World Schools Debating Championships

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The World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) is an annual English-language debating tournament for high school-level teams representing different nations.


The championships were first held in August 1988 in Australia, as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. Members of the Australian Debating Federation were aware that the World Universities Debating Championship was to be hosted by the University of Sydney in January that year, but no similar event for high school students existed at the time. However the rapid growth of the university championships since its founding in 1981 showed the potential for international debating competitions. Christopher Erskine took on the task of organising the first world schools championships, which was then called the Bicentennial International School Students Debating Championships. Six nations competed in the inaugural tournament – Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States. The teams flew into different cities in Australia for their first debates, before meeting-up in Canberra for the second week of the competition.[1] The event was ultimately won by Canada, who defeated Australia in the Grand Final.

The success of the 1988 event saw Canada offer to host the second championship two years later in 1990. That year, the event was called the World Debating Championships. Seven teams took part in the 1990 competition, with first-time participants Scotland emerging as champions.

In 1991, the championships were held in Edinburgh, and the event took on its present name of the World Schools Debating Championships. Since then, the championships have rapidly grown in size.

Each nation is entitled to enter one team. As with some other international competitions (such as the FIFA World Cup), the nations of the United Kingdom are allowed to take part individually, as are dependent territories (such as Bermuda) and special regions of some countries (such as Hong Kong).

All debates in the championship are in English. This is for practical reasons, but it means that many teams debate in what is for them a foreign language. This has not stopped a number of these teams being very successful. China and India have won one world title each. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have reached the Grand Final; while the Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Greece and Israel have all reached the semi-finals. Special awards have been introduced for the highest-ranked teams made-up of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) and English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) speakers.

To show that debate is universal, hosts in non-English-speaking nations have often showcased demonstration (non-competition) debates in their own language during the championships. A notable example was in Lima in 2003, where the teams from Argentina and Peru gave a demonstration debate in Spanish (but in the World Schools style) in the Congress of Peru chamber.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the championship which was due to be held in Mexico City in 2020 was switched to being an Online World Schools Debating Championship, with all the debates conducted through Zoom. The 2021 championship hosted by Macau and the 2022 championship hosted by the Netherlands were also conducted online. In 2023, the championship resumed in person in Hanoi.


World Schools Debating Championship debates use a special format known as 'World Schools Style Debating'. This is a combination of the Asian Parliamentary and Australian formats, designed to meet the needs of the tournament. Each debate comprises a total of eight speeches delivered by two three-member teams (the Proposition and the Opposition). Each speaker delivers an eight-minute speech; then both teams deliver a "reply speech" lasting four minutes, with the last word being reserved for the Proposition. Between the end of the first and the beginning of the last minute of an eight-minute speech, the opposing party may offer "points of information". The speaker may refuse these, but should take at least one or two points during his or her speech.

The style of debate was originally a compromise and not used apart from the championship. However, the style has since been embraced by many countries for their national competitions, including Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Wales.

The WSDC normally takes place over the course of ten days. Each national team competes in eight preliminary debates: four prepared debates (the motion having been announced a few weeks before the start of the tournament) and four impromptu debates (for which teams have one hour to prepare). Once the eight preliminary rounds have been completed, the 16 best teams compete in knock-out debates (known as the Octofinals) culminating in a Grand Final. For each debate, three judges (or more in later rounds) mark each debater on their content, style and strategy.

A notable difference between WSDC and the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships – the other major international competition of its type – is that WSDC's primary focus is on ranking each country's team as opposed to its individual participants.

Charter of the World Schools Debating Championships[edit]

The aims of the World Schools Debating Championships are:

  • To encourage and advance the education of young people in communication skills through conducting debating events.
  • To achieve excellence in debating by young people through annually conducting the World Schools Debating Championships.
  • To promote international understanding and free speech through debating to help young people develop their capabilities that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society.

