iMlango Junior Debaters' Contest: Strengthening literacy skills through digital competitions

he iMlango Junior Debaters’ Contest (iMJDC) is an inter-school competition that is accessible to all 205 iMlango schools.

The contest is delivered in partnership with Arimus Media, which runs the highly renowned Great Debaters’ Contest in Kenya. Each student group that enters the contest comprises of five members; and there are three rounds to each competition, with groups writing responses to a debate motion – either for or against the issue - and submitting them digitally on the iMlango platform.

Moiben Primary School have performed especially well in the contest, with all five groups from the school proceeding to the second round and two making it to the final 10. One girl pupil, Jael, who was a member of a top 10 group, demonstrated impressive progress in English over the duration of the contest.

Involvement in the iMJDC also contributed to improved engagement with the e-learning platform for Jael. She spent 14 hours 55 minutes on the iMlango portal in Term 2. She largely attributes this increase, from less than an hour in Term 1, to her involvement in the debaters’ competition.

Coupled with more structured lab-sessions during lesson-time, Jael took the initiative and used supervised out-of-hour sessions to conduct her own research for the competition.

From before the contest started, Jael scored 54 in her English exam at the end of term (1). At the end of the year, Jael scored 64, representing a 19% improvement in her score. According to Jael and her English teacher, Mr. S, the debaters’ contest combined with her initiative in using the e-learning platform’s content were the main reasons behind her increased English score. In particular, Jael’s written composition skills dramatically improved - which is an essential skill for developing core literacy competency.

Jael stated that “the competition made us work as a team. We had to agree on what we wrote, and then make our argument strong enough to get to the next round. We had to do our own research to make sure we had enough information for our answer, and then spent time carefully writing the response into the iMlango portal.”

In addition to improved English scores, the debaters’ contest has opened up a platform where girls and boys can interact academically outside of the classroom, which has enhanced equality and teamwork, and contributed to an improved work ethic amongst the pupils.