students have given Singapore a 38th birthday present by placing second in the World Schools Debating Championships in Peru.

This is Singapore's highest ranking ever in the competition, and the first time the Republic has reached the grand finals of the championships, now in the 15th year.

Organised and hosted in turn by the competing countries, the competition usually dominated by English-speaking participants from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand.

Team captain Chan Yong Wei and Joshua Tan, both from Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Li Shengwu (Raffles JC), and Hansel Ng and Jonathan Chong, both from Victoria JC, made it all the way to the finals of the competition, before they were beaten on Friday by an Australian team in a split vote.

Said Yong Wei: "It feels great that we managed to break through a barrier no team from Singapore has gone past before."

The team members, who spoke to The Straits Times yesterday over phone from Peru, said it had been tiring but worthwhile. Watched by debaters from nearly 30 nations and numerous students from Lima, in the auditorium of the University of Lima in Peru, the team proposed the motion This House Would End The War On Drugs.

In the semi-finals, they beat the favourites, Scotland; and in the quarter-finals, New Zealand.

Earlier rounds were held in schools or the equivalent of Singapore's junior colleges in Peru.

The team members, chosen for their debating performance in secondary school and junior college, were picked in competitive trials. They sparred with former championship debaters, holding practice matches with them in the evenings.

ACJC's head of arts Geetha Creffield and former debater Aaron Maniam coached the Singapore team, which was selected last August. They practised twice a week, then upped it to four times a week, no easy thing as all the debaters are taking their A levels this year.

Team member Shengwu said the team's experience made them feel that what they achieved wasn't only for Singapore. They were boosted by the support of participants from Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Indonesia and other nations.

He said: "They watched each of our debates, cheered for us and supported us. We were, in a way, representative of other smaller nations as well. It was a great feeling."

(The Straits Times,, Aug. 29, 2003.)