Sharing good stories from IDEA NL members #4 Haiti - FOKAL created a new notation system of the Karl Popper debate. Test it!

Sharing good stories from IDEA NL members #4 Haiti - FOKAL created a new notation system of the Karl Popper debate. Test it!

By Jean Gerard Anis
Coordinator of Youth Initiative Program
FOKAL Haiti – A member of IDEA NL

FOKAL, short for La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté, is a Haïtian nationwide foundation funded mainly by the Open Society Foundations. The Open Society Foundations is a network of foundations and initiatives established worldwide by the Hungarian American financier George Soros for the promotion of democratic values. FOKAL also receives funding from the European Union and French cooperation.

Une version en Français de l’article

Why this initiative?

FOKAL created in November 2017 a new notation system of speeches in the Karl Popper debates. We worked one month to develop this new model which aims to:

a. improve the work of the debate judge by providing him/her with the technical parameters to be noted in the speeches, on which his/her final verdict is based;
b. improve the judge's concentration, forcing him/her through this system to be more attentive to the speeches of the debaters, without which he/she will be unable to note the various indexed parameters. Beware of sleepers and distracted judges!
c. eliminate any subjectivity in the final decision of the judges, since the victory is given mechanically to the team whose total score of its 3 debaters is higher than the other;
d. avoid frustration of debaters and coaches, by making arbitration more technical in order to silence the criticisms of each other, to reduce the dissatisfaction of the coaches and the disarray of the debaters caused by the decision of the judges;
e. finally satisfy the grievances of the coaches whose debaters felt injured, right or wrong, by the old system.

How is this system new?

The novelty of this system is a more detailed stratification of the different elements of a speech to be taken into account in the notation. The layered division helps to better assess the characteristics of the speech and to better appreciate the debater's efforts to meet the format requirements and the judge's expectations.
We have decomposed each speech into several segments (definition; structure of arguments; refutation of the opposite case; rebuilding of arguments ....) and parameters (presentation ; strategy; quality of arguments, refutation, reconstruction and evidences; summary of the opposite case; clash points; stake of the debate; reasons for the victory...), each of them being an evaluation marker determined by a scale of points. 

We also added a penalty of 3 points to apply in the following circumstances:
1. A team loses 3 points if one of the 3 debaters uses hateful, anti-Semitic or racist quotes, or from authors promoting violence, racism, revisionism or anti-racism or anti-values. The 3 points will be subtracted from the overall score of the team given by the judge, and not from the individual score of the debater. The whole team must take this blame because we believe that the 3 debaters agreed together on the use of this evidence in their argumentative approach. It will be a collective penalty, but not individual.
2. A debater loses 3 points from his/her personal score (independent of the total score of the team) if he/she has been aggressive, dishonest or disrespectful in cross-examination. It will be an individual penalty.
3. A debater loses 3 points from his/her personal score (independent of the total score of the team) if he/she presented a new argument during the reconstruction of his/her arguments or during the final speech. It will be an individual penalty.

On the other hand, the new system does not tolerate a difference of 5 points or more, between 2 judges for the same debater in a game. This has the effect to reduce abusive decisions, evaluations that are too lax or too harsh, to bring judges' assessments closer to a more harmonious, more balanced and fairer judgment of young debaters. 
In this particular case, before giving its verdict, the jury must verify that there is this difference of 5 points between them. Otherwise, they will be obliged to modify the incriminated points at their convenience. However, this reevaluation of the debater score must not in any way change the initial vote of the jury that gave the victory to a team.
In addition, the lowest score a debater can get from a judge is 15 points (instead of 20 in the previous model).

The first results

Satisfied judges, easier evaluation of debaters' speeches

Our judges, who participated in the tournaments that FOKAL has organized (2 regional tournaments, 1 debate camp) or supported (10 inter-school tournaments) since then in the country, are satisfied with the new model. Despite a moment of hesitation or confusion in the first game of debate (that's quite understandable!), they quickly adapted and familiarized with the new system. This does not make the work of the judges harder, but preferentially makes easier the evaluation of the debaters’ speeches.

More 150 judges and coaches in our national network have been trained to this new notation system, from March to June 2018. A documentation kit has been provided in support to all participants. 

These documents are available here on Google Drive. This new model was officially introduced in the two regional tournaments of debate in April 2018.
Since then, this new standard of speeches’ notation in the Karl Popper debate is the only one used in the official debate tournaments organized by FOKAL in Haiti in its network.
We share with our IDEA partners this system partly based on the World School Debating Championship (WSDC) rating standard, and we hope they will experience it in their own debate program, otherwise have their advice and recommendations about that.

The WSDC in reinforcement

At the same time, we introduced the WSDC format in our national debate program. In fact, a mixed team tournament was organized at our 2018 summer camp to experiment with the format on a large scale. Despite a few small adaptation problems, our young debaters quickly showed a certain mastery of the WSDC, which will eventually become the reference format in our national program.
Three reasons particularly motivated the foundation to use this format of debate: 
- offer a new challenge and another debate experience to our young beneficiaries with this new format
- allow a come-back of our debaters in the international competitions in Europe and also in Latin America, who use the WSDC widely
- put into orbit our project of international competition in Haiti in summer 2020, in which this format will be probably used.
More 300 young debaters in our network are able to debate now in the WSDC format. We are going to extend it in all the debate trainings for schools or student organizations that request FOKAL.

Click here for more information on the WSDC format in French  

Now, our horizon is to organize an international debate tournament in Haiti in 2020.
We are preparing for it. You are all already welcome! Be ready!