Is success the true goal of education?

That was the question under debate Tuesday night in Sterling-Sheffield-Strathcona Hall between Yalies and students from Tsinghua University in Beijing, jointly hosted by New Media Singapore and China Central Television. The debate, which took place in Chinese, is the penultimate event in the International Varsity Debate series in which Tsinghua students face off against Western students from various institutions.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”13513″ ]

IVD debates have already taken place at Cambridge, Oxford, Columbia and Princeton universities, among others. The Tsinghua students will travel to Harvard University today to participate in their final debate.

One team will represent the United States in a competition against teams from other countries in Beijing in November. The winning team will be selected after today’s debate at Harvard.

The Yale students argued against the resolution, claiming that being educated is more than simply a means to becoming successful. Universities should teach their students how to think, appreciate the arts, solve problems and become responsible citizens, they said.

But the Chinese students said wealthy and successful people, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are able to make the greatest contributions to society. Paying a Yale tuition is an investment for future success, they said.

Yale students Adam Scharfman ’08, Austin Woerner ’08 and J.T. Kennedy ’09 represented Yale in the debate. East Asian Studies professor Wei Su, the Yale delegation’s coach, said he was impressed by his team’s performance. The Yale students were not only competent in their spoken Chinese, but also demonstrated a mastery of oratorical skill that was on par with students from one of China’s most elite universities, he said.

The Chinese delegation believes that the Yale team has shown the strongest performance in this competition thus far, Su said. He said he is confident that Yale will represent the U.S. in Beijing.

“I’m very pleased with the result,” said Fawn Wang, Yale’s assistant secretary of international affairs. “[The Yale students’] Chinese skill accurately reflects the strength of Yale’s Chinese language program,” she said.

Yale enrolls 600 native Chinese scholars and students, providing students taking Chinese with a unique opportunity to practice the Chinese language and to learn the culture, she said. The visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao last April and the visit of 100 Yale students, faculty and administrators to China at his request a year later only increased the popularity of Chinese classes at Yale, she said.

Gabriel Monteros ’09, a student of Chinese who attended the debate, said he hopes more events like this one take place in the future.

“I was greatly impressed by my peers, and I’m very happy to see this close communication carried out between Chinese and American students,” Monteros said.

Both teams made valid points during the argument, Lucas Bermudez ’09 said. The merits of the arguments of both sides balanced each other, he said.

“I feel the experience would be so worthwhile, but I need to study really hard on my Chinese since the debate was so intense,” he said.

The Tsinghua delegation have also debated students from Singapore, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and Canada.