The SAASTA National Schools Debates Competition is one of the flagship projects that provides learners with an opportunity to
develop their research, critical thinking, and information literacy skills, as well as their ability to work as a team to present logical
arguments. Amongst the objectives of the competition is to build science communication ambassadors out of learners through
researching and debating of high-level scientific topics. The competition, established in 2008 in three provinces, has since
expanded to include all nine provinces.
Schools enter one team that consists of five learners from grades 9 to 11. A call for interest is sent out in May, whereupon
schools respond in kind. The competition rules and guidelines are available on www.saasta.ac.za.
The SAASTA Schools Debates Competition is coordinated by the Science Communication Division of the South African Agency
for Science and Technology Advancement; a business unit of the National Research Foundation.
The National Schools Debates Competition is an initiative that gives learners the opportunity to develop their research, critical
thinking, and information literacy skills through training workshops and specialist resource packs. In addition, a platform is
provided where learners can practice and refine their public speaking skillset.
Grade 9 to 11 learners from schools based in South Africa
How it works
Schools enter teams by responding to a call for interest. Schools are then shortlisted based on their performance at provincial workshops.
The provincial workshop has two main objectives. The first half of the workshop focuses on the training of the debating style, research
methodology, and the use of social media to discuss ideas. The second half of the workshop involves a mini-debate, which is adjudicated by
a panel of judges and from which a final selection of 10 teams to participate in the provincial competitions are made. Finally, the competition
ends off with a national event, where a panel of judges selects the top three teams. The most interesting feature of the SAASTA Schools
Debates is that each topic is argued using four different perspectives namely: economic, applications and benefits, political and socio-cultural
aspects. In addition, learners are encouraged to share their viewpoint during the mini Imbizo’s and with social media.
Free entry to all participants.
Prizes are awarded during each phase of the competition and include medals, trophies and advanced technological gadgets for
learners. In addition, the top team is awarded an international educational trip to visit various science related sites in New York.
The provincial workshops are conducted in all nine provinces, followed by the provincial tournament, ending with the national
tournament in September/October every year.