Start Undi18 lessons at early age

Democratic system: Young voters queuing up to cast their vote at SK Gombak Setia in Gombak, during GE15. Groups feel it is vital that youth are given a head start on the election process.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s vibrant politics has once again underscored the need to educate youths on the election process and their voting rights, say advocacy groups.

“Teaching youth their voting rights is one way to shape Malaysia and its direction,” said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) deputy director of research, Sri Murniati Yusuf.

Besides tertiary education students, she said: “It’s high time that kids are also taught about voting.”

Although there is not enough time to craft a module in time for the upcoming state elections, Sri Murniati said work on it should begin as soon as possible as the entire process from the “meeting room to classroom” would take time.

Referring to a similar module that had been planned by the Johor government, she said it should be incorporated into the Civic Education subject.

“We could introduce our democratic system, elections, political parties, and I think most importantly, what comes after elections.

“As part of our responsibility as a citizen, we also have to ensure elected MPs are accountable and do their jobs,” she added.

Such education on voting and democracy, she said, was important as it had been over three years that Undi18 was gazetted as law.

On July 19, 2019, the Dewan Rakyat passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. It was gazetted as law in September of that year.

Undi18 was implemented for the first time during the Johor state election in March last year.

In December last year, the Johor government began work on drafting a special module on politics and nationhood for secondary school students following the lowering of the voting age to 18.

Undi18 advocacy director Tharma Pillai said the module should also include the role of the Parliament and the Prime Minister, among others.

He said these lessons should be extended to the primary school level so that children could enhance their critical thinking skills.

There is interest among teenagers in national politics but not much understanding of it, he added.

Studies have shown that young voters depend on their family and friends to decide who to vote for.

A study done in August last year by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre for Social and Policy Studies found that Malaysian youth mainly acquired their political knowledge from family and friends.

Findings in a separate preliminary study conducted by Marang MCA division women’s chief Monna Ong that polled 951 youths across several states also found that the opinions of family and friends influenced 80% of the respondents’ voting decisions.

Trailing closely behind family and friends was content gleaned from the Internet and social media, which constituted about 60% and 46%, respectively.

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