In order to further these aims, all participating nations agree that:

  • The team of any participating nation may be required to debate any issue.
  • The team of any participating nation may be required to debate against the team of any other participating nation.
  • The team of any participating nation is entitled to take part in the Championships on the same basis as any other participating nation's team.

Past championships[edit]

Year Champions Runners-up Semi-finalists Venue Best Speaker
2023 United States Canada Malaysia & Scotland Hanoi, Vietnam Annushka Agarwal, Canada
2022 Hong Kong China Singapore & Sri Lanka Online Championship (organised by the Netherlands) Bowser Liu, China
2021 Canada Hong Kong Philippines & Singapore Online Championship (organised by Macau with assistance from Germany) Tobi Leung, Philippines
The 2020 online championship was held after the 2020 championship in Mexico was cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
2020 Canada[2] Sri Lanka[3] Ireland[4] & Singapore Online Championship (organised by Mexico with assistance from Macau) Ivan Buckland, South Africa & Jenna Hong, Hong Kong
2019 India[5] Canada China & England Bangkok, Thailand Tejas Subramaniam, India
2018 China India[6] England & Singapore Zagreb, Croatia Dhananjay Ashok, India
2017 Singapore[7] England South Africa & United States Bali, Indonesia
2016 England[8][9][10] Canada Australia & Hong Kong Stuttgart, Germany[11]
2015 Singapore[12] Canada Australia & Pakistan Singapore
2014 England South Africa Canada & Ireland Bangkok, Thailand
2013 Australia[13] Swaziland Ireland & Singapore Antalya, Turkey
2012 Scotland Wales[14] England & Philippines Cape Town, South Africa
2011 Singapore[15] Australia Ireland & Scotland Dundee, Scotland[16]
2010 Canada[17][18] England Singapore & Wales Doha, Qatar
2009 New Zealand[19][20] England Greece & Singapore Athens, Greece
2008 England[21] New Zealand[22] Greece & Scotland Washington DC, United States
2007 Scotland[23][24] Singapore Canada & England Seoul, South Korea
2006 Australia[25] Ireland[26] Canada & Singapore Cardiff, Wales
2005 Australia England Argentina & Pakistan Calgary, Canada
2004 Australia South Africa England & Greece Stuttgart, Germany
2003 Australia[27] Singapore[28] England & Scotland Lima, Peru
2002 Ireland[29] Australia England & Scotland Singapore
2001 Australia Scotland Singapore & South Africa Johannesburg, South Africa
2000 Australia England Israel & New Zealand Pittsburgh, United States
1999 Scotland England Australia & United States London, England
1998 Australia Scotland New Zealand & Peru Jerusalem, Israel
1997 Australia England Pakistan & Singapore Bermuda
1996 England Pakistan Scotland & Singapore Canberra, Australia
1995 New Zealand Scotland Australia & England Cardiff, Wales
1994 United States Pakistan Australia & Scotland New Zealand
1993 England Scotland Australia & United States Medicine Hat, Canada
1992 New Zealand Scotland London, England
1991 New Zealand Australia Edinburgh, Scotland
1990 Scotland Australia Winnipeg, Canada
1989 not held
1988 Canada Australia Australia

Future Championships[edit]

The 2024 Championship is due to be held on 16th to 26th of July in Belgrade, Serbia.

Most successful nations[edit]

Nation Wins Runner-ups
Australia 9 5
England 5 7
Scotland 4 5
New Zealand 4 1
Canada 3* 4
Singapore 3 2
United States 2 0
China 1 1
Hong Kong 1 1
India 1 1
Ireland 1 1
Pakistan 0 2
South Africa 0 2
Swaziland 0 1
Wales 0 1

* In addition to winning the World Schools Debating Championships three times, Canada also won the Online World Schools Debating Championships in 2020. (Sri Lanka was the runner-up in that event.)

