Political literacy needs to be a part of the school syllabus at an earlier stage, say university students

BETTER exposure to political education is needed if Malaysia hopes to encourage more young people to go to the ballot box when elections take place.

Voicing their concern over the lack of political literacy within the youth demographic, some university and college students say that education on the electoral process and the importance of voting should be taught earlier in school so that the country’s youth will have a good grounding in politics and governance once they hit 18, the age at which they now become eligible to vote.

Lim Yue Kin, 18, thinks that it is extremely important to have political literacy and voter education introduced in schools, or generally at a young age.

“I strongly believe that people in my peer group are very apathetic and do not have much care for voting or for the political climate in Malaysia,” Yue Kin tells Sunday Star.

“If you ask average teenagers in a normal public secondary school, many would be confused about how our Dewan Rakyat works. I believe that many don’t really know about the procedure in Parliament or even voting. People just don’t care or are too busy to care,” he says.

Yue Kin hopes for more political interest among Malaysia’s youth because the decisions made in Parliament and in the political arena will have a direct impact on how all of us, including the young, live our lives.

“For example, when Covid-19 SOPs are formulated, it involves things like whether we can go to school, whether we can work, and whether we can see our friends,” he points out.

“I think the main issue of why our youth are so uninterested in politics is because they don’t understand the rights they have and the power of the vote.”

One of the sources of this problem is the current public education system, he believes.

“We are so focused on getting straight As in biology, chemistry and additional mathematics, but we don’t have a subject that really delves into the structure of Parliament, how laws and policies are made, and we never really get the chance to criticise or talk about the decisions made by those in power.

“In fact, we are discouraged to talk about such matters in the school environment,” Yue Kin says, adding that such political education should be introduced in either secondary or primary school.

When Abqari Annuar, 21, was in Form Six, he noticed that many of his classmates seemed disinterested in Pengajian Am, or General Studies.

“Perhaps this is because the syllabus was not introduced earlier in secondary school and we only learned it in Form Six. At that time, many of my peers were focusing on making money and other things that interested them. However, once I started my degree I noticed that my seniors were very politically literate,” he says.

One reason for the apathy may be because many young people see politics as being “dirty” and do not see how they can gain anything from it. But there are those who see politics as a way of creating a better society and as a vehicle for change, says Abqari.

We need to amend our education system, he notes.

“In high school, we learned history just to pass SPM. This must change. We need to teach General Studies and provide more information about Malaysia and governance from Form One, not at Form Six. We also need media that is unbiased,” he says.

The government must also play a part, Abqari adds: “The government has a wide range of resources and must do more work with NGOs to promote political literacy.”

Although Aaliyah Nadjmin, 19, observes an increase of youth interest in politics, she says that many still do not think politics should be a concern of theirs, and perceive politics as a hopeless field overwhelmed by corrupt figures.

“I think preparing youth for politics should start from secondary school, as they would then be able to construct their own opinions and have a better understanding of politics from a young age. The education system plays the most important role and I believe that the Education Ministry should have a subject solely dedicated to politics to be taught at school,” she says.

Aaliyah says that the subject should not be too heavy to avoid students from feeling burdened by it or perceiving politics as too complicated.

“Youth need to be educated about politics as their awareness and knowledge in this field holds the key to the future of Malaysia.”

Yue Kin hopes for more political interest among Malaysia’s youth because the decisions made in Parliament and in the political arena will have a direct impact on how all of us, including the young, live our lives.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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