Young Scots: political education is 'rubbish'

15th March 2013 at 00:00
Students show their dissatisfaction with PSE lessons in a national survey

Many of the under-18s eligible to vote in next year's independence referendum will not bother because they have learned next to nothing about politics in school, a survey of young Scots suggests.

It proposes that teaching about the political process be included in personal and social education lessons - mandatory for all students - rather than left to modern studies teachers, who mostly only teach students who have opted for their subject.

Some 96 per cent of respondents to the Scottish Youth Parliament survey felt it was important that political education be taught in PSE as well as modern studies. Nearly two-thirds rated the political engagement education they received through PSE as "rubbish"; some said it was not covered at all in PSE.

The survey, which looks at a range of issues around PSE, follows a consultation document from the youth parliament, which states: "With the upcoming independence referendum in 2014, we believe it is essential that all young people who wish to vote should be aware of the importance of doing so, how to do so and the effect their choice will have.

"Simply put, we think that PSE drastically fails to do so at the moment, with the general consensus being that the only place in schools in which politics, democracy and citizenship were effectively taught was modern studies, which disadvantaged those who chose not to study the subject or were unable to do so."

The document proposes that PSE also be taught outwith schools, through community learning and development, "as this would ensure that those who leave or are disaffected with education still receive political education about the decisions that affect their lives".

It suggests that PSE could be delivered each day during school registration classes, and that the subject be "personalised" by bringing in speakers who could share personal experiences around drugs, alcohol, sex education and safe driving.

The survey, based on 119 responses from people aged 14-25, in 27 of Scotland's 32 local authorities, found that half thought it was not useful, and only 20 per cent found it enjoyable; 78 per cent thought PSE should be a bigger priority in schools.

The biggest problems appeared to be: repetition in topics taught (86 per cent agreed this was an issue); failure to cover "essential life skills" such as personal finance and entitlement to benefits (82 per cent); out-of-date resources (75 per cent); and a lack of teaching about discrimination against minority groups (74 per cent).

The most popular suggestions for improvements were bringing in trained experts to deal with awkward issues such as sex and relationships, and more chances to hear from people directly affected by the issues covered in school.

The parliament's education and lifelong learning committee, along with its equalities committee, will publish recommendations based on the survey results in the near future.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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