Odeh Zahran, director of RLS partner Afkar, writes about the Palestinian National Debate Championship in 2015

Odeh Zahran, director of RLS partner Afkar, writes about the Palestinian National Debate Championship in 2015. Debate training is one of the alternative tools successfully applied by RLS partners in the field of emancipatory education for social change

A New Round of Palestinian National Debate Championship in 2015 organized by RLS partner AFKAR 
The Ramallah based NGO AFKAR for Educational & Cultural Development (AFKAR) has launched another round of the Palestinian National Debate Championship for the year 2015. This event is always implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education & Higher Education and funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Regional Office Palestine. More than 160 high schools were targeted, meaning 1,600 high school students got involved, representing 16 directorates of education. The Palestinian National Debate Championship aims at exposing the youth leaders in schools, universities and community organizations to a different culture of debate, where life skills, primarily critical thinking and logical analysis are extensively practiced and equipped with scientific research and respect for human values. This program is considered a cornerstone for extracurricular activities within which emancipatory learning could be highly exposed. AFKAR commenced this program in 2009 and still strives to pave its foundations to become a methodology for life. The program was launched at the beginning of this scholastic year targeting more than 1600 students, directly, as they represented the tenth and eleventh grade within 160 public schools. It targeted 16 supervisors and 16 coordinators representing 16 directorates of education in the West Bank including Jerusalem. AFKAR sets the basis for this program by exposing supervisors and coordinators through a training-of-trainers workshop, coaching and follow up sessions. Students are also given advanced training workshops on debate concepts, criteria and methodologies including the refutation of statements which makes up the dynamic and interactive aspect of the whole process. At the beginning of the second semester in 2015 each directorate had semi playoffs among participating schools within their own directorates. Each directorate came out with a team consisting of 4 students and 1 coordinator either from one or a variety of schools to represent their directorate in order to prepare themselves for the finale competitions that were executed in the beginning of May 2015. Each directorate was preparing its team for competing over suggested political, economic, social, educational, feminism and human rights topics. At the end of finale, Odeh Zahran, general director of AFKAR, announced the results for the top 8 directorates: Bethlehem came in first, while Tubas came in second and the Jerusalem suburbs took the third place. All competitions mentioned were supervised by a panel of professional judges who obtain a long experience of evaluating students, where some of them have already worked with AFKAR since the program was first launched in 2009. It is worth mentioning that those kinds of projects are rich with objectives that work on disseminating debate culture and civic awareness amongst students. Palestinian National Debate Championship is an original alternative for old-fashioned tools of teaching. The program focuses not only on knowledge, but it also gives some weight to attitudes and values to be practiced among students. It also works on boosting the students’ self-esteem to present their cases in front of an audience in a democratic and civic way.

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