(Left to Right) Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, Dato Jude Benny, Mr Sundaresh Menon, the five Grand Champions from Catholic High School, Mr Guy Nicholson, Mr Kenneth Tan, Mr Christopher de Souza (Guest of Honour). Photo by Lim Dao Kai

SINGAPORE – St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International hosted the Beurel Debate Challenge Aug 14, for the second time since the inaugural Challenge took place in 2008.

The distinctive competition aims to bring together debaters and students from Catholic secondary schools across Singapore each year for a fiery exchange of words and to draw attention to weighty global issues. It also provides an opportunity for students of the Catholic schools to gather and mingle.

The contest is named in honour of Jean-Marie Beurel, a French brother who was faithful to the Lord and founded Catholic education in Singapore with the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
This year’s Challenge saw eight schools facing both unique motions such as “This House believes that the poet is worth a thousand scientists” and “This House believes that we have guided missiles but misguided men and women”.

The opponents were formidable. Participants came from St. Joseph’s Institution, CHIJ Katong Convent, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girl School, St. Patrick’s School, St. Anthony’s Canossian Convent, Catholic High School, Maris Stella High School and CHIJ Toa Payoh.

The Challenge comprised two preliminary rounds, where all eight teams put in vast amounts of effort in preparation and practice in order to escape elimination.

After the two tiring rounds were over, the competition resumed on the following Saturday where the pressure was palpable as gold came in sight. The four semi-finalists debated the motion, “This House believes that Antarctica should be left to the penguins”.

Following the end of the closely-fought semi-finals, two teams remained in the ring: first-time grand finalists, CHIJ St. Nicholas, and defending champions, Catholic High. The former proposed and the latter opposed the motion: “This House believes that Faith and Reason can only exist at the expense of the other”.

The Grand Finals was a debate of top-notch eloquence and content, as both teams successfully explored the feasibility of faith and reason co-existing in our world today. Both had extremely strong defences for their own case, as well as very detailed logical explanations of the various concepts and examples that proved their case worthy.

But there could only be one winner and at the end of the day, it was Catholic High that emerged triumphant.

Chairing the Grand Finals debate was Mr Ian Ernst Chai, who was SJI International’s first PSC (OMS – Open) scholar and former Vice-President of the SJII Debate Society. The judges were some of Singapore’s leading legal minds: Mr Sundaresh Menon, Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, Mr Kenneth Tan and Dato Jude Benny. The Guest of Honour was Member of Parliament and lawyer Christopher de Souza.

By Gerard Alexis Lee Hann-En

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