Politics is a subject that causes social divide, mass-speculation and outright uncertainty. As we navigate through a muddy political path in the UK – queue Brexit – it seems necessary to question whether the public feels properly equipped to contribute to democracy. In one way or another, politics is entangled in our everyday lives – be that through a trip to the GP or the fluctuating price of a weekly shop – so why is it not on the curriculum? Why is politics only offered as a subject of study when students reach A levels?
This is a flaw in the education system that produces disengaged, yet eligible, voters. Why? Because a person who hasn’t been around the language of politics from an early age is more likely to struggle to understand party manifestos or government policy in their full complexity. As soon as you gain the right to vote, contributing to democracy suddenly becomes much more daunting than it is satisfying.
It’s quite obvious that this is unfair. English, Science and Mathematics grades in SATs and GCSEs are so heavily weighted in their value, they project onto each step of our education – determining what level we are taught at but also what careers we can access in later life. Yet wouldn’t it be equally as useful to educate young people about their livelihood, their rights and responsibilities in a democratic society?
Some don’t feel a strong alliance to any party and others believe that their vote doesn’t count.
Take the result of the EU referendum, the outcome could have been very different if the subject of politics was included in the curriculum – equipping all young people in the UK with a comprehensive understanding of democracy. 64% of registered 18 to 24-year-olds were counted in the turnout, with 70% of them voting to remain in the EU. This is a staggering majority, and with a result that ended so close, with 51.89% voting to Leave and 48.11% voting to Remain, a larger turnout may have swung the decision. Giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote may have also significantly altered the outcome of the EU referendum, with many claiming that the result would have been remain if this was the case. Ultimately, young people are significantly hindered by the limitations of their schooling and the voting age. Should we have an informed, inclusive and extended mandate? Yes, if we’re at all interested in upholding democracy.
Everyone should feel confident enough to vote in elections and referendums to ensure the most democratic outcome. But lack of confidence with regards to politics isn’t exclusive to young adults. Older members of the public, who feel that they don’t know enough about party policy or certain national issues, frequently abstain from voting. Introducing politics to the curriculum would be a huge step towards reinvigorating the younger end of the mandate. But some form of voluntary course should be made available for adults who want to get involved but, for a variety of reasons, don’t vote. Many don’t feel informed enough, some don’t feel a strong alliance to any party and others believe that their vote doesn’t count. Above all, the UK government should provide the electorate with the right tools, allowing them to feel the empowerment that democracy is supposed to bring; this starts with education.