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IDEA UK: debating life in Bulgaria and the UK

‘Is it better to live in the UK or Bulgaria?’ is perhaps not a question most of us here in the UK think about regularly (indeed the comparison most Britons will think of is with the USA, Australia, or France) but it is of immediate relevance to one community; Bulgarians in the UK. And so it was at the Bulgarian Shkolo Vasil Levski a Bulgarian complementary school situated in Barking, East London. Students attend at the weekend learning about Bulgarian literature, Bulgarian history, Bulgarian geography, and most recently debating as part of IDEA UK’s Debate in the Neighbourhood.

There were two debates; one in Bulgarian and one in English. The first was between pupils in 6th year (10-11 years old, last year of primary) and took place as a combination between a Karl Popper style debate with two teams of three, and a media question and answer session as the debate was recorded, and presented by the year 6 pupils themselves (an edited version of the video, in Bulgarian, can be found at https://youtu.be/WYy-dOK4fHc). Questions were also asked by the Jury in the panel; the trainers and teachers.

The second debate, which took place on 11th July, was chosen by the pupils as their end-of-year programme to mark the end of the school year. The debate was conducted by year eight and nine (12-15 years old) as a show debate with an audience of parents and teachers. Having chosen to have a debate, rather than recitals of poems and songs, the students were really dedicated and enthusiastic about putting on the debate. Participation by the audience of parents through asking questions was encouraged making them active participants in the event rather than passive onlookers as is usual at the end of school event.

Everyone considered the debates a valuable experience, and it was the success of the first debate that led to the second debate going ahead. But the most exciting outcome of the training and debates for Boyko Boev, the trainer, was seeing how one pupil came out of his shell in the first debate having “previously not been very involved in the classes, and only got involved [in the debate] because he was invited to do so by another of the participants, ended up winning an award for the most original / witty arguments.”

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