BASIS International and Bilingual Schools are committed to supporting the immersive English language environment while equipping students with critical thinking skills and opportunities to distinguish themselves. As part of this goal, I began my role as the Director of Speech & Debate for the BASIS International & Bilingual Schools, China network in 2020.
During my first year with BASIS International School Shenzhen, I had the privilege of working with students from across the network, touring all of our campuses and getting to talk to parents about what this transformative activity can do for their students. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. In BASIS parents and students I have found a community that believes in the mission of our activity and is passionate about helping it grow. Ultimately, our desire is for BASIS International Schools to feature an American-style speech and debate network with hundreds, if not thousands, of students competing on a regular basis–both here in China and abroad at the highest levels.
As a former competitor myself, I credit this activity with my development as a young thinker, researcher, writer, and speaker. I first began competitive forensics in middle school as part of a theater elective and I was terrified of speaking in public. The idea of doing it competitively was mortifying but I wanted to challenge myself to grow. I went on to compete in and lead my high school program before ultimately competing for the University of Texas at Austin, where I won a title and was an officer of the program. My coaching journey began almost as early–in high school. As part of a senior project, I partnered with my own coach and educators at a local middle school and created the first middle school program at Campbell. Several of those students went on to compete at the collegiate level, and are friends to this day. I went on to be an active alumnus coach for my high school while in college, coached for the University of Texas at Austin for two years, and then made it my profession.
Working with the curriculum council, senior school network leadership, and various speech and debate educators both here in China and abroad, we have coopted the previous Grade 7 Logic curriculum, and instituted an Introduction to Speech & Debate course that every student in the network of international schools will now take during the 7th grade. The course focuses on the fundamentals of public speaking and argumentation while introducing students to the competitive world of speech and debate.
From learning the basics of competitive events such as impromptu speaking, original oratory and public forum debate, to the fundamentals of logic and persuasion, every student is challenged to think critically and speak often. With a significant speaking component, students are challenged almost daily to stand up in front of their peers, and with limited preparation, make arguments that are well thought out and effectively communicated. This class is challenging and shifts students out of their comfort zones, equipping them to be successful in a competitive job and college market where soft skills are increasingly rare and valued: critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. All of which they are learning in Speech & Debate.
In November 2021, the network hosted its inaugural BASIS International & Bilingual Schools China Southern Speech & Debate Tournament which brought together students from our four Guangdong province campuses–BASIS International Schools Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Park Lane Harbour, and BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen–to compete in a variety of speaking and debate events. This tournament represents a significant evolution in the commitment BASIS is making to support student success in this area. We will host our second event in the third trimester of the 2021-22 school year and we will move forward with expanding these offerings as we open new campuses.
Our goal is to staff experienced speech and debate educators on all of our current and future campuses to work together in a collaborative environment to not only improve the competitive acumen of our students, but to help support their success in their core curricular classes. The ideal speech and debate educator has experience as a competitor themselves and/or has coached competitive forensics in the United States.
Speech and Debate educators working within the BASIS International Schools network will benefit from a network of likeminded coaches who are interested in competitive success but also understand the ultimate goal of the ELL environment. As such, each coach as the freedom to adapt their curriculum to their individual students’ needs. They also benefit from the oversight and leadership of an administrator who is also a lifetime coach in the activity.
I am what is known in the community as a “lifer”–I have committed my life’s work to empowering students to discover their voices. That is the power of this activity. In the BASIS International Schools network, you will find students who are eager to discover, train, and use their voices and you will be a part of growing a program unlike any other in the world.
Colin Malinak is the BASIS International & Bilingual Schools, China Director of Speech & Debate.
Apply now for Speech & Debate teaching positions at our international school campuses in Nanjing and Guangzhou, and our bilingual school campus in Shenzhen.