HE has a law degree from Britain, but Don Siron Pereira decided to become a full-time debating coach working with teenagers instead.
It’s not the most conventional career move, but boy has it paid off handsomely.
Siron has just coached Team Malaysia to unprecedented success at the Asian World Schools Debating Championships and the World Schools Debating Championships, where they finished first and fifth respectively.
It all started in 2009 when Siron joined the Model United Nations programme in his university, which sparked an interest in him towards debating global issues.
“My friends and I have an inherent desire to speak our minds and thought learning about the world through MUNs was a good idea.
“However, we were also very competitive, and preferred that element in competitive debating,” said Siron.
By the time he completed his studies in 2012, Siron was already a debater, debating judge and coach; and that’s when the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) came knocking.
Today, he is MIDP’s director of training and development, and head coach of Team Malaysia.
So, what does it take to produce one of the world’s top school debating teams?
Siron said it involves some “tough exercise regimes” designed to build confidence and a critical understanding of global issues.
Preparation is key, said Siron, as debate topics are only revealed 15 minutes before each contest.
“Many issues share similar principles, and these principles are what the students have to understand (prior to tournaments) so they can identify the issues for every debate quickly, and be able to adapt,” he said.
“When a 13-year-old student of mine can provide analysis on the Food Security Bill and evaluate India’s decision to block the Trade Facilitation Agreement, I know the training is on the right track.”
Siron started debate coaching the same year he started debating, after he was offered a role by the SMK Sri Permata debate team.
Younger students are becoming increasingly involved in debating these days, noted Siron. “More students are getting ‘perfect’ results in their examinations, and this means co-curricular activities (like debating) become the tie-breakers (in scholarship and university applications).”
But on top of that, debating also gives you plenty of long-term advantages.
Siron said: “When students apply what they’ve studied into debating, they learn to rationalise the knowledge and it will make them remember better and perform better in exams.
“And in universities or at work, people with critical thinking abilities are often offered better positions. It helps every aspect of their lives.”
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