The Need for Political Education in Schools

Recently, we saw a big step forward as the Government announced that compulsory sex and relationship education would be introduced into both primary and secondary schools. The next big educational step we need is politics, to allow future generations to learn the fundamentals and gain an understanding of the subject, and hopefully from this, a passion for the area.

Politics is a subject that almost has a stigma surrounding it. One that if mentioned to most, would almost be met with groans, sighs, and yawns. To younger people especially, politics is a subject that is boring, something to avoid, and ultimately something that they are unable to make a difference in themselves. Many picture rich, out-of-touch politicians who are in it for the money and a big pension, who aren’t particularly bothered about those they represent.

Although for a minority this is the case, taking up an interest in politics allows you to see past that, and see just how much they do for us. Not only do they travel to Westminster to debate laws and implement legislation on our behalf, but they also tirelessly spend day after day answering queries, and helping people within their own constituencies. Over time, generations have been ill-informed on the workings of government and MPs, to the point that it is toxic. It was one of the reasons for Brexit, as many felt it was a vote against the political establishment.

It’s crucial moving forward this is rectified, and it starts in schools. It’s crucial that students leave school and enter voting age, aware of what is going on, so they can formulate their own beliefs and ideologies. I didn’t receive any political education as such until I reached GCSE level, and even this was brushed over within the space of a month in my Citizenship course. I have always been politically engaged, even from a young age, so it was a subject, and a passion that I enjoyed exploring.

Looking back, I can only remember me and one other colleague being politically engaged in that class, and we were the only two that seemed to speak up throughout. Although I hadn’t necessarily formed my own ideologies yet at this point, this learning was crucial to me doing so, and only enflamed my passion for politics. I was engaged by the various parties, and what they stood for; and even intrigued by the ‘boring’ inner workings: the bill readings, and the old traditions of parliament.

This is where my passion for politics began, and since then it has only grown to where it is now. And I truly believe that many others can get just as enthused just through some basic political education. It’s also vitally important, especially for the left, and liberal parties. Youngsters are traditionally more left leaning, progressive, and liberal, and usually their turnout rates are low. Across the UK we have an ever-increasing ageing population, and this age group are habitually more right leaning, and conservative minded, so it’s vital that Labour are able to get young people enthused, and out voting.

Even a basic understanding of most political subjects can help people make more thorough decisions. Who knows how the EU referendum would have turned out if students from the 1980’s onwards had been taught about the union, and what they do. Not education young people sufficiently also allows them to be affected more by the media, and the alternative facts that are pedalled by various sources.

So, what subjects, and areas can be taught to students? It’s vital, first and foremost, that traditional subjects aren’t afraid to incorporate political stories and teachings into their curriculum. This will enable students to gain a much better understanding of the decisions governments and politicians make, and the scope of the various roles in parliament. Geography, Business studies, Citizenship, and Maths are all examples of subjects that can integrate relevant news into their lessons.

I don’t think that any kind of political education needs to be integrated into primary school, but I do believe that as soon as students enter secondary school, this is where it changes. Citizenship can be a subject that is taught throughout years 7-11, and political education can be integrated into this. From early on, students should be taught about the political parties, what they traditionally stand for, and the basics of government, the opposition, and elections. As students’ progress into GCSE’s, this is where the scope should widen, and more detailed subjects are introduced.

Subjects such as how legislation works, bill readings, government roles, and political history should be taught, and this is where students are more likely to get enthused by the subject. Students should also be given the opportunity to debate subjects and news stories; and ideas such as proportional representation, Brexit, and party policy can be discussed. Take a trip to Westminster, and visit the Houses of Parliament; get the local MP to come and speak to classes.

Recent history has taught us that political enthusiasm is at an all-time low, and opinions on politicians and the establishment is even lower. This needs to be stopped, and not just by parties on the left of the spectrum. It’s vital for all parties to increase uptake, especially Labour, and I hope that it will become party policy. If a future is to be bright and prosperous, it’s important that the tide is turned, and students are allowed to gain a passion for, and enhance politics.

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