Survey: 92% think political education should be compulsory in schools

A new survey for Shout Out UK suggests that an overwhelming proportion of the UK public support compulsory political education. And rightly so.

Shout Out UK is an independent youth news platform that advocates political literacy and education. The new survey shows strong demands for political education and asked respondents about their own political knowledge.

As well as finding that over nine in ten respondents favoured compulsory political education, the survey of over 2000 respondents found that almost eight in ten thought they had ended their high school education with “little to know political knowledge”.

On top of these staggering statistics, almost six in ten respondents thought that RE should be replaced by political education in schools.

Analysis and opinion:

This survey indicates that support for political education is overwhelming. Politics is such an important part of life, and affects you whether or not you concern yourself with it. The right to vote is guaranteed at 18, but key knowledge is needed to maintain a healthy democracy. With the survey showing that only 36% of 18-25-year-olds thought they understood the country’s voting system, there is a very strong argument in favour of compulsory political education. A better “quality” of supply of voters, would surely boost engagement at elections.

However, the main concern often raised when it comes to compulsory political education is that children will be influenced to vote one way or another. This criticism is flawed for three reasons.

  • Firstly, it is a blanket statement that has no substantial evidence to back it up. David Torrance, in his biography of Nicola Sturgeon, notes that her English teacher gave her a Labour Party membership form, but she made up her own mind and joined the SNP. The idea that children – and society at large – are sheep that can be easily influenced in the world of politics is flawed.
  • Secondly, a key part of education includes critical thinking. Children are taught to construct and deconstruct arguments in other subjects, so why would politics be any different? My own experience of Modern Studies in Scotland, which I took in all but one of my six years in high school reminds me of that. I remember classrooms of competing points of view and intense discussions, not ones filled with children singing the Red Flag for five hours a week.
  • Thirdly, 92% want to see compulsory education in action. Evidently, those who think that compulsory political education would be a vehicle to brainwash the next generation of voters are in a striking minority.

Compulsory political education would help deliver a knowledgeable electorate that can make up its own mind on the key issues. It's time to breathe new life into our democracy.

The full results of the survey can be accessed here.

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