Oxford-style debat es

On 17th and 18th of November the The Career Counselling Centre for Youth organized a tournament of Oxford-style debates devoted to the topics of entrepreneurship and labour market. The tournament was hosted by The Joachim Lelewel Vocational School Complex.

Oxford-style debates have been popularized in Poland by Zbigniew A. Pełczyński, a long-time professor at Oxford, who in 1994 founded the NGO School for Leaders. Due to the influence of this organization’s scholarship programmes, Oxford-style debates spread quickly among politicians and activists, not to mention teachers and students at both schools and universities. The rules have been slightly modified from the debates at Oxford Union, yet the most important elements have been preserved. Two teams of panelists take turns speaking, while one of them proposes a previously formulated motion – in Poland usually referred to as the “thesis” – and the other opposes it. It is important to note, that the panelists typically do not choose their stance – the roles of the “proposition” and the “opposition” are assigned in a draw. The structure of the debate is heavily formalized, the participants need to obey a strict etiquette, and to abide by a precise time limit. The audience members can be involved in the discussion in a variety of ways: questioning the panelists, giving them additional information or taking the floor after the main debate has finished, giving short speeches supporting either the proposition or the opposition. In Poland, the rules are very relaxed when it comes to the mode in which the winning side is chosen: depending on the circumstances, the organizers may resort to an audience vote or decide to appoint a panel of judges, who grade the quality of the panelists’ argument, its presentation, as well as the use of evidence. The latter model is often considered to be more reliable in case of school competitions and large tournaments.

Eight teams competed in the tournament. In the preliminary round they were divided into two groups. Each team had to take part in three debates, each time defending or opposing the thesis “Balancing university education with a job gives you a better start on the job market”. Eventually, the winners of the two groups would go on to the final match, whereas the teams who placed second would compete for the third place. In both groups the teams form The National Comission of Education School Complex, have placed first, with three wins each.

The third place and the final debate were presided over, respectively, by Ms Anna Rzepka form The Career Counselling Centre for Youth and Mr Adam Sarbinowski, a local leader from Krobia and a graduate of the School for Leaders. Ms Urszula Jeznah, form The Career Counselling Centre for Youth, was the secretary for both of the debates. The jury consisted of: Mr Maciej Barczak and Ms Anna Sikorska form The Career Counselling Centre for Youth; Mr Marcin Woźniak form Observatory of Economy and Labour Market of the Poznań Agglomeration; Mr. Michał Kaczmarek form the Poznań Municipal Office; and Ms Ksenia Frąszczak who represented the Debate Consortium.

The thesis for the third place debate was the following: “Vocational schools give better preparation for one’s future career than general education secondary schools”. The role of the proposition was assigned to Marcin Kukielski, Michał Matz, Grzegorz Jędrusiak and Patryk Kaczmarek form the Joachim Lelewel School Complex, while Katarzyna Witczak, Maja Kozłowska, Igor Michalak and Maria Sznajder from the Sports Mastery School Complex represented the opposition. The opposition team eventually won.

Two equally matched teams form The Comission of National Education School Complex have met in the final debate in which they discussed the following thesis: “It is easier for young people to find their way in the labour market than it is for older employees”. The opposition team – whose members were Dominik Bartosiak, Weronika Kęsy, Marta Dudkiewicz and Jakub Daliszewski – won by just five points, over the propostion team, which consisted of Weronika Biskupska, Dawid Bartkowiak, Bartosz Walkiewicz and Klaudia Dydymska. However, the prize for the best debater did not go to any of the students form the Comission of National Education School Complex, but to Igor Michalak from the Sports Mastery School Complex.

The organizers were pleased to note that many of the audience took the chance to make a short speech after the both the 3rd place and the final debate. It is worth highlighting that many competitors from the teams that did not make it to the finals have took the floor. Many other students – including middle schoolers from Krobia and university students form Poznań – also participated in this part of the debates.