Every democracy needs citizens who ask critical questions, who are not afraid to express their views but who also know how to listen to the opinions of others and how to respond to them in a matter-of-fact and fair way. “Jugend debattiert in Mittel-, Ost- und Südosteuropa” develops these essential competences as an international German-speaking debating competition for high school students in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
The project teaches young people how to stand up for their opinions and views in a well-founded, convincing manner and do this in a foreign language. This way the project strengthens the positive image of debating as a means of a democratic exchange of opinions and it promotes active multilingualism in Europe. The subject of the competition is debating in German about topics related to school, human rights, civic society and Europe. By dealing with relevant socio-political questions in a critical manner, it contributes to political education in the targeted region.
Training and contest
At the beginning of every season, students engage in debating in their German lessons over the course of several months. Supported by an attractive set of methodologies as well as their teachers, students prepare for the competition rounds and their topics. The contest begins with school-level rounds and continues through regional finals to national semi-finals and finals. The two best-placed debaters of national finals continue to the international finals - every year it takes place in the autumn in one of the countries participating in the project.
Four participants, two against two, debate in German about socio-politically important issues over the course of 24 minutes in total. The format of the debate is strictly set: in the beginning, every debater has two minutes to give their introductory speech, followed by a twelve-minute long free debate. In the end, every debater has a minute to sum up their arguments in the light of the debate that took place.
The debaters are evaluated by a jury of three to five members. The assessment is based on four criteria: subject matter knowledge, wealth of expression, ability to lead a discussion and persuasiveness. The level of knowledge of the German language is not taken into consideration in the evaluation. As part of the assessment, every debater receives tips for performance improvement.
Currently, over 3 500 second to fourth graders and their teachers from more than 200 high schools in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine participate in the competition every year. Debating actively engages students during their German lessons. The interaction between young people coming from different countries fosters understanding between nations. The international finals as well as joint seminars for the winners of national rounds from two or three countries enable participating students to address cross-border themes together.
Project partners and supporters
Jugend debattiert in Mittel-, Ost- und Südosteuropa is a joint project of the Goethe-Institut, the Non-profit Hertie Foundation (Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung) and the Central Agency for German Schools Abroad (Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen).
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The format of the debate is strictly set up: Four students, two on the pro side, two on the contra side, debate for 24 minutes on socio-political issues in German (e.g. "Should member countries of the Council of Europe be obliged to take in a certain minimum contingent of refugees?", "Should sport competitions be boycotted in protest against human rights violations in the hosting countries?", "Should extremist political parties be banned in Europe?"). The debate starts with an opening round in which every participant has two minutes to outline his or her position.