Educational debate is the central form of debate utilized by the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), exemplified by the annual summer Youth Forum, which is the site for not only the Karl Popper World Championships and the Mixed Teams Tournament, but also, several days of workshops, training, and cross-cultural exchange.
Traditionally, debate competitions were contests between schools or clubs within which debaters trained. In fact, winning debate teams brought and continue to bring a great deal of prestige to their club, school, city, region, and even nation. While such competitions are highly valuable, educational debate adds to the dominant competitive format by highlighting international pedagogical and cultural exchange. In other words, educational debate retains the motivating value of competitive debating, but stresses the pedagogical benefits of debate as a cooperative exchange of ideas. Beyond its necessary effectiveness in debate, delivering a quality argument and employing effective critical thinking skills are abilities necessary in several areas of life.
Educational debate is a symptom of an increasingly globalized environment and, to a lesser degree, educational debate is connected to the rise of English as a language for international communication (although several international debate competitions, with the stress on debate as a contest, are in English or other widely-spoken languages dominant within a region).
Stressing debate as a tool for taking on varying perspectives, educational debate forums afford opportunities of cross-cultural exchange amongst participants, notable in the development of the IDEA Mixed Team Championship Tournament, where debaters from different nations are teamed with one another, learning how to work with colleagues they have never teams with before. By teaming individuals from various nations and skill levels, group identity is not only developed through the traditional means of national or ethnic allegiance, but also through the ability to cooperate with one another under the pressure of a competitive environment. An added challenge comes in the form of the introduction of a new topic, around which the newly-formed Mixed Teams must develop their strategy, cases, and roles.
Because debaters are also paired according to their different skill levels, determined by their placement in the national tournament, the Karl Popper World Championships, debaters are also encouraged to help one another develop as better debaters during the Mixed Teams Tournament. As this example indicates, educational debate does not abandon the competitive element of debate, but through its emphasis on the principle of cooperation, educational debate does add some variety to the more typical understanding of debate competitions.