By Noureen Ahmed, student at the University of East London
Politics. A topic that can either intimidate people or stimulate an invigorating conversation. For me, it is the latter, but I understand why some people try to avoid talking about politics. Our political landscape changes every day, making it difficult to be constantly aware of everything that is going on in the world. As a someone studying politics, for me, that’s not what learning about politics is all about. Learning politics isn't about teaching students everything that is going on in the news, but rather the fundamentals of how politics works and why it is important, so that we’re enthused to engage with politics throughout our lives. Here are my top five reasons we should all be taught politics:
The government plays a huge role in our daily lives. Whether we like it or not, the government is highly influential and determines almost everything in society. For example, the economy, legislation, foreign affairs, public services and so much more. Learning about the government - how it works on both a local and national level - will give us all a basic understanding of our democracy as well as learning about the effectiveness of policies that are put into place. We then have the power to lobby for change if we think a policy is ineffective.
It is useful to learn about politics as it helps us to understand our rights. Being aware of what we are or are not entitled to allows us all to understand how and if the government truly cares about its citizens and our wellbeing. For example, the minimum wage, what healthcare and youth services are available and whether we are protected from air and water pollution.
It helps us all to develop the knowledge and skills to be informed voters. All students should be given the skills to look up candidates and political parties’ priorities ahead of elections to see whose values most closely align with their own.
It gives us an opportunity to really grasp what we truly want which can then be used to help better the world. Once we have the knowledge, we are all then able to actively participate in the political world. Reading reputable news sources, joining a political party, or even contacting your local MP are simple yet effective ways we can all become more politically aware of, and active in, about our democracy. By becoming politically literate, we have the tools needed to get involved in discussions and movements. We can focus on issues that truly matter to us.
Whilst it is important to understand how politics influences all of the big decisions and issues we face in society today such as climate change and poverty, we must not forget that political decisions also determine lots of little things that also have a significant impact on our lives. For example, what books we read at school, whether there are cycle lanes. Whether we like it or not, politics is everywhere.
Whilst politics can seem complicated, I find it incredibly rewarding to learn about how politics works and what’s actually happening in Parliament. And sometimes it is even fun! In secondary school, I had the opportunity to take GCSE Citizenship. The subject gave me a glimpse into political parties and elections. We also had the opportunity to raise awareness of events that were happening at the time via campaigns and writing letters to our MPs. Now, I am studying a Politics degree and I am thoroughly enjoying it. But, there are many ways you can build a foundation of political knowledge. Young people, like me, have the power to make a difference. This is why I Have a Voice (IHAV) advocates the importance of political literacy and participation. The only way we can engage with and have a say in our world is to be educated on politics.