Insights & Media

Insights & Media

China BP & British Parliamentary Primer

September 29

From October 1st – October 4th LearningLeaders coaches will accompany 22 students to Beijing to compete in the 5th China British Parliamentary Debate Competition. This competition is one of the largest and most reputable British Parliamentary Debate competitions in the region. Around 250 competitors will come from high schools and colleges throughout the Asia region and judges will be coming in from around the world. All students will compete in 9 intense preliminary debates over three days and the top 32 students will enter into elimination debates on the final day of the competition. We wish all the competitors good luck! More information about the event can be found here:



What is British Parliamentary Debate?

British Parliamentary Debate (or BP debate) is the most widely utilized format of debate at the collegiate level in China and around the world and is the official format adopted by the World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC). BP debate is a unique format that requires wide-ranging knowledge of current events as well as classic controversial topics in philosophy. At LearningLeaders, we believe that for debaters in the Shanghai area the ideal debate program for students is to compete in both Public Forum and British Parliamentary debate (as well as World Schools Debate and other parliamentary formats). Training in BP debate enhances, rather than trades off with, students’ ability to compete in other formats like Public Forum we have chosen our training program to maximize the ability of students to avail themselves of the most competitive and rigorous debate formats in the region and in so doing to develop their leadership and communication skills to the fullest. Competing in BP debate is beneficial for students in multiple ways explained below.

Quality of Competitors

Training students in BP makes it possible for students to compete in the most competitive competitions in the region because the competitors at BP competitions are primarily college students. There may even graduate students from throughout China as well as the Asia region. Most BP competitions are “open,” which means anyone can participate. The result is that for LearningLeaders students, participating in British Parliamentary debate competitions allows them to access the toughest debate competition in the region. Competing against the best competitors and taking on ever greater challenges is necessary for maximizing the argumentation, public speaking, and critical thinking skills that we cultivate at LearningLeaders.

Quality of Judges

In nearly every major BP competition, the quality of judges is extremely high. Debates are judged by experts who are trained to make reasoned decisions and give detailed feedback to each of the participants. One reason why entry fees are slightly higher at BP competitions compared to others is that the tournament organizers typically fly in expert judges from around the world. Advertising the quality of judges is a key way in which BP competitions attract top competitors. The LearningLeaders students who have competed in BP events have been very impressed by the quality of judges and the detailed feedback they receive from them.

Impromptu Topics

In BP events the debaters do not know the topics of the debates prior to the competition. There is a new topic in each round of debate that is announced 20 minutes prior to the start time of each of the rounds. Debaters are not allowed to access the internet or receive any outside help during their preparation. This challenges students to think on their feet and encourages them to possess wide-ranging knowledge of current events and controversies. It also trains students to apply broad theoretical frameworks to a range of specific controversies. This is a high order analytical skill that will help students in other parts of their academic and intellectual lives.

Long Speeches

Every student in a BP debate gives a 7-minute speech. This is particularly challenging given that the topics are impromptu and the students cannot prepare their speeches beforehand. Giving a longer speech poses organizational challenges that help students develop the ability to sustain a line of reasoning and a cohesive, comprehensible train of thought.

Points of Information (POIs)

A unique feature of the British Parliamentary format is the POI, or “point of information.” A POI refers to a question or statement posed by a debater to a member of the opposing team in the middle of the opponent’s speech. Mirroring the raucous environment of the British Parliament, debaters can stand up and ask permission to offer a question or comment to the speaker. All speakers in the debate are encouraged to accept 1-2 such POIs. This requires debaters to think spontaneously and respond to questions and objections smoothly without getting derailed from the organizational structure of their speech. Additionally, POIs add an interactive element that makes the debate interesting and fun for participants and audience members.

Complicated Strategy

Strategy is involved in every debate format, but in BP debate the strategy element is uniquely sophisticated. This is because there are four teams rather than two competing in the same contest round. Debaters are not simply competing for the win or loss but rather for a ranking from 1-4. Each of the teams will compete against three other teams and attempt to distinguish themselves and their arguments from the other teams in the debate. This requires each team to provide a comparative analysis between their position and the two teams on the opposite side of the topic as well as a comparative analysis between another team on the SAME side of the topic. In doing this, students have to think carefully about the significance of their arguments and be able to prioritize different arguments on the same side of a particular topic.

Look out for more updates about different debate styles and competitive opportunities!

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