Most 14-year-old girls would be thinking about keeping up with the latest gossip on Justin Bieber, but not Anh Lu Thuc Phuong, Truc Quynh Lam, and Phuong Thy Le Thai from Hanoi, Vietnam.
Their passion for debate was so strong that last year they started a debate club in school so they could get more practice and experience.
“We all think that debate is a great thing. It helps you a lot in your future career and further studies,” Quynh said.
Debate is still relatively new in Vietnam but young debate enthusiasts of different experience levels have no hesitation about working together to help one another improve.
Coaching the three girls is Hoang Duc Minh, a 22 year old civil engineering major whose debate background stems from working as an activist and debating within international conferences on climate change.
“They are young and passionate about debating but they have never debated, so I just wanted to coach them because they have the potential to be great debaters.”
To get further experience, the team decided to participate as Vietnam 1 in the Karl Popper Debate Competition held at the 2012 IDEA Asia Youth Forum in Thailand.
They were able to begin real practice two months before the competition, where they collaborated with Vietnam 3, whose members are from a different school.
“They were our mentors,” Thy explained, “We actually cooperated, met up weekly to practice and they helped us a lot for two months.”
Contrary to their expectations, Vietnam 1 pulled through to the octofinals, quarterfinals and finally the semi-finals before they were beaten by Pakistan 2, the overall champion of the KPDC.
“We are thrilled to have been able to make it so far in the competition,” said Quynh.
When they return to Hanoi, they plan to collaborate more extensively with Vietnam Team 3 and Lam Le, who formed Team 3 and is the club coach.
They also have plans to collaborate with other Vietnam youth to set up Vietnam Youth Debate Club to promote debating. “We have high hopes for the development of debate in Vietnam,” said Phuong.