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 is the Olympiad Coordinator

The SAASTA Schools Debates Competition is coordinated by the Science Communication Division of the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement; a business unit of the National Research Foundation.

Why should I participate

The National Schools Debates Competition is an initiative that gives learners the opportunity to develop their research, critical thinking, and information literacy skills through training workshops and specialist resource packs. In addition, a platform is provided where learners can practice and refine their public speaking skillset.

Whom we target

Grade 9 to 11 learners from schools based in South Africa.

What are the entry requirements

Schools enter one team that consists of five learners from grades 9 to 11. A call for interest is sent out in May, whereupon schools respond in kind. The competition rules and guidelines are available on

How does it work

Schools enter teams by responding to a call for interest. Schools are then shortlisted based on their performance at provincial workshops. The provincial workshop has two main objectives. The first half of the workshop focuses on the training of the debating style, research methodology, and the use of social media to discuss ideas. The second half of the workshop involves a mini-debate, which is adjudicated by a panel of judges and from which a final selection of 10 teams to participate in the provincial competitions are made. Finally, the competition ends off with a national event, where a panel of judges selects the top three teams. The most interesting feature of the SAASTA Schools Debates is that each topic is argued using four different perspectives namely: economic, applications and benefits, political and socio-cultural aspects. In addition, learners are encouraged to share their viewpoint during the mini imbizo’s and with social media.

What will it cost

Free entry to all participants.

What am I awarded

Prizes are awarded during each phase of the competition and include vouchers for schools and medals, trophies and advanced technological gadgets for learners. In addition, the top team is awarded an educational trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Competition timelines

The provincial workshops are conducted in all nine provinces during August, followed by the provincial tournament in

August and September, ending with the national tournament in October every year.

Geographical Footprint


Lithakazi Lande
Call +27 (0)12 392 9352