By decade[edit]

  • Most successful nation in the 2010s – Singapore (3 championships)
  • Most successful nation in the 2000s – Australia (6 championships)
  • Most successful nation in the 1990s – New Zealand (3 championships)

ESL & EFL awards[edit]

Special awards are presented at each year's World Schools Debating Championships to the best-performing English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teams. These awards are open to teams from nations where English is not an official national language. To be eligible for the EFL award, a team must be predominantly made-up of students who do not come from English-speaking homes and who do not attend schools where English is used as a medium of instruction. The ESL award is for teams predominantly composed of students who are not first-language English-speakers, but who attend schools where some or all of the teaching is in English.

The EFL award was instituted in 2005. Prior to that, there was just one award for teams from non-English-speaking countries. Before 2005, the WSDC rules stipulated that teams who reached the semi-finals or Grand Final of the championship were not eligible to receive the ESL award. After the EFL award was introduced, the rules were changed so that there was no restriction on teams reaching the semi-finals or Grand Final being able to receive the ESL or EFL award.

English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) Award Winners[edit]

Year ESL Award Winners
2023 Malaysia
2022 China
2021 China
Online Championship in 2020
2020 Sri Lanka[30]
2019 India
2018 China
2017 Peru
2016 Pakistan
2015 Pakistan
2014 Peru
2013 Peru
2012 Greece
2011 South Korea
2010 Slovenia
2009 Greece
2008 Greece
2007 Pakistan
2006 Pakistan
2005 Pakistan
2004 Israel
2003 Israel
2002 Kuwait
2001 Pakistan
2000 Pakistan
1999 Argentina
1998 Argentina
1997 Israel
1996 Israel

English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) Award Winners[edit]

Year EFL Award Winners
2023 Croatia
2022 Lithuania
2021 Romania[31]
Online Championship in 2020
2020 Romania
2019 Netherlands
2018 Romania
2017 Denmark
2016 Denmark
2015 Croatia
2014 Netherlands
2013 Indonesia
2012 Lithuania
2011 Netherlands
2010 Netherlands
2009 South Korea
2008 Slovenia
2007 Slovenia
2006 South Korea
2005 Slovenia

Best New Team Award[edit]

In some years in which there have been a significant number of nations entering the championships for the first time, an award for the Best New Team has been given to the top-ranking team from one of these nations.

Year Best New Team
2023 France
2022 Finland
2021 North Macedonia
Online Championship in 2020
2020 Brazil & Namibia
2019 Oman
2018 Northern Ireland
2017 Vietnam
2016 Rwanda
2015 Bahrain
2014 Macau
2013 -
2012 Swaziland[32]
2011 Barbados
2010 United Arab Emirates
2009 Thailand

Best Speakers[edit]

The speaker tab is determined by debaters' performance in the 8 preliminary rounds. For a speaker to be eligible for the speaker tab, they must speak in a minimum of 4 out of the 8 debates. The average of a debater's speaker scores is used when ranking individual debaters.

In the online editions of the championship (2020, 2021, 2022), teams debated their preliminary rounds in two separate divisions which grouped nations together by timezone. In 2020, the top speakers of the two divisions were awarded separately. In both 2021 & 2022, the speaker tabs of the two divisions were merged to determine the best speakers in each category.

