voice for democracy

Inadequate teaching of political literacy “weakens our democracy” – report – Education Technology

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A new report on political literacy in children has found a yawning gap between parental aspiration and classroom reality.
The poll found that, while 72% of parents consider it important for children to be politically literate, only 1% of teachers in England feel prepared to teach politics.
Parents of more than 1,500 pupils aged 11-18, together with 3,300 secondary school teachers, were questioned in a survey co-created by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Political Literacy, the University of Sheffield, and Shout Out UK, an education platform aiming to bring young people together to talk and learn about politics.
Beyond the stark headline figure, the overall state of political education is decidedly mixed.
Less than a third of secondary schools offer weekly lessons in politics or curricular citizenship education, with a fifth of schools offering no provision at all.
By contrast, pupils in the independent sector are more likely to find an enhanced programme of political provision outside the curriculum, including active citizenship projects, political contact, and visits to political institutions.
This is about safeguarding the very fabric of our democracy – Matteo Bergamini, Shout Out UK
Provision for teaching political literacy was found to be at its lowest in maintained schools in the most deprived communities.
Other findings from the survey include:
The report, written by Dr James Weinberg, lecturer in political behaviour at the University of Sheffield, says that there are “significant challenges that need to be overcome before we can be confident that all children in England are receiving a minimum offer of democratic education”.
To counter these challenges, Dr Weinberg’s key recommendation is the building of a body of expertise within the teaching profession, facilitated by undertaking three practical strategies:
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“If we don’t equip young people with the tools to understand the world around them – and how to change it – then we’re not just dis-enfranchising them, we are delegitimizing every decision that parliament makes,” writes Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness and co-chair of the APPG, in the report’s foreword.
“It is incumbent on us to rise to that challenge and make sure that young people are equipped to go out into the world and make informed choices, to advocate for their viewpoint, and to make change. Not providing those tools weakens our democracy.”
His words were echoed by Matteo Bergamini, founder of Shout Out UK.
“Building an engaged electorate starts with comprehensive political literacy education,” he said. “To achieve this, we need to recognise that trained confident teachers are a key part of this process.
“To safeguard and amplify our democracy, we must recognize the gap in our education system now. This is not only about equipping young people with the tools to be active citizens, this is about safeguarding the very fabric of our democracy.”
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