World Schools (WSDC) debate format

This article will introduce the WSDC debate format to you. In the beginning you will find a summation of all the info that you will need about the format, then there is a lond description with everything you ever wanted to know about the Worlds Schools Debate format.

Basic information about the format:

# of people in the debate: 6
# of people in a team: 3
# of teams in the debate: 2 
Duration of the speeches: ,4 5, 7 or 8 minutes
Questions format: Points of information
Short description: Teams are on the Government and Opposition part of the debate. The important thing in the debate is, that next to the three speaches from every team, we always hear also a fourth, the closing speech from a speaker from every side.
Used in: Differend High school debate schools, and at Worlds Schools Debating Championships.

Here is the transcript of the video. Enjoy:

Todays workshop is about debate and the Worlds Schools Debate Format. We will start with generally speaking about the format and what debate in general is, then we will go to roles of speakers. Debate is formalised speaking, because each speaker in a team, and in a debate has his or her role and duties.
This is something that judges will be carefoul on and this is what they will be looking for. For you to make arguments or to refute
arguments and so on. But this is something that we are going to do later on. Let’s start with what debate in general is.
In every debate you have two sides. This is debate. Pro et contra, so one side, that is proposing something and one side, that is
opposing something. We also call this in Worlds schools format proposition and opposition. You might also hear Government and opposition. Team proposition proposes something and opposition opposes that.
What is that? That is the motion. So the topic of every debate or as we call it, the motion, is what the two teams are arguing about. In many cases and also this week, you will many times hear This house believes that. This is something that this debate format got from British parliamentary debate format, that stems from the British parliament, where they call the proposition and the oposition The house.
So this house means our side believes that, or Government believes that.

Generally speaking each team has three people in a team. So when Bojana, a few minutes ago, told you that you need to find your debate partners, with that she meant, that you need to find two people that you will be debating with. Again, each team has three
What is also important is, that you do not choose the motion that you will debate. And more important, you do not choose the side, the proposition or opposition, you are allocated the side in a debate. So for the debate today in the evening you will be given a motion and it will also say if you team is proposition or opposition. Ok, does anyone have a problem with that? Because many people often say “but how can I debate on something I don’t believe in”. “I don’t believe that we should ban smoking, how should I propose that motion”. Well in debate you are put in a role of proposing something even if you don’t believe that. So you should not take debates and arguments that happen in a debate personally. Because people in a debate are give the side and might not believe in that side. We need six volouneers. 

We believe that we need to visualise debate, especially for those of you that did not yet do any Worlds Schools debate. As said we have two sides. In real debates, that you will have today in the evening, you will have one side, the proposition, sitting left from the judge. Because judge is in front of the debaters. And opposition is right from the judge. Clearly a team seats together. What do you thing, who speaks first? Yes, the first speaker from the proposition.

What does first speaker do? Yes, he can present the team and say “my name is Dexter” and this is my lovely codebater Theodora, and my lovely codebater PJ. You might want to present your team names, but you do not need to do it. What else? Yes, define the motion.The important thing is, that  before you define the motion, you should state the motion. So that everyone knows what the motion is. It is generally good, that you have an introduction, but this is something that you will hear in other lectures. Does everyone know what a definition is? You define the words in the motion that can be misinterpreted. So if I have a motion “We should ban cloning”, what would you define? Yes, define what cloning means and how would you ban it. Would you completely
ban it, or just a part. Ok, here we come to a difference between a definition and something we usually call a model. Definition is just explaining, what cloning means. And you do not need to give a definition of a ban, beucase we all know what a ban is. We will prohibit that. But yes, you do not define wht ban means, but you present a model of what you mean by banning. You present a mechanism of how you are doing it. We say we would ban cloning by banning all scientific research in the area and
all cloning for commercial purposes. We have allready explained that by cloning we mean all animal and human cloning and so on. Of course not all debates need a model. We say that some debates are policy debates, and some are value debates. A policy debate would be “we believe that we should ban models under healthy weight”. But a value debate could be “We believe that it is wrong that corporations use models under the health weight”. Or the policy could be We should ban all ZOOs, and the value would than be This house opposes the ZOOs. The difference is that policy motions demand from you a plan, or a proposal of something. Your motion might be That developed countries should give financial aid to developing countries. Here of course it is expected from you to say We believe that every developed country should give that and that much of money to developing countries. But the value motion is We believe that it is the duty of the developed world to give financial aid to the developing countries. It is really simmilar, but the difference is that you can use all the arguments that you have in the value motion also in a policy motion.

