The education system in the UK has major flaws, to put it bluntly. Too many teenagers leave school at the age of 16 with no idea about the ‘real’ world, out of touch with how this country works – and that’s a bigger problem than you think. One of the big political issues right now is participation in the UK general elections, with a turnout of 65.1 percent for the 2010 elections, that’s the third lowest total in post-war Britain and the two lower scores were in the two previous elections. Participation is critical to a democracy because without people’s votes it’s not ‘power to the people’. In an attempt to boost participation Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged in their manifestos to lower the voting age to 16. This simply cannot happen. Although it is true that many 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote, the problem is that the majority aren’t.

Teenagers who leave school are not politically aware, this is easy to see in most places. The leaders of the main political parties and MPs may not understand this because the environment in which they were brought up is different. However, in the state schools that the majority of Britons go to it’s a different case. They aren’t being taught about politics when they should be. There doesn’t even have to be examinations in politics but teenagers in school should be made aware of the political system that they are living in.

It’s understandable to be apprehensive about the possibility of teenagers being politically brainwashed and influenced at a young age, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Students must be taught how to vote in elections; the difference between European elections, local elections and general elections; and all party manifestos should be shown so everyone can make up their own mind. Everyone should be able to name their MP, as well understand different electoral systems such as FPTP for general elections and PR for the EU.

These things are easy to understand and explain and by giving a base knowledge it allows teenagers to make an informed decision when they are old enough to vote at 18 or whatever age it may be in a few years time. Currently however not enough young people are fully aware politically when they should be.

For years the UK has promoted democratic values not only domestically but internationally yet there are too many teenagers who don’t really know what they are voting for in the UK. During the 2014 European Parliament campaigns a lot of people used Twitter to mock the UK Independence Party, brandishing them as racists. Most of these jokes related to foreign people in the UK getting deported and this seemed to be what most people believed. That shows exactly how little the youth of the UK know, and rather than jumping on a bandwagon and mocking a political party one should read through their manifesto and only then form an opinion, that’s the democratic way. Instead, young Britons are far too easily influenced by anything they read.

Being properly informed will also benefit the major parties as they will have a wider audience to appeal to. The UK needs as many people as possible to understand and properly participate in politics and elections if it truly wants to be a great democratic country. Right now, however, many teenagers feel neglected and without knowledge they look to blame the government for their problems. If everyone was aware politically of what things the government are doing to try and help the people of Britain then maybe people wouldn’t be so quick to blame the Tories or David Cameron and may actually be more understanding of the difficult situations they may be facing, helping to bring the people together which can only benefit the government.

Politics should be taught in school so that when everyone comes to the voting age they know their own political stance as well as who they think represents their interests. This isn’t just to increase participation  but also to make the millions of uninformed voters more aware of what they are voting for.

Many women believe it is their duty to vote due to the Suffragette movement that allowed women to vote. Women and men fought hard to give women the right to vote and as a consequence some women vote purely out of respect for those equality movements. When women were allowed the vote it wasn’t just for the sake of voting, it was a significant step since now they could be represented and have their opinions heard. In the current context, people shouldn’t just turn up and vote for the sake of voting, they should vote to be represented and have their opinion count.

Democracy unfortunately hasn’t always been a right, it’s a privilege that many people have worked for. If the government values democracy as much as it claims it does then it should promote it in the most convenient and important place possible: its schools. So what do you think? Should politics be compulsory in school? I’ll be glad to hear any feedback you have and apologise if I’ve made any mistakes or offended anyone.

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