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IDEA Asia Youth Forum: A tale of two debate clubs
Submitted by Mite Kuzevski on 28 May 2012
A passion for debate was sparked for Tith Chandara, 24, when he witnessed debate in action while attending forums related to environmental and social issues in countries such as Japan and Indonesia.
In November 2011, he started a debate club at the Department of Media Communication (DMC) of the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
“We have never debated before in our department,” the assistant lecture for public relations and outreach explained.
“I decided to propose the idea to our department so we can debate about issues relevant to media such as media ethics and media environment.”
The young DMC debate club faces problems garnering student interest due to the low number of students in the department and students’ workload.
Not for the debate club set up 11 years ago by the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL) at the same university. It has about 60 members while the DMC club has about 20.
“It is the most preferable extra-curricular in our department,” says Panchakrong Vuthy, 20, an Economics and TEFL student at IFL, who is also a judge at the IFL debate club.
He says debaters from his club have received prestigious scholarships such as the Fulbright or the Australian Leadership Awards.
Both debate clubs function separately within the university, although Tith plans to seek mentorship from the more established IFL debate club.
Tith says: “Our department is still young and we would like to invite them to train us and give us advice. Maybe we can work together for university tournaments.”
They plan to further expand interest in debate by having a workshop and introducing the Karl Popper Debate Format to its members.
Panchakrong is supportive of the development of debate.
“I think debating is what the younger generation of Cambodia really need. It is empowering youth to stand up, raise hands and ask questions, speak out and voice their concerns. It is also medium in which they can build their confidence, skills and showcase their talents.”
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