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English-Speaking Union of Denmark

ESU DK logo

Creating global understanding through English

Debating 2016

14-18 November

Link to invitation in PDF - Invitation 2016

(Subject to change as details regarding the event are finalised).

Debating 2019

4-8 November
For further information contact Susan Duvander on


Debating in a Nutshell


Claire Campbell Clausen, Chairman, ESU-DK gave considerable thought to the concept of English-style debating instruction for students and teachers at Danish High Schools before introducing it at Sorø Akademi in September 2010, when dream became reality.

Since then, Skt. Annæ, Virum, Øregaard, Herlufsholm, Næstved and Ordrup Gymnasia have hosted the ESU's annual debating event. Initially, there was one host inviting four schools to compete in the debating competition; since 2014, however, two regions have been formed, namely North and South, involving 16 schools. In 2014, a new roving Debating Cup was won by Herlufsholm Kostskole.

Claire Clausen's two articles on debating, published in 'Anglofile' in 2011 and in 2015, pointed out that "Danish students' impressive English can be developed further", and that " wonderfully well young Danish students master English, and how impressive it is to hear them answering questions, thinking on their feet, defending their stand-points - in a foreign language!" Making a five-minute speech in English is no mean feat!

Mentors recruited by Dartmouth House, the ESU's headquarters in London, have trained teachers and trainers alike over the past five years, generating enthusiasm and a desire to learn the techniques of a debating process, and increasing communication skills and self-confidence of young people. Debating weeks have been concluded with a 'showcase debate', followed by audience participation, which is stimulating and amusing.

Trainers were delighted to see how quickly the students "got it" and "got into it", especially in view of the fact that teachers had expressed a certain sceptism, fearing an elitist approach which could be exclusive, but fortunately their fears turned out to be unfounded.

Rules and how to organise a debate

"The rules are available in an excellent pdf file on the ESU home page, but briefly: two teams of three are given a certain amount of time (from 24 hours to 30 minutes) to prepare the arguments of a given topic/issue. Shortly before the actual debate, they are told whether they will propose the argument or oppose it. Each member has a specific task - the leader outlines the team’s views and points, the middle speaker examines and explains them, and the third speaker summarises and concludes.

After the first four main speeches, (4 minutes in length with 30 seconds protected at the beginning and end of the speech) the debate is opened up to the audience. Then the summary speakers sum up the debate and answer questions from the floor. The opposition summary is first, followed by the proposition summary. The summary speeches are 3 minutes long, with no Points of Information. The debate can be judged by experts or simply by audience vote.

The Chair usually asks for a show of hands from the audience before the vote, and afterwards, to see if the audience has been convinced sufficiently by one side or the other to change their opinion."

Debating training leads up to two quarter and two semi-finals at the respective host schools, during which teams from each school debate the pros and cons of any given subject, e.g. organ donation, and freedom of the Press and censorship. Ten minutes before the debate commences, the teams learn which is the Proposer and which the Opposition - and then their fast-thinking and close cooperation to decide their final strategy begins. This part of the process requires clear thinking and anticipation of the opposing team's possible arguments. Part of the fun is arguing a point of view that is not their own, but after a toss of a coin, the game is set.


"Competing and winning, and intellectually debating is a wonderful tool to help clarify thoughts, analyse, conceptualise and argue to convince under time pressure".

Danish teachers and students continue to show enthusiasm for the ESU's debating training programme; this year's event will be hosted jointly by Region North (Virum Gymnasium) and Region South (Næstved Gymnasium).

An updated website is in the process of being prepared, and Board members have been instructed in the use of 'Twitter'.

Debating in Denmark

Nine years ago we introduced formal debating in English to Danish high schools. Students discover they have hidden talents for arguing their side of an issue coherently and persuasively.

ESU-DK brings debating trainers from the UK, who train both students and teachers in the tradition of debating seen in the Oxford Union debate, and the House of Commons. Students learn to use their English to express their ideas and argue their case spontaneously and effectively, with little preparation, and to convince the audience of their standpoint. Debates are proving themselves to be challenging, educationally valuable, good fun and a wonderful way to use and improve spoken English.


Planning a topic for debating - Ordrup Gymnasium 2014


Debating in Sorø 2014