SINGAPORE – Catholic High School was tops and CHIJ Katong Convent runners-up in the inaugural Beurel Debate Challenge hosted by St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International. The Debate Challenge held on Jul 5 and 12 brought together six Singapore Catholic secondary schools – Catholic High School, CHIJ Katong Convent, SJI, SJI International, St. Patrick’s School, and St. Anthony’s Canossian Convent – to showcase and to hone their debating skills.

The teams debated over motions such as "This House believes in co-education", "This House believes that religion has no place in schools" and "This House believes that the private lives of public figures should not be open to press scrutiny".

The Beurel Debate Challenge was organized with the assistance of Max Ho and Lyanna Wong of NUS.

The Beurel Debate Challenge aims to be an annual event that brings the Catholic secondary schools together and to promote greater links between them as well as being a platform for exciting and passionate debates about political,
social and religious issues.

The event was conceived by Tan Tee How, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Governors at SJI International, and initiated by Vincent Anandraj of SJI International. Next year’s Debate Challenge will have more teams.

The debates were of a very high quality. Speakers presented their case in an engaging manner. There were spontaneous rebuttals, tongue-in-cheek comebacks, and witty one-liners, ensuring an interesting afternoon for all.

The winner was chosen over three preliminary rounds, two semi-finals, and the final. The team from Catholic High School came out tops, with their precision of language, insightful, and convincing arguments giving them a narrow victory over the team from CHIJ Katong Convent, whose team members also characterised the skills of debate: spontaneity, passion, wit, and most persuasiveness.

The second and third runners-up of the competition were SJI and SJI International respectively.

The final was judged by a panel consisting of Kenneth Tan, Philip Jeyaretnam, Datoh Jude Benny and Manu Bhaskaran. Professor Tan Cheng Han, Dean, Faculty of Law, NUS awarded the prizes.

The champions took home the Beurel Cup (donated by Tan Tee How) whilst the Best Speaker Wesley Lee at the finals took home the Henniker Cup (donated by Sir Adrian and Lady Henniker).

The name of the competition pays homage to Father Jean Marie Beurel who was responsible for bringing Catholic education to Singapore and who was instrumental in the setting up of both SJI and CHIJ in 1852 and 1854 respectively.

[Ian Ernst Chai, who wrote this article is a Grade 11 student from SJI International.]

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