Student voice key to improving subjects

We have all heard politicians and teachers say that today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow. However, to be the leaders of tomorrow, young people’s voices need to be heard, respected and amplified.

In a perfect world, every student – no matter their socio-economic status or background – would receive equal access to resources and opportunities, and would be involved in decisions that affect them.

VCE student Ahelee Rahman says her generation has a disconnect with politics.Credit:Joe Armao

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and all too often students are left out of key conversations that directly affect their futures. There is no better group to inform the action and research of academics, policy-makers and educators than students. But the inclusion of student voice in key educational decisions is tokenistic at best, and completely absent at worst.

This is why the recent Civics and Citizenship curriculum redesign and resource development funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority is groundbreaking. These resources were advocated for by students, designed by students and delivered by students. I was honoured to be a part of this project.

As someone who has been an avid consumer of politics and media from a very young age, I have found that there are many things to be afraid of: pandemics, climate change, nuclear warfare, data mining. What scares me the most, however, is the gradual but continuous erosion of our democracy as Australians gradually turn away from our political institutions and responsibilities.

We citizens have a responsibility towards protecting our democracy. That can be anything from reading only trusted news sources to stay updated with current affairs, voting, to writing a letter to your member of parliament. When we turn away from our political and democratic institutions, we allow leaders to run free without being held accountable for their choices, whether good or bad.

Young people’s voices must be engaged with politics and our democracy. After many conversations with my peers, I realised that most political disillusionment stems from lack of education and awareness. Nobody hands an 18-year-old a violin on their birthday and expects them to play like Mozart. How can we be handed a ballot paper after 18 years of exclusion from our democracy and expect to be active and informed citizens who can make conscious voting decisions?

These civics and citizenship resources are a way to help teachers and students alike understand citizenship. These resources are also a public acknowledgement from a government level that student voice matters, and demonstrate the powerful impact student voice can have on education.

As we look to the future, let’s ensure that this kind of project is not a one-hit wonder.

Ahelee Rahman is a year 11 student.

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