Over 50 students participated at this year’s UK edition of the European Youth Debating Competition, a joint project organised by the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) and PlasticsEurope. The youth debate in London gathered students aged between 16 and 19 from London and surroundings from 10 schools to discuss the theme "People, Planet, Profit in the Digital Age: With or without Petrochemistry and Plastics?”. Three young debaters were selected to represent the UK at the European Finals to be held in Berlin on 1st October, during the 51st EPCA Annual Meeting.
Students discussed the role of petrochemical products in our daily lives especially through key applications such as computers, sportswear and innovative plastics used in both modern medicine and renewable energy. They also underlined the side-effects of our society’s consumerism, and the need for a change in our behaviour to better re-use and recycle products. Furthermore, they have concentrated on issues that are of high importance to them, the young generation: How interconnected will we live tomorrow? What kind of education is required to be successful in this new digital age? How are society, environment and the economy affected by the digital revolution? During the debate, the participants are divided into fixed speakers with pro and con factions, and free speakers who have the possibility to argue from any position. Moreover, participants and members of the audience are encouraged to show how convinced they are of the speeches and arguments, by displaying green or red ballot cards, thereby ensuring an interactive and enjoyable debate.
The 7-strong members of the jury was composed of representative from the plastics and petrochemical industry sector, academia and media representatives, who analysed the young debaters’ performances based on their knowledge, ability to express themselves and interact with each other. At the end of the debates, the jury rewarded the three outstanding debaters: David Fagmeni (Westcliff High School for Boys), Cecili Ward (Prendergast School) and Rachel Kale (Prendergast School).
Harbinder Bhanvra, Business Manager at SABIC who presided over the debate, praised the students’ debating skills: “I was really impressed by the students. From the way they handled the difficult content matter to the way they formulated and delivered their thoughts. It is truly remarkable to see young people taking up public debate in our country”, he said.
Nathalie Debuyst, Communication and Education Manager at EPCA, and member of the jury was delighted: “This competition gives us a unique opportunity to connect with a new generation. It gives us the chance to listen and learn about their views and expectations about the future. I witnessed an engaging debate amongst digital natives who showed great enthusiasm and understanding of society’s development and needs and the contribution of science, petrochemistry and plastics in our daily lives”.
Prior to the debate, Kim Christiansen, North Region Director at PlasticsEurope, reflected on the concept of engaging with young debaters. “For the past two years, we have been engaged in these debates and once again, this debate reminds us of the impressive standards of British debating societies.” In the last edition of the EYDC, Caroline Gakpetor, a UK student, was one of the joint first-place winners of the European Finals in Budapest, during the 50th Anniversary EPCA Annual Meeting.
The next national debate will take place in Paris, France on 15th September 2017 after the summer break.
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