Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elections in schools?

Apparently the Election Commission has been running elections in schools. There are two problems with this piece of news: the first is the skepticism about the value of teaching democracy, and the second is that the Election Commission is involved at all.

Basically, a primary school in Taman Tun (a suburb of KL) held an election for the post of head prefect -- supposedly the first time this has happened in the country. They had a formal nomination and campaigning process, all conducted by the Election Commission.

When contacted, the EC deputy chair said he believed that teaching democracy to primary school students is unnecessary, but that the Federal Territories EC was just doing its job in helping conduct the elections. I can't really imagine why he would say this.

The job of the Election Commission, after all, is to safeguard our democracy! Why on earth would they oppose the teaching of democracy or democratic values? What does the EC have against democracy or elections?

The excuse that year 4 or year 6 kids are too young to understand how the democratic process works is ridiculous. Even in year 1, we were electing class monitors. If you're old enough to buy something from your school canteen, you're old enough to make at least some decisions for yourself -- and I see no reason to exclude political decisions from this. If you're old enough to learn how to spend money, you're old enough to learn how to decide who to vote for.

Of course, we can debate whether the position of head prefect should be an elected one -- but assuming the candidates are drawn from the body of prefects, all of whom have already met minimum standards of discipline and responsibility, I can easily see why it may make sense to elect the head prefect.

What I can't see is why the EC should be involved in this. If the teachers' understanding of elections and democracy is so poor that they don't know where to start with holding an election, then that is a serious failure of both democracy and public education. It does not make logical sense for the same public agency to be holding both parliamentary and primary school student government elections.

Overall, I'm hopeful that we can expand civics education in our schools and see more applied lessons in democracy like this one. While it's debatable whether how this election was held was actually instructive, I think in general, schools ought to be a fantastic environment for learning how our country's political system works, and what our democratic values look like when put into practice.


Shawn Tan said...

Aiya. If not, what is the EC going to do during the rest of the time when there is no GE or bye-election. They have already left the task of registering voters to the political parties. Let's just call this an 'outreach' programme.

Y.K. Goon said...

Shawn got a good point.

Besides, encouraging democracy would teach children to think for themselves. If they can think for themselves, then EC can no do the thinking for you.

Anonymous said...

Gee. They could have used the 50,000 bottles of indelible ink instead of throwing it away.

joyce said...

These are primary school children.

They shouldn't need to be too concerned with democratic ideas yet. Let them just play, have fun, and most importantly, have a great childhood.

Furthermore, I think at primary school level, the children will vote for who's the most popular/cute kid in school rather than someone's who's able to do their job. That's not exactly a practice you want to encourage.

Being a prefect or being appointed to a position, will still instill discipline and responsibility that's still lacking in many secondary school students.

It's good for them to learn about democracy, but I don't think they really need it at this age.

Tiadaid said...

Instead of primary school students, why not focus on the secondary school students? They're the ones who are very close to voting age, and it'll teach them the importance of exercising your democratic right.

Anonymous said...

All these kids need to learn that

1)Democracy means "businessmen's government".

2)Democracy and capitalism goes hand in hand, like water nourishing a tree plant.

3) A person social status is measured by how thick his wallet is and how many digit figure numbers in his bank saving account.

4)In a democratic society, one must attain financial freedom (become very rich!) first in order to be a free man.

Anonymous said...

I just read a news today at malaysian mirror that PTPTN loan may not be given to "well-to-do" family. Is that true? What do they mean by "well-to-do" family?
For the sake of higher education
Monday, 01 February 2010 13:47 ALOR SETAR - The government should place higher priority in increasing the budget for loans to deserving Malaysian students giving them an opportunity to pursue higher education.

Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang has called for a bigger govenrment allocation to the The National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).

Higher Education Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin had earlier said that the PTPTN required RM5 billion a year to ensure those qualified to pursue higher education are not deprived of the opportunity.

The current allocation of RM3 billion a year by the federal government was seen as insufficient by the year 2013 as the number of students pursuing higher education increased.

Students with merits

"Higher education is the backbone for human capital development in our country," said Tan in a press statement.

On the minister's call upon well-to-do parents to take responsibility in financing their children's education and not to rely on the government, Tan said:

"It would be unfortunate if those students with merits are taken away from their opportunity to pursue higher education due to the poor definition of 'well-to-do' parents.

"Instead, I would call upon the government to increase the allocation to PTPTN when the fund for disbursement of the PTPTN loan is insufficient."

Tan added that the PTPTN loans are subject to repayment by all the students upon their graduation (unless they have obtained 1st class degrees). The PTPTN loans are unlike "scholarships" which are not subject to repayment.

Financial condition

He said scholarships should be given based on merits and the financial position of the parents but
"not feasible for PTPTN to consider its grant of loan based on parent's financial condition."

His reason was that there could be instances where "well-to-do" parents refuse to finance their children's education as they may not place their child's education as priority.

There could also be a situation whereby those "well-to-do" parents have a large number of children and it is beyond their means to finance every single child in the family, he said.

Annoyed Student said...

it is stupid to say rich family cannot have PTPTN loan.
How do you define who is rich and who is not? How about if the family got a lot of children?
What then?