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Thursday, July 18, 2019

EC to meet ministry to voter education in schools



Election Commission chief Azhar Azizan Harun plans to meet with the Education Ministry to discuss the possibility of introducing voter education in the school syllabus.
“I went to Australia and I saw the voter education starts in Year Three when children are nine years old. They learn about their rights to vote and what voting is all about.
“So we will see if we can ask the ministry to add modules about democracy, electoral systems, voting rights and the like (into the syllabus),” he told a press conference on the sidelines of the EC's 'Make A Change, Let’s Do It Together' forum series on electoral reform today.
Azhar stressed that his proposed module will be independent of partisan politics, and promised to consult parties across the political divide if the plan gets the go-ahead.
We will prepare the module after speaking to both sides, this is so that the opposition won’t be able to say that we are only including things that are supportive of the government.
“It will be bipartisan all the way, we want to have an independent and neutral module. 
"We don’t want to be accused of indoctrinating students and that kind of thing,” he added.
Earlier this week, the Dewan Rakyat passed a constitutional amendment to lower both the qualifying age for voting and running for office to 18. The amendment also allows for automatic voter registration.
This change ignited calls for better voter education to allow youth to make informed choices at the ballot box.
Forum discussion
During the forum discussing automatic voter registration, all three panellists believed that the EC had a role to play in educating voters.
MCA president Wee Ka Siong said that voter education should be conducted by an independent body like the EC to avoid “indoctrination” by the government and turning tertiary institutions into “political arenas.”
PKR lawmaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad similarly hoped that the commission would teach youth about democracy and history in a nonpartisan manner.
Joining the chorus was PAS’ Kota Bahru MP Takiyuddin Hassan, who said that the EC should be responsible for encouraging and convincing youths to participate in elections.
At another forum on whether 18-year-olds were mature enough to vote, a participant said that abolishing the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) was crucial if the government wanted to empower youth to be more politically informed.
Pakatan Harapan has thus far amended the UUCA and is studying ways to replace it with a new law by 2020.
DAP lawmaker Young Syefura Othman agreed, while Azhar said that the UUCA is no obstacle to political maturity.
Quoting from his own university experience, he said the controversial law never held him or his classmates back from involving themselves in political activities. - Mkini

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