Anja explains: When we are talking about national policies, if a new law is being introduced in your country. Of course the government has to provide us with a mechanism in which this proposal is going to be implemented. And this is called a plan. But they can not defend the values that that stands behind. So if we introduce a new law on drinking age, on education, or on the environment, there are always values involved. If we say that all the major poluters should be penalised, then of course we talk abou the value of human life and the value of environment. But we would also talk about the way this is being practicaly implemented. But on the other hand, if we are debating on a value motion The capitalism has gone too far in exploiting the environment, then we will mainly talk about the values that the capitalism represents and the values that the other side, the environmentalists represent. So I think that you should rely on your feeling. 

If you believe that the motion demands from you to make a plan make it. Because if I say, “we should do something”, the first reaction from me is “how we should do it”. But then, if the motion does not say explicitly we should do something, but somehow you feel that it requires a plan, because otherwise it would be an empty motion, than you should make a plan. An example of such a motion would be that …
Maja: The developed countries should do more to protect the environment. So you don’t necesarily need to say what you would do. It might be helpful, for you to say “we believe that these are the steps we can take, so for example reduce our consupmtion, do more in limitin g the pollution, or emmisions from our factories. And we believe this is the role of our corporations. Now you don’t need to state specificaly how many tons of CO2 emmisions will you reduce, but you give the general idea what this debate is about. This is what a model actually does.

Question from the audience: So basically a value motion states why we think something should be done, and a policy motion states how we should do it?

Maja: Yes, exactly. But don’t be tricked. It is how, but also why. Of course every how needs a why. Why should we protect the environment. Who cares, right?

Anja: It is always balancing. There is not a strict limitation that would say that you just talk about values, or just talk what is nice, what is not nice.

Maja: What we usually say is that a good model is a model you don’t talk about in the debate. Because we don’t want to have a debate about “how will you ban smoking in my home” for example. Because that is not a debate about why’s. And we say the debate about Why’s, why smoking is bad, why does the government have the right to tell me that that is unhealthy and hence I shouldn’t smoke. You should make a model, so that it is clear what you are saying, but then tell me why you believe in that.

Ok, so now we have a definition and a model. What comes then? Arguments, of course. And here (in the how and why) we have already started the arguments part. How many arguments should first speaker have? Well, we are not limiting anyone …

Anja: We are limiting you in a way that we believe that a strong argument has to have some time, so if you decide that you are able to pull through two arguments and explain them thurally, then you are perfectly allowed to make two arguments in the first speech. But if you have what is called a strategic strong first argument, and you believe it needs a little more explanation, in order for the debate to develop well, then it is perfectly ok to have only one argument. So it is just a matter of strategically allocating what you believe will set the ground for all the debate and if you feel that you need four minutes to explain your first argument, that is ok, otherwise you can also have two arguments.

Maja: Arguments are a whole new problem in a debate, so we are not going to talk about them, you will have a full lecture on them tomorow.
Anja: What would you need to know about arguments before you have a debate tonight?

Audience: Arguments are mostly a reason and then an explanation. For example if we debate on a motion, we have to say why.

Maja: True, and usually it is smart to have more why’s. Why do you believe we should do that? Because it is immoral to put animals in danger. Because we believe it teaches children the wrong walues, because we believe it is a unrealistic picture of the natural world, because it harms the balance in the nature. Whatever, just more why’s and arguments are Why’s.

Ok, so this is our great first speaker Dexter, so what he does is, just to repeat, he comes up, he makes a great introduction in our topic… (to be continued)


Lecture – WSDC – Introduction to WSDC Format – WSDA 2010 from Alfred Snider on Vimeo.

About the video: Maja Cimernan and Anja Serc of ZIP Slovenia introduce some beginning debaters to the World Schools Debating Championship format. Both are veterans of WSDC competition, Maja was WSDC EFL world champion and European Universities ESL champion 2010.
This event took place at the 2010 World Schools Debate Academy held in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia during early July 2010. The event was attended by 85 people.
For more information and to learn how to attend future programs, please consult the main website at

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