Maizura Mokhsein: Malaysia’s finest in debating

By Jude Toyat
@judetbpseeds

 

COMMERCIALLY, MALAYSIA IS BEST known for its warmth and hospitality. What is little known by many is that Malaysia has a vibrant community of debaters, whose community growth has been exponential and, for Asia’s top debater Maizura Mokhsein, inspirational.

“Young minds that are eager to take on each other battling their wits and ideas are increasing.

“In terms of the debating community here, we are very active, vibrant and talented as well,” she said when interviewed by The Borneo Post SEEDS in Kuching recently.

She received the title ‘Asia Best Speaker’ during the United Asian Debating Championship (UADC) that was held at the Nanyang Technology University Singapore in June this year after beating 360 other participants from universities across Asia.

Maizura made history in the debating world by becoming the first Malaysian to win the title in the prestigious international debating competition.

The 24-year-old from Petaling Jaya is a law graduate from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam and is currently she is working as the Chief Executive Officer at the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking.

Her strong interest in debating grew during her first week of Pre-Law in UiTM back when she was only 18 years old.

 

Awarded the Top Class Judge Award during the MADUM 2014 (Majlis Debat Universiti-Universiti Malaysia)

Awarded the Top Class Judge Award during the MADUM 2014 (Majlis Debat Universiti-Universiti Malaysia)

Receiving award for Prime Minister’s Champion Cup 2012

Receiving an award during the Prime Minister’s Champion Cup 2012

 

“They had a recruitment drive back then in UiTM. The university has a very successful debating society. I became interested so I went to the drive and never left since.”

Before that, however, she was already interested in debating in high school, but did not find an outlet for her passion there.

“I wanted to be in the English debating team but they did not have anyone who they could pair me up with so I did Malay debating, which I did not particularly like. I did it anyway, and have success with it as well,” she said.

 

Debate representing Malaysia in the Women's Exhibition Debate during the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship 2013

Representing Malaysia in the Women’s Exhibition Debate during the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship 2013

 

Maizura described debating as a sport, a hobby, and a passion and being in the debating community was just something that she always wanted to be a part of.

“The people and the debating community are very accepting and tolerant. It was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone was very open minded and engaging. It just felt like a place where you want to belong.

“What really took me in was when I saw people giving really amazing speeches, where most of them are my age and came from a similar background. I felt really inspired. It really sucked me in, and I became interested in becoming as good as them,” she added.

At first, her parents thought it was just a hobby for her, but as the years passed by, it grew to become her ultimate passion.

“Debating is a holistic development tool. My parents can tell that I was massively a different person. I speak, think, and act differently. Fortunately, they found it to their liking rather than to my detriment. They are very supportive and I believe they are very proud of me as well,” she added.
Besides enhancing the way one interacts with others, debating also boosts leadership, communication as well as critical thinking skills.

According to Maizura, Malaysia has the biggest debating calendar in the entire world, with about 40 debating tournaments a year. For the past six years, Maizura has attended around 200 local and international debating tournaments including the World Universities Debating Championship and the Asian Debating Championship.

 

Receiving award with the other finalists during the Asian British Parliamentary Championship 2013 in Beijing, China

Receiving an award with the other finalists during the Asian British Parliamentary Championship 2013 in Beijing, China

Debate in the finals of Asian British Parliamentary Asian Championship 2012 in Jakarta, Indonesia

Debating in the Asian British Parliamentary Asian Championship 2012 finals in Jakarta, Indonesia

Debate during the Octofinals United Asian Debating Championship 2013

The Octofinals United Asian Debating Championship 2013

 

Her proudest moment include coaching high school students in debating, and bringing the World Debating Championship to Malaysia where it is considered a great deal for the debating community, apart from winning the title of Asia Best Speaker. Her students at Damansara Jaya Secondary School also won the Asian Schools Debating Championship (ASDC) held in June.

Referring to her win, she said, “I felt like it was a vindication for the entire Malaysian debating community that we are very talented and competitive people and Malaysian speakers are some of the best in the world.”

She felt that it was one of her proudest moments since her win earned ample media coverage at allowing the mainstream public to learn and recognize the debating community in Malaysia which is very successful.

“When I won I felt like I won it for the Malaysian debating community. It felt really good to represent Malaysia and to be able to get that award and also because that was my final tournament representing UiTM where I felt at least I ended it on a high,” she added.

Maizura still dreams of becoming a lawyer since she is really passionate about her legal studies.

“The thing about debating is that it is my passion and hobby, not exactly my dream job but I enjoy doing it very much,” she explained.

For her, debating helps one to become more logical and rational in their decision-making.

 

Debate during the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship 2013

Warming up for the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship 2013

 

“Once you are into debating, you sort of believe that every idea can be challenged and then you start to form your own value system. That is the most liberating thing about debating, as you can then decide for yourself what is good or bad. It is a really refreshing thought process for me.”

Apart from that, debating makes one become more confident and sociable.
“To stand on a platform and present your ideas and having people willing to listen and saying that your ideas are correct is very emboldening. When you feel that you are better at speaking, your communication skills increase. That is always good.

“Since I do law that involves lots of critical thinking, debating really helps how to facing legal issues and indirectly helps me in my studies as well,” she said.

Maizura says another key to becoming a successful debater is keeping on top of current issues.

“A good debater has to always be updated with current news, has to know what is happening around the world, as well as studying into other styles of debating by watching lot of debates through any medium possible. It is more like an information-gathering type of exercise.”

She also described a good debater as someone who is always motivated and willing to learn, is eloquent and has good communication skills and very eloquent in that matter, as well as very educated in current issues.

With proper training and continuous effort, she believes anyone can become a good debater.

“Even if you don’t have the natural skills to become a debater, you have to start somewhere so this is about people who are disciplined and are committed to learning,” she explained.

That being said, she warned those that want to get seriously involved in debating that there will be a lot of failure and disappointment involve along the way, “but with strong motivation and discipline, anyone can become a good debater.”

After 10 months working with MIDP, she was promoted to the position of chief executive officer. Since then she has been passionate about promoting debating to the youth.

About MIDP

MIDP is a gateway for students to commit to progressive and continuous improvement of themselves and their student community as it is a one-stop training centre connecting students with the best training materials, training events and the highest quality trainers that Malaysia has to offer.

Here, students will be able to request for an institution trainer, join ready-made seminars, workshops, camps and tournament; and craft their own customized debate courses fit for the learning needs of their community.

MIDP was established four years ago to support the vibrant debating community in Malaysia.

“We have the most number of tournaments in the entire world. In the last four years, we have hosted every single international tournament that we can. Back then, we only had about 400 members but now we have about 6,000 members within the debating community.

“The school students that we have in Malaysia are some of the best in the world as well. We have achieved so many things. In terms of the community we are very active, very vibrant and very talented as well. At MIDP, we are trying to showcase to the public that we are actually very talented people and we to get more in touch with debating and showcase their talents as well,” she said.

MIDP aims to engage younger people in debating. For those interested in becoming a great debater like Maizura, contact MIDP headquarters at +60355117511, email info@midp.edu.my or visit www.midp.edu.my.

This year, Malaysia will be hosting the World Universities Debating Championship from December 27 until January 4 in Shah Alam, Selangor. This will the second time Malaysia will be hosting the event, the last being 10 years ago. The tournament is the only global debating platform for universities and whoever wins it is world champion.

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