Asian Parliamentary Format

I explain some general features of the format, namely the Teams and Speaking Order, Timing, Points of Information and Reply Speeches

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on this Format
Activities in Class or Training Exercises
Example Video 

Brief Notes on this Lecture

Debates are basically structured discussions. Each debate has a format and these rules are there to ensure fairness. I will talk about the Asian format and explain teams & order of speakers, timing, Points of Information and Replie Speeches.

In the Asian Parliamentary format there are 2 teams of 3 speakers each. The team that supports the topic is called the Government and the team that opposes the topic is called the Opposition. Each speaker speaks for 7 minutes, in alternating order. First speaker from Governement, then first speaker from Opposition, then second speaker from Government, then second speaker from Opposition and so on. At the end of these 6 speeches, each team can make a shorter Reply speech, for minutes. Either the first or second speaker of each team will have the chance to make this speech. This time the Opposition will start, followed by the Government.

The final element if this format is called Points of Information. These are short interjections (questions, comments, statements etc) - usually less than 15 seconds long that the opposite team can offer the speaker who is speaking. So for example, during the first speaker on the Government's speech, any speaker on the Opposition can rise up and offer a question, by saying "Point of Information!". The Government speaker can then choose to accept or not accept the point (although he should accept at least 1 during his speech).  This adds some interactivity to the debate.

Clarification on Points of Information

  • The team that is not speaking can offer as many POIs as they want. To offer a POI, they should stand up, raise an arm and if they want, say something short like "point of information". They cannot start presenting their POI until the person speaking gives them permission to speak. They should not be rude and try to distract or interrupt the speaker. The POI must be short and if the speakers asks them to sit down and end their question, they must.
  • The person who is speaking can choose when and from whom to accept a question. If you are offered a question and you don't want to accept it, just say "no thank you", "not at this time", "sit down please" and so on. You must take 1 POI and should try to take two.
  • A POI can be a question, a comment, an argument, a rebuttal, an example - anything that you can say in 15 seconds that will help your team win the debate.
  • POIs can only be offered between the 1st and 6th minute of the first 6 speeches of the debate (not in the reply speech).

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Asian Parliamentary Format

Hello there! Today we are going to talk about the format of a debate. A debate is basically a structured discussion, so you have some debate formats that are more open, like a presidential debate or a town hall debate where groups of people debate against each other, or you have debate formats that a far more structured, that carefully tell you how much time each person has to speak and so on and so forth. 

Every format has some kind of rules because those rules serve to preserve order and create some kind of balance. Those rules do not determine who wins or loses the debate. Debating isn't about the rules, the rules are there to create balance to tell people how much time they have to speak and so on and so forth. So in every debate format there will be some direction about the topics, about the timing, about the speaking order and maybe a little bit of stuff about the judging criteria - ow do you decide which team wins and which team loses.

Today we are going to focus on the Asian parliamentary format. This is a format that is widely used in Asia among university and highschool students and I think a good format with which to learn how to debate. 

I'm going to talk about the teams and order of speakers, timing, topic selection, Points of Information, which are the essential parts of this format. Firstly lets look at the teams and the speaking order. In the Asian Parliamentary debate format you have two teams. One team is called the Government Team and the other team is called the Opposition Team. Sometimes this is referred to the Affirmative and the Negative. The names don't really matter that much, but this is just so we understand the terminology. 

The Government team must support the topic and the Opposition team must oppose the topic. You usually won't have a choice over whether you are the Goverment or Opposition on a topic. Each team will have 3 speakers. Three in Gov and three in Opp. They will speak in alternating order. So first you will have one speaker from the gov and then the opp and then the gov and then the gov and then the opp. 

Each speaker will speak for 7 minutes. So an entire debate will take (7 + 7..) = 42 minutes. But hold on, at the end of those 42 minutes, each team gets to make an extra speech - how exciting is that! It's a kinda of summation speech, where you are comparing the teams and you are trying to persuade the judge why my team wins over the other team. So it's not really a speech where you are making new arguments, but we'll get into those details later. Hold on, hold on, some patience. So at the end of those 6 speeches, the Gov and the Opp teams get to make a reply speech. This speech is shorter. Remember the earlier speeches were 7 minutes long. This speech will only be 4 minutes long. And remember earlier the Gov team started the debate by making the first speech, this time the opposition team will start by making the first reply speech. So in essence, the Gov team always starts the debate and they always end the debate by having reply speech. 

So that's the two teams, the speaking order and the timing. 

Now we come to the topic selection. Every debate needs a topic! In the Asian Parliamentary format what happens is you usually will be given 3 topics to choose from. So you and the other team can compare and choose the topic which you both like to debate the best. How this is done is teams will rank the topics. So the gov ranks the topics 1, 2, 3 and opp ranks 1, 2, 3 and the compare the rankings. The topics which you rank 3rd, will not be debated. They will cancel each other off. So if the gov ranked the 1st topic 3rd, the oppostion ranked the 2nd topic 3rd, then the 1st and 2nd topics are cancelld and you will debate the 3rd topic.

in the situation where teams rank the same topic third but reverse the other two rankings, then you will have to flip a coin to decide who gets their first choice. If both teams ranked the same topic first then you debate that topic.

The only other thing about the Asian Parliamentary format, the last part I'm going to talk about is called Points of Information. When speakers are speaking, between the first and the 6th minute of every speech, speakers from the other side have the opportunity to rise up and offer a question. So you can say, Point of Information, "can I ask a question" " on that point" or something to that effect. If I am speaking, I can choose whether or not to accept this interruption. So I can say "yes", "go ahead". You can ask a question, make a statement or a comment or say anything you want but it has to be short - it's about 15 second long and about 2 sentences. 

So you can get up, ask your question, say your comment, and then I have to respond to it. I don't have to accept every question. But if I accept a question, I have to respond to the question. This adds a huge element of interactivity to the debate. Every speaker, gov and opp speaker, have the chance to be questioned by the other team, during their speech. You can ask questions and POIs to the other team and not to your own team. You should take at least one, preferably two POIs. There are no POIs in the reply speech. Only POIs in the first 6 speeches of the debate. 

Those are the essential parts of the Asian Parliamentary Debate Format. You have the Speaker Order, the Teams Speaking Order, Timing, Topic Selection and Point of Information. 

Teams wins a debate not by being better at the format but making a strong position on the topic, by giving strong arguments to support their position, by rebutting the arguments of the other team and by comparing each other's arguments and positions. The format is just a structure that ensures it happens in a fair and balanced way.

Let's watch a demonstration debate and see and analyse if all what I said is true. It definitely is true, but watch this debate to get an example.