8. Parli – WSD (G6-12)

What is Parliamentary Debate?

Parliamentary (Parli) debate is a British style debate that is gaining popularity worldwide. So much so that it has been adopted as the official style of the high school level World School Debate Championship (WSDC), college level World Universities Debating Championshipand the European Universities Debating Championship. Locally, this format prepares students for Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia Schools (IASAS) and World Scholars Debate (WSC). In fact, the U.S. National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) has longtime been partnering with WSDC and hosted 2017 WSDC in the U.S. as below:

Unique benefits to learning Parli & Its Structure

  1. It forces students’ to have better teamwork as its 1 team consists of  a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 5 people.
  2. It compels students’ to think fast on their feet because at least half of their debate topics are released about 15 minutes before the round.
  3. It improves students’ impromptu speaking ability because their topic is different each round. 
Each debate round has two three-person-teams. The first speakers of each sides deliver the constructives either representing the Government or the Opposition Party.  Then the second speakers of the each sides rebuts, and the third speakers of the each sides concludes.  Speeches are usually between five and seven minutes in duration as below: 

WSDC-Speaker Role & Points Rubric_Page_1

WSDC-Speaker Role & Points Rubric_Page_2

How is British Parli Different from the U.S. PF, LD, Policy Debate?

No Crossfire, but POI: Unlike the U.S. Style debate such as PF, LD, and Policy, there is no designated time for “crossfire” in the Parliamentary debate. Instead, all speakers are expected to interrupt their opponents’ speech with Points of Information(POIs). However, the POIs are usually rejected by saying “no thank you,” except for about 2 times average during the 5-8 minute speech, each POI usually lasting no more than 30 seconds.

Less Stress on Evidence, More about Persuasion: Successful Parli debaters are eloquent and cogent speakers who don’t rely on evidence very much. In fact, they cannot, as their topics (motions) are given to them 15 minutes before a debate round, making it impossible to research in advance. Thus, even for preannounced motions, Judges also hardly ever check the debaters’ evidence for credibility. 

Speech Style is #1 Voting Issue: Judges are trained to award more points for speech style – i.e., fluency, volume, organization, and even humor –  as opposed to argumentation. This doesn’t mean argumentation is not important, as it is also an important voting issue for Parli. However, compared to the U.S. style debate, there is less emphasis on evidence and research. 

ADL’s First Success with Parli at 2017 NSDA – WSD Invitational

Coached by Julian Gagnon, ADL’s first WSD team participated in 2017 WSD Invitational hosted by NSDA, and ranked the top international team with a record of 3:3. In fact, this was the best ever record for Taiwan WSD team, as prior teams’ best record was never higher than 2:4 in the world stage. Team members (Brandon Chen, Kelly Phil, Gene Chou, Eliot Wang) qualified by winning in PF event in 2017 NSDA Taiwan District Tournament. 

2017 WSD – NSDA Motions (as an example)


Round 1: This House regrets the rise of alternative media.
Round 2: This House supports compulsory climate science education in secondary schools.
Round 3: Impromptu Motion
Round 4: This House would increase sanctions on Russia.
Round 5: Impromptu Motion
Round 6: Impromptu Motion


Double Octafinals: This House believes that the commercialization of feminism has been detrimental to the movement.
Octafinals: Impromptu Motion
Quarterfinals: Impromptu Motion
Semifinals: Impromptu Motion

Finals: This House regrets the rise of global populism.

Historical information about WSDC – the Parli format

The U.S. has almost 100 years of debate history. It started with policy debate, then about 35 years ago (1981), LD debate was introduced to NSDA to make it easier, then about 15  years ago (2002), PF debate was introduced to NSDA to make it even easier for beginners.


Now, about 5 years ago (2013), US NSDA has introduced the British style WSD (Parli) to make it even more accessible for kids who didn’t make it to Policy, LD, or PF. In the US NSDA, kids who don’t make it to the traditional US style debate, eagerly applies for WSD, as this debate is new, so more space, and even allows more people in one team – up to 5 kids can be in one team. This also means tournament organizers make more money because US debate can only house 2 – 4 students per 1 judge in 1 room, but Parli can house 10 students per 1 judge in 1 room.


For all these reasons, now Parli has been chosen to be the format for the world stage debates because for foreigners who have not been trained in the US style debate find the Parli format easier to learn, as it requires less research and has no crossfire, so more accessible for the world audience and doable for the non-expert debate judges they hire to do their jobs.


Usually in the US NSDA WSD, half of their topics are pre-announced, so does require some research, but their goal is to produce competent and cogent speakers rather than heavy researchers and philosophers like US style debate.


If you love speech more than the technical debate strategies, then Parli is a perfect style for you, as it is more of an impromptu speech competition because judges are trained to focus more on debaters’ speech style than their evidence.


However, while the format is easier, for students who cannot think quickly on their own feet, Parli is actually more difficult because in this format, the topic is announced only a few minute before each round, and for each round, a new topic is given.


Now, the trend in the world stage parli – WSDC – the US debaters are dominating and winning even in British style debate. Why? US debaters focus more on research and evidence due to their training in PF, LD, and Policy, so their content of debate case is much stronger. In other words, by US debaters’ participation in the WSDC, other opponents have been challenged by the more sophistication US debaters bring to this circuit.