Adrenaline was rushing through my veins, my heart was in my mouth, and my palms were a little sweaty, right before it was my turn to deliver my speech.
APU National Novice 2015 was my first debate competition in the university. Although I was an old hand at debates at school, and then at pre-university, the experience here was somewhat unnerving and daunting, perhaps owing to my absence from wrestling it out at a tournament, since becoming the State champion in 2013. With fervent passion, I took to the floor, I stood up, and spoke up. Seven minutes later, as I returned to my seat, I was smiling, not because I had delivered a knockout speech (rustiness was still there), but I recognised the right decision I had made by returning to debate activities at the university and I realized all over again, what great joy this sport brings. It was at that time, I knew debating, how stressful it may be, is worth it.
As rightly stated by Albert Einstein, “education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school,” university experience is something that remains entrenched within us till the end.
Not only does it enable us to earn a living, but it helps us live a better and more meaningful life. With that being said, one’s life at university shouldn’t just revolve around books, classrooms and libraries. One shouldn’t look back at his or her university life as a period of studying within four concrete walls and very little else. A student’s stint at any tertiary institution should be a journey of self-discovery, self-fulfillment and self-actualization to one’s potential. The experiences, talents and skills that you equip yourself with at the university go a long way in mapping out your future, something that cannot be realised if time is solely spent on studying.
I applaud the move by the Ministry of Education in implementing an integrated CGPA, where involvement in co-curricular activities coupled with academic achievement will base students’ CGPA. Out of the plethora of activities, clubs and societies in each university, I will stress on why university students should embrace the culture of debating and public speaking. We live in a country that is home to a fully functioning democracy which embodies the culture of debating in the Parliament. We are home to Asian debate champions in both the high school and university debate circuits.
Debating and public speaking participation are avenues for improving students’ critical and analytical skills as well as hone their creativity. Increasingly, the use of debating in dealing with complex ideas and competing advocacy is emerging as a successful educational tool in nurturing future leaders. In every continent, we can see students and teachers increasingly using debate and public speaking as complex forms of communication which can develop critical thinking skills and creativity in students which will prove crucial for their success in the information age they live in for their entire lives. Debate is a lot of critical advocacy, it is advocacy in the way a debater must advocate, propose and defend ideas and arguments. It is critical because debaters must not ignore or negate the advocacy of others, but must engage them and use the tools of critical thinking and analytical skills to evaluate the arguments of others. This entire process of critical advocacy has been shown to involve students in important behaviours and skills which we then should cultivate in our citizens, in hopes of an emergent knowledge-based society in our country.
Through the culture of debating and public speaking, students will research on the contentious issues they are speaking, constituting varied topics such as economics, politics, law, media, sports, international relations and the environment. Students will need to fully understand these issues, think about what they intend to propose, what their stance is, as well as having to research and learn about the arguments of their opponents, hence making debating a truly inclusive process.
When we live in a country with a healthy population of cut-throat keyboard warriors who zealously put their ideas forward without giving much thought or care, it is then imperative that we train a generation that is logical, insightful and rational in making themselves heard. We have seen far too many goons making insane and farcical comments online with very little sense or facts to back them up, and this can be reversed if the younger generation is exposed to the culture of debating and public speaking.
To add on, debating and public speaking provide a platform for students to communicate and advocate as their ideas will be expressed to others, in public for all to see and hear, hence fine-tuning their oratory and interpersonal skills. Debaters also learn how to obtain information, organise and harness it for a purpose as well as analyse and dissect information, sifting out the good from the bad, the relevant from the irrelevant. Another benefit to accrue is it promotes intellectual discourse among students, and public as a whole. This is especially true in political debates, when two political rivals square off, their strengths and weaknesses become apparent and it is a very human experience that the public can engage with.
When conversations and discourse take place, more people are drawn in, especially when they have a vested interest in these matters. The simple act of generating interest and buzz around debates has the ability to bring people together who would otherwise be indifferent to the political landscape in the country. It makes students politically conscious, and this heightened awareness transcends into an improved quality of politics in Malaysia. In a country where speech that defames other individuals or is critical of the King, government or religion is criminalized (Sedition Act 1948), debate competitions are one of the few public forums where students can discuss charged political and social issues in our country. This, in turn, enhances critical thinking and free speech among the younger generation.
Invariably, students in our country should be encouraged to participate in debates and public speaking as argumentative skills are useful skills to live by.
In an era of angst about teenage rebellion and disrespect, educational researches say students this generation are falling short on a crucial skill: arguing. It is the kind of arguing where students learn to make a reasoned and logical case for or against a particular position; debating and public speaking lend the real stage for them to accomplish this.
Are you getting motivated to learn the art of communication and public speaking after reading Roshan’s sharing?
Share this article now to get all of your friends excited about learning how to be more confident and a better communicator. Then, join a public speaking club in your school now to better yourself ~!!! 🙂
Written by Manroshan Singh Bhatt. Roshan is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Accounting degree at the University of Malaya. He is an active contributor to the Niexter pullout of New Straits Times for six years and also the recipient of the of Best Story Award for his article, TV Junkie, at New Straits Times 3rd Young Writers Awards in 2012. You can follow him at his Facebook profile.
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