S’pore kids’ current affairs knowledge pathetic

The Optical recently commented on a report by The Observer in the UK about the level of awareness among schoolchildren on current affairs and compared it with the youth in Singaopre.

In a TODAY report over the weekend entitled “10 A1s, but they don’t know who Khaw Boon Wan is”, the journalist queried 7 out of the 11 O-level holders, who scored 10 A1s in last year’s exams, on their grasp of current affairs.

Needless to say, their answers were pathetic.

In fact, other local media reports have done similar surveys among ordinary Singaporeans and come-up with similar results.

More then 40 years of one-party rule with only one objective in mind which was to make, continue and maintain materialism has de-politicised most Singaporeans. One should also not forget the heavy hand of the ruling party in domestic politics.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise why most Singaporeans are hopeless at current affairs, especially domestic politics. Worse, when it comes to an awareness and understanding of opposition politics as well as “non-establishment” civil society groups/individuals.

Move over Becks – King is kids’ hero
Anushka Asthana
The Observer
29 February 2004

Schoolchildren in Britain have a sophisticated political awareness, are deeply concerned about the environment and take considerable interest in the news, according to one of the most extensive investigations of youngsters’ opinions to be carried out in the UK.

Far from being obsessed by Posh and Becks, the survey found that children were more interested in politicians and campaigners. Martin Luther King was their choice as history’s most important figure.

The results of the survey – of more than 4,000 children aged 11 to 18 across the country destroys the idea that children only think about celebrities and gossip. Instead, they are more concerned by war and conflict, followed by health. Their main fear was of becoming a victim of a crime.

Sixty per cent of state school children said they planned to vote compared with 78 per cent in private schools. Both levels are higher than the turnout for the 2001 general election. One in eight of the children interviewed said they had already written to their local MP.

The survey by Save the Children, and revealed exclusively to The Observer, used a questionnaire designed by children to focus on the questions they wanted answered. Edward Maltby, 16, who helped design the study, said he was ‘surprised but pleased’ by the results. ‘If we really are victims of celebrity culture, as everyone tells us, then Posh and Becks would have been top of the list of important people,’ he said.

In fact, David Beckham was not even in the top 10, coming in at 16. George Bush, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Gandhi and Churchill all appeared in the top 10.

However, the survey did find marked gender differences, with boys showing twice as much interest in politics and girls a much higher concern for poverty. Boys appeared to be more patriotic, with 8 per cent more feeling a responsibility towards their country. Many children were politically active with just under a third having signed a petition and one in eight having boycotted some product.

Andrew Hutchinson, head of education at Save the Children, said: ‘The picture that emerges is of young people interested in participation and concerned about the world. Their fear of crime confirms statistics that show they are one of the larger set of victims.’ Hutchinson thinks the fact that King, Mandela and Gandhi were all rated highly reveals an interest in human rights among youngsters.

The report reveals that children want to know more about their rights. As many as one in three thought his rights were never, or not often, respected. Under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Government is obliged to ensure young people are informed about this. In Britain, this is done through new citizenship lessons.

However, a third of all respondents failed to reply when asked to note down three rights they felt they had. Of those who did, education, freedom of expression and having a home came top.

Hutchinson added: ‘Citizenship education is relatively new and there is lots of innovative work being developed, but there is clearly room for improvement.’

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