The English Debating Competition Final for nationwide High School students was held at the British Embassy in Helsinki on 28th January 2011
The finals this year were held in the embassy residence, which somehow made the atmosphere cosier and less formal than it is in the conference facilities.
The set-up was a little different, too, in that the judges were sitting behind the debating teams, facing the audience. In my view this turned out very well: the contestants had to make contact with the audience rather than perform to the judges, and the judges were able to observe the debates
closely without distracting the protagonists.
The eight finalist teams represented Helsinki, Rauma, Turku, Tampere, Kuopio, Kouvola, Jyväskylä and Joensuu.
The topics under debate included banning the sale of cars capable of exceeding 120 km per hour, making adultery a criminal offence, banning hoodies from shopping malls and paying drug users to get sterilised.
The overall standard was very high. All the teams were well prepared, and regardless of the topic, presented their cases with conviction, enthusiasm and determination.
The use of humour and dramatic effect was particularly pleasing. Some people relied rather heavily on their notes, but everyone spoke freely - some more fluently than others.
We were impressed with how well many people picked up the arguments of the opposing team, and dealt with the flow of contributions from the floor.
A couple of proposers did not introduce themselves or their team, which would be an area for improvement. Most teams defined the topic and how they would deal with it very well, but again this would be worth working on. Some of the motions were easier to defend or attack than others, which may have caused a couple of the teams to reiterate rather than develop their arguments.
The final result was extremely close. The prize winners were:-
Tampere - Tampereen Yhteiskoulu
Students: Laura Blagoev and Aino Lehmus
Helsinki - The English School
Students: Irinja Vähäkangas and Julia Laitinen
Jyväskylä - Jyväskylän Lyseon Lukio
Students: Krista Sirola and Aarne Rissanen
Turku - Raision lukio
Student: Juho Vainio
The jury consisted of HM Ambassador Matthew Lodge, Joan Nordlund, Jaakko Mäki and Tuija Peussa.
Marja Salo represented the Federation of Finnish-British Societies and Tuula Penttilä chaired the proceedings.
Michael Davies did a wonderful job as competition coordinator.