Kyushu University: Learning and connecting through debate

Kyushu University debaters took leadership in the 10th International Japanese Debate Course held online from August 22 to 29, 2021, sponsored by the International Society for Teaching Debate (ISTD) and the Japan Debate Association (JDA) Kyushu Chapter, co-sponsored by Kyushu University’s Faculty of Languages & Cultures, and organized with the cooperation of the Kyushu University’s Graduate School of Integrated Sciences and Global Society, School of Interdisciplinary Science and Innovation, Kyushu University Debate Club (QDC), Debate Bridge, and Hiroshima Shudo University Debate Club.

This intensive one-week debate program takes place annually to boost international exchanges among Japanese language learners and native speakers of Japanese through Japanese-language debating. The program had been held as a “debate camp” at Kuju Joint Training Center for National Universities in Kyushu Area in previous years. Following last year, it was held online instead due to the spread of COVID-19 across the world.

A renowned debate educator, Katsuya Koresawa (Hiroshima Shudo University, Director of the Japan Debating Association), offered live and recorded lectures. He challenged the participants to pop-up questions, facilitating their learning about debating tips and issues involved in the familiar yet philosophically controversial topics in education.

“Resolved: that Japan should abolish all school rules.” Japanese students from Kyushu University and overseas students learning Japanese collaborated in international teams to work in Zoom (R) and Slack (R), brainstorming issues and comparing and examining evidence for and against the resolution before agreeing on their cases to use in the mini-tournament toward the end of the camp. As is customary in competitive debate, they prepared for both sides of the debate resolution and switched sides in preliminary rounds judged by experienced debate instructors monitoring the students’ work simultaneously in the break-out rooms. The two top teams debated at the final round in the main meeting room observed by the rest of the participants, who also cast their votes together with expert judges. The heated round demonstrated the achievements of collaborative learning throughout the camp.

Kosei Enomoto, a third-year student at the School of Interdisciplinary Science and Innovation, led Team E to the champion and won the best debater’s prize in the Japanese Native Speaker Division. “The reason I have managed to receive this award was because everyone on the team helped me prepare and build the arguments. It was a meaningful time for me as I was able to see things from different perspectives while debating with other teams,” he commented.

Over 30 students from various Asian universities were able to learn and interact together using online tools during the live sessions or when working on their respective teams’ homework assignments. In a situation where face-to-face international exchange is difficult, this course has become a model case initiative for future online debate education.

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