The SAASTA National Schools Debates Competition is one of the flagship projects that provides learners with an opportunity to develop their research, critical thinking, and information literacy skills, as well as their ability to work as a team to present logical arguments. Amongst the objectives of the competition is to build science communication ambassadors out of learners through researching and debating of high-level scientific topics. The competition, established in 2008 in three provinces, has since expanded to include all nine provinces.

Who may enter?

Learners from grades 9 – 11 who are:

    • interested in developing their scientific research and information literacy skills;
    • critical thinkers; and
    • willing to work as a team to present logical, clear arguments.
    • At least two of the learners must take science-related subjects at school.

How does it work?

The SAASTA Schools Debates structure is not based on proposition/opposition presentations, but allows debaters to engage with one another and move toward a common resolution. Perhaps one of the most interesting features is the mini-imbizos by means of which learners get to interact with one another and share ideas through breakaway discussions and by making use of social media.

Each team is assigned a particular perspective, which they contribute to the collective debate. 

The Four perspectives are : 

Science and technological developments should address the needs and challenges of greater society. From this perspective, some points to consider are:

    • What can/will the science or technology in question practically offer or do for the individual and/or society?
    • What are the benefits to larger society?
    • What are the risks or potential fallout of failure?
    • Does the potential application address short-term needs or have long-term benefits?
    • Is it sustainable?
    • Will the development of the particular technology require or drive further scientific and technological advancement?

Research and development in science and technology requires significant financial investment but can lead to new technology that has larger economic benefits. From this perspective, some points to consider are:

  • What level of investment into research and development of technology is required?
  • What will it cost the individual and/or society to benefit from the science and technology?
  • What are the economic benefits?
  • Does it support growth of developing economies?

Developments in science and technology are influenced by and impact cultural values and societal dynamics. From this perspective, some points to consider are:

    • What social or cultural issues exist around the scientific development?
    • Are there ethical or moral issues to consider?
    • Is the advancement of the science and implementation of technology hindered or supported by cultural beliefs/ attitudes?
    • Will the advancement of science impact cultural beliefs and attitudes and bring about cultural evolution?
    • Does the science and technology advance society?

Scientific developments and implementation of technologies take place within a political environment. From this perspective, some points to consider are:

  • Who owns the scientific knowledge and products?
  • Are there issues of equity?
  • Who is involved in the decision-making process of developments in science and technology?
  • Are governments accountable for their decisions around the science and technology they develop?
  • Can society be involved in the process of scientific research and technology development


The national winning team for 2019 will be awarded an all expenses paid science tour in South Africa.

To enter the competition each school must complete the entry form and submit it to SAASTA.

Closing date for entries: 15 February 2020.

A maximum of 25 schools will be able to attend the provincial workshop.

The selection process

Due to its popularity and the fact that the competition is limited to 10 schools per province, the 10 schools will be selected at the provincial workshops based on how well the schools do in a “mini-debate”. All schools attending the workshop will be required to prepare and deliver an opening and closing statement from the perspective of their choice.

At the provincial workshop 2019, teams will debate the following topic:

“Science and technology are key to understanding climate change and responding to it. Climate change will potentially impact many aspects of our lives, including health, access to clean water, energy, and food security. How must science and technology be used to respond to the harsh realities of climate change in South Africa?”

Important dates

 Provincial workshops 3 August 2019
 Provincial tournaments 24,31 August, 7 September  2019 ( 3  provinces per weekend)
 Final tournament 24 September 2019

Venues for the tournament will be communicated to all the schools in due course . 

 Provincial tournaments dates

 Dates Provinces
 24 August 2019 Eastern Cape Western Cape Northern Cape
 31 August 2019 Kwa Zulu Natal Free State Mpumalanga
 7 September 2019 North West Gauteng Limpopo