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After constitution amendment, political education

  • While the voices of young people must be heard, they must first have the ability to think independently, analyze political issues and tell the authenticity of a piece of information fed to them.

Sin Chew Daily

On Tuesday, the Dewan Rakyat adopted the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 with 211 support votes to lower the voting age and eligible age of electoral candidates from 21 to 18, along with automatic voter registration.

It was a historic moment in the country's history in which all elected representatives on both sides of the political divide unanimously adopted a constitutional amendment.

Lowering the voting age to 18 goes well with the global trend, and the government believes young people will be able to strike a balance between their needs for knowledge and skill and political awareness in a bid to create a better nation tomorrow.

The government is of the opinion that many students have already begun to absorb all sorts of information and news in this age of information overload.

As they have become mentally more matured now, the government makes the decision to lower the voting age in line with the global trend.

Having said that, we cannot deny that there are still plenty of young people whose political awareness is still immature partly due to the country's exam-centric education system which has denied the students their ability to think independently. Save for the minority of students, most of them have very little idea about their political right as well as the concept of democracy.

As such, the government should come to the realization that there is still plenty of follow-up work to do after amending the Constitution, of which the most urgent is probably political education for youths.

Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad said the election commission will provide courses on democracy and election procedures through Election Academy (APR) in order to encourage young people to come out and vote during an election.

However, this only entails election procedures and has nothing to do with democratic quality or political awareness of the people.

The government should have a set of more substantial plans for this, and should perhaps consider the proposal by the opposition to allow political parties to hold activities in schools and draw up regulations and guidelines for such activities, in order to make school campuses the most ideal place for students to learn about democratic practices.

The education ministry will have to play a very crucial role in providing a proper channel for students to better understand the country's political system. The ministry should take the initiative to liaise with the youth and sports ministry as well as election commission to incorporate political elements into the country's secondary school curriculum, or jointly organize relevant awareness-enhancement activities.

The civic education class the ministry has planned to reintroduce is one such important curriculum.

These initiatives will allow eligible young voters to have a better understanding of their own political right through various educational channels before the next general elections.

Politically speaking, we cannot deny that political parties on both sides of the divide have their own points of consideration with the hope the new ruling will benefit them most.

Nevertheless, they should not forget that constitutional amendment alone will not benefit them much, unless it is accompanied by political and civic education as well as improved quality of our media.

Relevant education content is of utmost importance to the country which is now witnessing tremendous changes and unpredictabilities.

Many people are worried that young people at the age of 18 may not be mentally mature enough to exercise their civic responsibility and could be easily manipulated by irresponsible quarters.

Against such a backdrop, education is all the more important. While the government needs to take into consideration the voices and rights of our youths, these young people must themselves have the ability to think independently, analyze various political issues, tell the authenticity of a piece of information fed to them and not to blindly follow the rest of the pack.

Only if all these traits fall into place will the endowment of youth political right really conform to the global trend of democracy.

 

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