Sunday Star, Education, August 20, 2006
School continues to impress
THE performance at the recent HELP University College's National English Debate Competition 2006 was an intense battle of words and wit with SMK Damansara Jaya (SMKDJ) edging St Michael's Institution, Ipoh for the title.
The battle saw SMKDJ fourth formers Choy Sher Rin, Kalkena Sivanesam, Adeline Michelle Mathew and Ethan Tay Chen Ern convince the adjudicators that HIV screenings should be a prerequisite for marriage to clinch the championship.
"We spent almost 50 hours brainstorming, researching and writing speeches for every motion. It was at times tedious and stressful.
"Some would think we were nuts for putting ourselves through such mental torture.
SMK Damansara Jaya's debating champions (from left) Ethan, Adeline, Sher Rin and Kalkena with their medals.
"But preparation was the key to our triumph – our hard work has paid off handsomely," said Sher Rin.
Kalkena said the debate also made them realise the importance of commitment.
"We had to organise discussion sessions in spite of our busy personal schedules. This meant sacrificing tuition and music classes, missing lessons, and even coming back to school during holidays and weekends.
"In a way, this was a good thing because it made sure that the time we spent together was productive," she added.
The team walked away with the challenge trophy, RM5,000, a computer set, a rostrum and a camera for their school.
They also won individual prizes including gold medals, certificates, mobile phones, partial HELP scholarships and subscriptions to educational magazines.
SMKDJ's victory was even sweeter when the best speaker award went to Adeline. She received a trophy, RM500, a printer, a mobile phone and a full HELP scholarship.
"I attribute the award to the entire team. I couldn't have done it without them.
"Debate is a team activity and everyone gave their personal best. We stood by each other.
"I believe the bonds of our friendship have been reinforced through this unforgettable experience," said Adeline.
Ethan said they learnt many lessons in life through the debate.
"We've become more open to different viewpoints and more perceptive towards history and current events. I hope more students will start debating to reap these benefits," she said.
This year has been a particularly fruitful one for SMKDJ, as the school also bagged the Taylor's College Inter-School Debate Championship 2006 through its fifth formers Lee Su Lyn, Ow Xin Dee, Joel Wong Kae Wei and Lee Liang Hoong.
The students won individual trophies, a full scholarship to any Taylor's College pre-university course and a 30% tuition fee waiver to any Taylor's College tertiary programme.
The school received the challenge trophy and a cash prize of RM10,000.
"I think I speak for both teams when I thank our teacher adviser Koh Bee Lian, and our coaches, Andrew Loh Zhu An and Anton Atli Marc Jitab, for leading us to both titles. Their guidance has been invaluable and their coaching nothing less than inspiring," said Xin Dee.
Andrew Loh and Marc Jitab are former champion debaters who represented SMKDJ in 2003 and 2004.
"You don't get many teacher advisers and ex-students who are willing to sacrifice so much time to work with us," commented Su Lyn.
"They motivated us to grow, both as debaters and individuals.
"We wanted to repay their effort by giving them nothing less than our best," she added.
Joel added: "Not forgetting the help we've received from fellow students who came to help us in our discussions even though they were not in the team.
"Their spirit and assistance have indeed been commendable."
Adviser Koh said a successful debating team needed more than just good speakers.
"This year, we've been fortunate to have the whole works going for SMKDJ.
"We have dedicated students who don't shy away from hard work; ex-debaters and teachers enthusiastically spurring the team on; and more importantly, recognition and appreciation from our principal Lee Mei Leng," Koh said.
With all the right ingredients, it is no wonder SMKDJ is a giant in the Malaysian debating circuit.
SMKDJ has won eight debating titles in the last seven years, namely the national Tan Sri Datuk Wira Abdul Rahman Arshad Cup (2001, 2003), Taylor's College Annual Inter-School Debate Cup (2000, 2002, 2005, 2006) and HELP University College's Tan Sri Paduka Dr Saleha Debate Cup (2004, 2006).
Principal Lee is proud that the debating culture that the school has been cultivating has paid off.
"I congratulate both teams for their achievements.
"The dedication of both debaters and coaches has been exemplary. We need more students and teachers like them.
"They have my full support – the administration is always open to suggestions to help maximise the potential of SMKDJ's debaters," she added.
Acknowledging that talent has to be trained, SMKDJ has implemented inter-class competitions, even for afternoon session students to expose them to debate.
It aims to instil in potential debaters self-confidence and mastery of public-speaking techniques.
The school is starting a much-needed debate room, complete with a computer, printer, rostrum, and debate furniture for the convenience of future teams.
It is also planning to build an "Excellence Tower" to commemorate its impressive debate resume.
"The Excellence Tower is to ensure that the next generation of students do not forget the school's glorious legacy and to instil school pride," added Lee.