Sunday, January 16, 2022

Debate as a tool for building bridges

What is an argument and how to build an argument? Which rights and values should be promoted in multicultural democratic societies? How to differentiate freedom of expression from hate speech?

This is only a part of the many interesting topics discussed by the young debaters at the first IIEP Debate Academy, organized in cooperation with the partner organization Youth Educational Forum.

The Debate Academy, held from 13th to 15th October, was attended by around 120 high school students from various schools from all over Macedonia. The Programme of the Academy enabled the active involvement both of the beginner debaters and the more experienced ones who have already been engaged in the debate clubs of IIEP and YEF.

The beginner high school students studied the foundations of debatе as an organized and argumentative discussion, got acquainted with the basic rules of debate formats and developed skills for building arguments. In addition to the theoretical lectures, the students also watched a presentation debate and got closely familiarized with the practical aspect of debating.


Concurrently, the advanced debaters experienced new perspectives and attended several thematic lectures in the sphere of interethnic integration. At the lectures they discussed human rights in multiethnic and multicultural societies, they made a comparative analysis of discrimination against integration, while enhancing their knowledge also in terms of differentiating between freedom of expression and hate speech in the social media.


After the completion of the theoretical lectures, the participants at the Academy were divided in mixed teams according to their experience in debating and ethnicity, in order to enable a closer contact among the representatives of various ethnicities, as well as convey debating skills from the more experienced debaters to the beginners. The 32 teams formed in this manner participated in a competition tournament comprised of 2 preliminary rounds on the topic: “Formal education is a crucial factor for interethnic integration among young people”.


The winning team at the tournament, comprised of Arsenij Pertsov, Aleksandra Boshnakovska and Mirjana Antovska represented the affirmative side and managed to convince the audience and the judges that formal education is truly a crucial factor for interethnic integration among young people. The affirmative team claimed that having regard to the fact that formal education has a formative-educational role, it is mandatory and it lasts for a long time, it enables continuous contact, getting to know other students and establishing long-term friendships with them, it thereby defies prejudice and stereotypes.


On the other hand, the negative team, comprised of Nikola Dumovski, Aleksandra Gjorgievska and Furkan Mustafa, claimed that even though it is beyond any doubt that formal education has a strong impact, still the crucial factor for a successful interethnic integration are the parents who guide children through life, as well as informal education in which the students take part on a voluntary basis and primarily because of their interests.

The three most successful orators, and thereby the best speakers at the tournament, were: Georgi Bozinovski, Arsenij Pertsov and Aleksandra Gjorgievska.


In the course of the entire Academy, the participants partook in critical thinking and expressing arguments, developed oratory skills, but also continuously worked in teams and spent time together, whereby debate has once again proven to be a useful tool for building bridges.

In addition to the educational part, the programme also comprised and interactive fun part – games, quizzes and music, which further enhanced the friendships among the student. After the three-day Academy, the students left happy and with a genuine desire for many more such gatherings at which they will be able to debate.