Empowering youth through policy


  • Education
  • Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

THE 10th Malaysian Public Policy Competition (MPPC) saw some of the brightest talents converge virtually to look at key issues facing the country’s youth, with 72 Malaysian undergraduates sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other.

Held last month, the competition, organised by the International Council of Malaysian Scholars and Associates (ICMS), attracted over 200 applicants studying in Malaysia, UK, China, USA, Singapore and Canada.

The theme of this year’s MPPC, “Building the Future: Empowering Our Youth”, is in line with the growing interest among the youth to lead change in Malaysia, both on the successful Parlimen Digital platform and the recently passed Undi18 Bill.

Shortlisted participants conducted research and crafted policies, under the guidance of experienced mentors, that aimed to solve issues faced by youth in Malaysia such as closing the digital education gap, increasing youth participation in our democracy and improving youth mental health support and literacy. “I was immensely intrigued by the theme – youth empowerment – which I thought was increasingly important in today’s world.

“I wanted to meet and engage with individuals who are just as thrilled to fight for the same cause, and expand my horizons on how youths can stand together for bigger plans, ” said Euan Thum, 21, a participant who currently reads Economics at the University of Warwick.

“MPPC provided multi-faceted exposure to the art of public policy making. As we put our feet in the shoes of the stakeholders of our policy, we gained fresh perspectives on the challenges they face. Creating ripples of change requires cautious consideration of methodology and consequences, ” he added.

The panel of eminent judges included Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive officer (CEO) Tricia Yeoh, Universiti Malaya (UM) International Institute of Public Policy and Management programme executive Dr Nurussaadah Mokhtar, Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development political scientist Prof Wong Chin Huat, Institute For Youth Research Malaysia CEO Dr Vellapandian Ponnusamy as well as Sunway Education Group registrar Ng Beng Lean. The panel chose Team TBA’s policy as the winning one.

The winning policy aimed to utilise economic incentives (through schemes such as SOCSO) as a means to encourage conducive work environments and provide for improved employee healthcare benefits that include mental health. The policy, if implemented, aims to encourage employers across Malaysia in different industries to create mentally healthier workplace practices.

Team TBA member Benjamin Ooi, 21, a first-year undergraduate at the London School of Economics, said: “Over the course of the competition, we learnt the importance of crystallising logical analysis with actual statistics, as well as how to adapt our policy when faced with a lack of raw data to support an idea.“Initially, we joined to gain some experience in a high-level project as we are interested in consulting. We didn’t have any experience in policy-making coming into MPPC so we were unsure of what to expect. But we definitely gained some key insights into the role of a policymaker.”

His teammates included Mandeep Sidhu, 23, a law graduate from the University of Manchester, and Jason Lee Ren Jeun, 22, an undergraduate at Stanford University, studying International Relations.

To commemorate MPPC’s 10th anniversary this year, a series of events titled “Beyond Paper, ” aimed at giving youths a holistic and engaging experience of Malaysian policymaking, was carried out with the support of SJ+, a community platform by Penggerak Belia Tempatan (PeBT) committees of Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) Zones 1,2 and 3.

The series included a public policy workshop with UM, a networking session with Muar MP Syed Saddiq and Subang Jaya assemblywoman Michelle Ng as well as public webinars on key issues such as mental health and women’s participation in politics.

Following the competition, ICMS hopes to meet with different stakeholders both in the private and public sector, to see how to push forward and popularise the best policies from this year’s competition onto the national agenda. Send enquiries via email to mppc@icmscholars.org. For details on ICMS and its activities, visit www.icmscholars.org.

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