New project is arguably the most fun you can have while learning

Jewish people love a good argument so the concluding day of the General Assembly will be a treat – the final of World ORT’s new international debating competition.

The competition is the product of a pilot programme introducing debating (in English!) as a powerful tool for teaching and learning in four World ORT schools – one in Bulgaria and three in Israel.

It’s fun for the students and that makes it all the more effective as a learning activity.

Debating gives students opportunities to develop a range of skills including communication, leadership, teamwork and critical thinking. Learning through debating and being active in a debating club provides experiences that are well-regarded by colleges, universities and employers.

Daniel Tysman, Head of World ORT’s Education Department

English teacher Dimitar Dimitrov has been coaching dozens of students at the Lauder-ORT “Dimcho Debelianov” Jewish School in Sofia since December.

Each of his weekly two-hour sessions involves a formal debate using what is called the British parliamentary method, a critical analysis of the debaters’ performance to see how they can improve content and delivery and giving the topic of the following week’s debate.

Debate_mate_bulgaria

Trainers from Debate Mate help students at the Lauder-ORT School in Bulgaria practice their debating skills.

“They spend the next few days researching the topic,” Dimitar said. “They have learned a lot from that and it’s helped to broaden their minds.”

Topics debated so far include same-sex marriage, compulsory military service and social media but the intention is to introduce more hot-button ethical issues related to science, such as artificial intelligence and genetically modified food as a way of encouraging more children to pursue scientific studies.

The debating has also improved their English, helped their essay writing, boosted their confidence and, in an age where civility seems in increasingly short supply, honed their ability to rebut opposing positions without being abusive or aggressive.

“We’ve had a great time doing this and we’re very excited about taking it further,” Dimitar said.

The World ORT programme is in partnership with Debate Mate, an international charity which has helped hundreds of schools develop their teachers’ and students’ debating skills for us in extra-curricular clubs and in lessons.

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