Year Best Overall Speaker Best ESL Speaker Best EFL Speaker
2023 Annushka Agarwal (Canada) Hitishaa Goyal (India) Raphael Lamballe (China)
2022[33] Bowser Liu (China) Bowser Liu (China) Madeleine Tempelman (Netherlands) & Milda Gadliauskaite (Lithuania)
2021 Robert Leung (Philippines) Jacquelynn Lin (China) Maibritt Henkel (Denmark)
2020 Ivan Buckland (South Africa) & Jenna Hong (Hong Kong) Jane Sonamai (Wales) & Ananya Ganesh (India) Marilena Hadjicosta (Greece) & Rina Kajitani (Japan)
2019 Tejas Subramaniam (India) Tejas Subramaniam (India) Sami Petersen (Denmark)
2018[34] Dhananjay Ashok (India) Dhananjay Ashok (India) Smaranda-Ioana Morosanu (Romania)
2017 Kenza Wilks (England) Nicholas Kim (South Korea) Annika Høi (Denmark)
2016 Eden Blair (Australia) Kishen Sivabalan (Malaysia) Clara Granborg Juul (Denmark)
2015 Kate Dewey (South Africa) Kishen Sivabalan (Malaysia) Floris Holstege (Netherlands)
2014 Will Cook (England) Nishanth Selvalingam (Malaysia) Regina Cara Riantoputra (Indonesia)
2013 Bo Seo (Australia) Siddarth Srikanth (India) Carissa Tehputri (Indonesia)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Championship, World Schools Debate. "World Schools Debate". World Schools Debate Championship. Retrieved 2021-02-28.
  2. ^ Toronto teens part of Canadian team that won World Schools Debating Championships. Global News. 4 August 2020.
  3. ^ Sri Lanka first runner-up in World Schools Debating Championship 2020. Colombo Page. 3 August 2020.
  4. ^ Irish team reaches semifinals of World Schools Debating Championship. The Irish Times. 29 July 2020.
  5. ^ India win world school debating championships for first time, Tejas Subramaniam declared 'Best speaker in the world'. The New Indian Express. 4 August 2019.
  6. ^ Indians win the argument: School students win silver medal in world debating championship in Croatia. Hindustan Times. 1 August 2018.
  7. ^ S'pore students win world debate championship. The Straits Times. 11 August 2017.
  8. ^ England are good at something – Our teens just became World Debate Champions! AOL. 29 July 2016.
  9. ^ Why debating still matters. The Guardian. 6 August 2016.
  10. ^ England clinches World Schools Debating title. Al Jazeera English. 28 July 2016.
  11. ^ Teens descend on Germany for schools' debating championships. Al Jazeera English. 21 July 2016.
  12. ^ Singapore wins international debating competition. The Straits Times. 6 August 2015.
  13. ^ What's your view? Tweed Daily News. 10 August 2013.
  14. ^ Amy's got a winning way with words. Wales Online. 2 February 2012.
  15. ^ Teens debate victory. The Courier & Advertiser. 26 August 2011.
  16. ^ Pupils debating in world schools championship. BBC News. 18 August 2011.
  17. ^ Canadian teens win international debating championship. The Star. 19 February 2010.
  18. ^ Calgary debaters conquer the world. Calgary Herald. 19 February 2010.
  19. ^ NZ team wins World School Debating Championship. Newsonline. 18 February 2009.
  20. ^ NZ wins world debating champs. 16 March 2009.
  21. ^ James Fox and Ben Woolgar are crowned world debating champions. The Jewish Chronicle. 26 September 2008.
  22. ^ Kiwi team second at debating. The Southland Times. 16 September 2008.
  23. ^ Scots pupils scoop world debating cup. The Scotsman. 12 July 2007.
  24. ^ Scots pupils are world champion debaters. The Herald. 12 July 2007.
  25. ^ Aussies talk their way to world cup victory. Joint Statement - Premier of Queensland & Minister for Education & the Arts. 14 July 2006.
  26. ^ World second for Irish debaters. The Irish Times. 14 July 2006.
  27. ^ The world's best, and if you want to debate it, we'll win that as well. Sydney Morning Herald. 19 August 2003.
  28. ^ Debate team does S'pore proud in world contest. The Straits Times. 29 August 2003.
  29. ^ Ireland wins world schools debate contest. The Irish Times. 2 February 2002.
  30. ^ "Sri Lanka named best ESL team as Canada wins World School Debating Championship 2020". EconomyNext. 2020-08-02. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  31. ^ The National Team of Romania achieves a historic performance at the World Schools Debating Championships. BR Business Review. 12 August 2021.
  32. ^ Swaziland shines in World Schools Debate. Times of Swaziland. 6 February 2012.
  33. ^ [1] International Debate Education Association. 18 August 2022.
  34. ^

External links[edit]