National Virtual Debating Competition

Applications are now open for the 2020 National Virtual Debating Competition across the following divisions:

  • Primary School (Years 5 and 6)
  • Junior School (Years 7 and 8)
  • Middle School (Years 9 and 10)
  • Senior School (Open)

All schools around Australia are eligible to participate in the competition. 

What is Virtual Debating?

The NGS Super National Virtual Debating competition is an important event in the education calendar for a growing number of Independent schools across Australia. Since 2015, student teams across Australia have been taking part in the NGS Super National Virtual Debating Program, an event that removes the tyranny of distance and associated costs that can prohibit schools from benefiting in face to face debating to engage in an invaluable low-cost alternative.

Why Virtual Debating?

For many schools, especially those in rural or remote areas, the NGS Super National Virtual Debating Competition opens new opportunities for students to develop important critical thinking skills that can support potential careers in politics, law and diplomacy among others.
Formal debating has always been a valued activity for students, but an obvious advantage of virtual debating is that it alleviates the need for travel by students and teachers to the opponent’s venue. Possibly the biggest advantage is the range of opponents each school will encounter in this initiative.

Eligibility to Participate

All Australian schools are eligible to participate in the program as long as they meet the minimum equipment requirements below. Schools may enter up to two teams per division and must assign a staff coordinator to each team who will be the main point of contact in scheduling.

We anticipate the cost per team will be $200.

Debate Dates and Times

In previous years the competition has been run as a double elimination tournament which has provided some issues around scheduling, particularly across different states holidays and time zones. In 2020 we will be moving to a round robin + knock out tournament which will not only provide teams with more debates, it will also provide a much broader scheduling window for schools to negotiate times that are suitable.

The competition will run from March through to November.

Individual Debate times:

  • Middle School and Senior School debates run for approximately two hours (1 hour preparation time), including adjudication
  • Primary School and Junior School debates run for 1 hour maximum, including adjudication

Structure of Debates

Debates are formatted as a three on three debate, there are no PsOI or Replies in this format. 

The debates will have different structure and rules depending on the age groups of the competitors. Allowance for younger age groups is made in an attempt to make this a more formative experience for students at this level. All teams will have 3 speakers with an optional 4th silent speaker who may help out team mates during preparation and during the debate. See descriptions for each age level below:

  • Senior Debates (Years 9+10 and Open) are “impromptu” with one hour of preparation time. Teams do not know the topic or which side of the debate they are on until 1 hour before the debate starts. The host will reveal the topic and randomly establish the affirmative & negative teams. Schools will then mute the microphones but leave their cameras running. After an hour the adjudicator will join the session and start the debate. This level will allow an “authentic” approach to preparation and teams will be able to access the Internet and other content sources during their hour of preparation.
  • Junior Debates (Years 5+6 and 7+8) teachers in this division can access their topic and indication of Affirmative or Negative position a week before the debate. All resources can be utilised to build arguments.

Adjudicators and Scoring

An adjudicator will be assigned to each debate, either live or post the debate via a review of the recording. Where possible the adjudicator will deliver the result immediately.

Scoring will be between 70-80 with the average speech receiving a 75. The scores will further be divided into three sections: Matter (or content: the logical construction of arguments and the level of engagement in refutation), Manner (or style: the use of verbal and nonverbal techniques to engage the audience) and Method (or structure and strategy: the organisation of the speech to maximise clarity and persuasiveness). Matter and Manner will be worth 40 marks each and Method will be worth 20 marks: a speech with average Matter or Manner will receive a 30, and a speech with average Method shall receive a 15, etc.

How Does it Work?

The Virtual Debating Program utilises the Zoom Video Conferencing platform to host all debates. Once a match has been scheduled the school coordinator will be informed of the link to the Zoom host room for that debate. Participating teams should join the debate using this link via their VC Encoder or laptop/desktop device 5 minutes prior to the start time.

All divisions will be "Round Robin + Knockout" structure in 2020 meaning all schools will get a minimum of three debates. This structure means more debates for each team in most cases as compared to a straight knockout competition. The pots will be designed (where possible) to allow for schools to debate against opposition from other parts of the state and country than their own geographical location to create a fully diverse competition.

How Do We Join?

Please complete the Application Form below to register your participation in the 2020 competition or contact us for more information.
2020 Application Form

Minimum Equipment Requirements

To participate in the Program, schools should ensure they can meet the requirements listed below, a test connection will be done with all participating schools prior to the competition start.

  • reliable internet connection
  • Video conferencing encoder (codec - H323/SIP) OR
  • Desktop/laptop computer with the following peripherals
    • Microphone - ability to pick up participant input from anywhere in a reasonable sized room. They are also “echo-cancelling” which means output from the speakers is detected and not permitted to loop back through the microphone; very disconcerting for those speaking at the other end and unacceptable in a debate scenario.
    • HD Camera - HD quality cameras that can ZOOM and PAN to any position in the room. Digital ZOOM acceptable but optical zoom desired. Programmable pre-set positions are highly desirable.
    • Speakers - sound output sufficient so incoming audio can be heard comfortably anywhere in the room
    • TV or projector for input

If you do not have this equipment already, you must commit to purchasing it prior to the competition starting.