Oxford University

From Burnaby Mountain Secondary to Oxford University – Debate Opens Doors for Students

Miranda Collett and Carolyn Chen, two students at Burnaby Mountain Secondary are heading to Oxford University, England to compete in the Finals Day debate competition in March. They were the only duo in Western Canada to qualify for the prestigious event which is attended by top high school debate teams from around the globe.

Debate clubs are popular in Burnaby high schools, and debating is an important skill for many professions – most notably law and politics. For international students, it is a valuable opportunity to gain a solid grasp of English. Debate also dovetails perfectly with many aspects of the new BC school curriculum.

Oracy: A Skill Every Student Should Hone

From Bill Clinton to Arianna Huffington, debate clubs have always attracted the best and brightest of students. World leaders come to debate the issues of the day at the Oxford Union. Oracy, the skill of competent public speaking, is an asset in politics, law, sales, marketing, and more. Debate is more complex than public speaking as the debater is required to assimilate others’ information and respond, rather than just present.

How Does Debate Work?

Debate is comprised of two teams, one of the affirmative side, and one of the opposition/negative side. A moderator will give the teams a topic to debate on. This topic is called the resolution or motion. Usually, the teams will not have much time to prepare, so, like improvisation (improv), students have to think on their feet, and fast.

burnaby debate student trip to oxford

Debate Fosters Active Listening

Debaters need to hone their active listening skills. A good debater listens closely to his or her opponent’s argument either in favour or against a motion. If the debater does not listen with rapt attention, they will not succeed in taking down their opponent’s argument. The debate is won by the team that convinces the judges that their side is best and that their opponents’ argument is flawed.

Debate Hones Critical Thinking and Collaboration

Even if a student does not personally hold the point of view they are assigned, that student must argue that side persuasively. How is this helpful with BC’s new curriculum? There is an emphasis on the core competency of critical thinking that students need to consider different perspectives from their own. Debate forces students to critically examine the pros and cons of an issue. Furthermore, working in teams means that even if the teammates do not agree on an issue, they must work together to present a united front.

Burnaby Mountain Students are going to Debate Finals at Oxford University! Click To Tweet

Start Locally

While Collett and Shen are off to Oxford University in March, there are plenty of ways to get involved locally. Join the school debate club and compete in local competitions sanctioned by the Debate and Speech Association of British Columbia. Successful debaters can attend competitions regionally and nationally after proving their mettle in Metro Vancouver.

With practice, students will find that arguing persuasively, competently, and confidently will open many doors for future success!

Why study in Burnaby?

With superior academic programs and modern facilities, all located within a city of vibrant green spaces, modern shopping malls, safe residential neighbourhoods, and state of the art public transit, choosing an education in Burnaby is the right choice.


Burnaby School District has one of the largest Advanced Placement (AP) programs in Canada.


Burnaby is located in the centre of Metro Vancouver. Its world-class SkyTrain public transit provides access to downtown Vancouver in just 30 minutes.


Burnaby schools feature modern facilities and state of the art technology.

SD41 Partners