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Schools may be more apathetic than youth

Nov 15th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

YOUNG people have always been assumed to be apathetic to politics – and it appears schools may not be helping the issue.

Only 57% of Wellington Central’s eligible 18-24 year olds are enrolled to vote in the upcoming election, leaving more than 5000 young people not enrolled.

A Newswire survey of 10 secondary school media students showed while young people might have a relative interest in politics the problem may instead be a limited amount of knowledge.

When asked how much the students care about politics, most of them answered seven out of 10 – although one student stated one out of 10.

The 10 of them agreed politics was important, with answers ranging from eight to 10out of 10, but they perceived the importance of politics to others their age to be at about four out of 10.

“My friends care about it, but in general I don’t think many people my age do. But they do if it affects them like raising the driving and drinking age, zero alcohol limit for teens and that kind of stuff,” says student Imogen Holmstead-Scott.

“At this age, we are preoccupied with ourselves, not what’s good for the future. But politicians and politics decide the future of our country and control the progress of our country, not caring means not caring about our own future,” says student Hana Rochford-Barber.

However, it turned out not to be a matter of personal interest that was the problem, but of education.

When asked how good the students thought their knowledge of New Zealand politics is, the majority answered five – the lowest was two and the highest seven.

They all said they learned most of what they do know about politics from their families, while only half of them said they learned it at school and nine said they felt they had not learned enough in school.

“I haven’t learned much at all at school. I would like to have learned more, because if I hadn’t been personally motivated I would currently know very little,” says one student, who does not wish to be named.

“Nearly everything I know was taught to be by my parents. It needs to be taught more because most high school kids have no clue,” says Alice Herdman.

When asked which way they might be voting, the answers seemed to swing in favour of the Green Party, closely followed byLabour, but they said a lot of it depended on how their parents voted.

“I’d vote Greens for their focus on environment, Labour for focus on people, or National as their leader is strong and they’re not that bad,” says another anonymous student.

The students say they would like to be taught more about current events, policy and legislation, different systems of government, international relations, individual politicians and in particular, youth issues.

“I would like to learn more about what is happening in parliament now, than how our political system works, which it seems is all our schooling focuses on in politics,” says Hana.

Matt Radley from the Ministry of Education says political studies are not a part of the curriculum and decisions about which subjects to teach are up to each school.

“The New Zealand Curriculum, through the Social Sciences Learning Area, sets a requirement for schools to develop students’ understanding of how societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed, and responsible citizens,” he says.

He adds that students are able to explore these subjects in other learning areas apart from social studies, and schools would determine their teaching programmes according to their students’ learning needs, interests and aspirations, as well as appropriate levels.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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