“He encouraged prospective new candidates to come to the ward and meet residents who can then ask what they are about. ‘I think it’s healthier for Singapore rather than just appearing before the elections and then not continuing’” (Ng: Competition Is Good For Politics In Singapore, Mr. Dylan Loh and Mr. Teo Xuanwei).
I read with tremendous interest the comments made by Education Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen, in the report “Ng: Competition Is Good For Politics In Singapore” (April 12, 2010) by Mr. Dylan Loh and Mr. Teo Xuanwei. With the changing global climate and evolving sentiments on the ground in Singapore, it seems inevitable that with the passing of each General Election political parties – especially from the Opposition – would be enthusiastic to work the ground and begin to connect with the electorate.
The enhanced competition highlighted brings about viable benefits not just in terms of keeping the incumbent party on its toes year after year, but also generating new initiatives or ideas to improve existing schemes and programmes. While Dr. Ng might be right to contend that the Government has not been “short of ideas”, the increased diversity in terms of perspectives during the parliamentary processes could enhance the breadth and depth of policies and proposals even after the elections. After all, while politics primarily revolve around parliamentary debates and rolling out feasible policies; it is fundamentally about making lives better for all Singaporeans. I am confident that all political parties are premised strongly on the latter.
There, if the administration does echo Dr. Ng’s sentiments on the benefits brought about by political competition, it would be a wonderful option to increase the level of political education in schools. While basic exposure to politics is provided for tertiary students in the three local colleges – through ministerial forums and informal dialogues with politicians on both sides – it would be constructive to start students in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) with fundamental lessons and discussions on politics. Innovative pedagogies can be incorporated in terms of the sharing of varying political systems – historically and in the current context across the world – as well as an assortment of political ideologies and proposals in the local scene.
As a student, I cringed when my counterparts knew nothing about the left and right-wings on the political spectrum; and more than happy to lead their own lives and go with the flow. Political education would not only rid individuals of their apathy and lethargy, but also root students with a greater sense of belonging. The advent of the Internet has made the flow of information inevitable: so why not give it a more tangible form in institutions.
Competition of politics, in the school context, would allow students to read more and comprehend the policies proposed or enacted by the different political parties. The enhanced sensibilities and intellect would empower them to make wise decisions – whether they are in the public sector or not – in the future. In this sense, political education does go a long, long way.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.