Politics for Wales, not Washington

5th October 2007 at 01:00
It seems incredible that A-level politics students in Wales are more likely to be familiar with the US Bill of Rights than the democratic reasons why they will not have to pay top-up fees if they study a degree at a Welsh university, or why they are entitled to free NHS prescriptions when they fall ill (see page 1).

Sadly, for all the fanfare surrounding Welsh devolution, there are probably few adults let alone under-18s who know the full political implications of the 2006 Government of Wales Act, granting us extra law-making powers.

The teaching profession probably has a head start on the average adult, but for many the National Assembly might just as well be in Washington. According to Dr Huw Griffiths, his students don't see the point in visiting the Senedd when it is not going to make a difference to their final grades. And who can blame them? Today's savvy student could probably tell us a thing or two about time management and prioritising when there are not enough hours in the day.

But any syllabus, hailing from England or otherwise, that teaches the mechanics of devolved democracy in Wales is so important. It is necessary because the workings of the National Assembly, forever in the shadow of Westminster, mean there are many within the borders who do not understand why they must now place two crosses instead of one on a ballot paper.

Lord Dafydd Ellis Thomas, presiding officer of the National Assembly, knows this.

"We are committed to raising awareness and voter participation, and reaching young people is a vital part of this work," he says.

The patriotic Scots ensure this through their nation-based exam board, so why are we lagging behind? Dr Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Institute of Welsh Politics, makes a valid point when he says studying our own political system is a matter of "basic civic education".

So, come on WJEC your country needs you. Falling take-up is no excuse for exam board apathy.

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