On February 10th, Avenor hosted the inaugural regional round of the prestigious Oxford Schools’ Debate Competition in Romania, bringing together 56 students from 8 schools. This stage required participants to engage in two British Parliamentary-style debates, with the top 3 teams advancing to the final held at the University of Oxford in March.

During the event, two Oxford students, our guests for a few days, provided explanations on the rules, served as judges, and closely observed the competitors.

Special congratulations to the Avenor team comprised of Ioana and Sofia, students in  Grades 9 and 10, who will represent Avenor in the final stage of the Oxford competition.

Louisa Dăscălescu, teacher of History, and coordinator of the Avenor Debate Club was the driving force behind and organiser of this project, tailored to provide the Avenor Debate team with the opportunity to participate in a significant international competition, pushing their limits and preparing them for the future.

In the interview below, Louisa shares insights on what participating in such competitions means for our high school students.


What was your motivation for organising such an event at Avenor?  

Romania is lucky to have ample opportunities to debate in local competitions and events. That said, where were the opportunities for students to participate as a school team that led to a bigger competition or final elsewhere? The debate bubble in Bucharest is excellent, but the students are very familiar with each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and I felt they needed an additional challenge. 

The Oxford Schools’ Debate Competition is a very popular event in the UK – it has over 350 schools competing every year. More recently, it has also grown internationally, with regional rounds in different countries all over the world opening up. I felt it was important for us to have a regional round in Romania and to give students competing the chance to progress to a final with unfamiliar faces in the historic Oxford Union at the University of Oxford.


How many debate teams does Avenor have?  How has the interest of students grown for such competitions?

Avenor Debate Club for grades 8-12 currently has 33 members! I hope it will keep on growing next year! 

When it comes to competitions, we set up an internal qualifier to ensure that the selection process is fair and that the students who are ready to compete go forward to represent our school. Some students are more interested in the World Schools’ debate formats where they have teams of 3 and a reply speaker, whereas some enjoy the British Parliamentary style with teams of two and only 15 minutes time to prepare for a debate!


What were the debate topics, and what results did our school achieve?

The regional round of Oxford Schools’ Debate Competition implied for the 56 participant students to take part in two rounds of debate on the motions selected and introduced by the two students from Oxford University: for the first round, ‘This House Would demolish all monuments built by recently toppled repressive regimes’ and the second round, ‘This House Prefers a world in which elderly parents live with their adult children as opposed to living separately.’

Our school did very well – one of our teams was amongst the three top performing teams, who qualified for the final at Oxford University. The environment that day was highly competitive with all teams achieving good scores. As a result, the decision to choose three finalist teams was made by the judges from Oxford University in collaboration with the judges from the other schools. As the organiser of the day, I can say that the top ten performing teams were all a few points within each other!


What does it mean for the winning team to attend the second phase of the competition, which will take place at Oxford?

The final at Oxford will be a significant step up: speaking time will increase from 5 minutes to 7 minutes, and students will be able to bring pre-prepared material with them to support them in the debate, but it will be tricky ensuring that the material will be relevant and they will have to think quickly on their feet and adapt to arguments they don’t predict coming from equally strong public speakers.


Why is it important for students, in the long run, to participate in such competitions?

While the competitions themselves are a chance for students to test their strengths as public speakers against other worthy opponents, the work they put into preparing for competitions is equally or more important than the competitions: the super-curricular reading they do to be familiar with an array of motions and topics, tirelessly honing their persuasive writing and public speaking skills through practice rounds – these actions equips students with attributes and competencies that make them successful in their further education and careers as well as debates.

A highlight of our recent Oxford Schools’ Debate Competition – regional round – was having our two guest judges, students from Oxford University, speak to our students in high school about the value of extracurricular activities in the process of applying to universities in the USA and the United Kingdom.

Ultimately, exposure to debate or other extracurricular activities that facilitate a better understanding of the self and the word will undoubtedly help students narrow the scope and focus of their future applications for university, whilst also arming them with confidence, competencies,  and knowledge about how to present themselves and communicate effectively.