Voices Of Youth

Forum: Don't lower voting age to 18 for now

A photo illustration of a voter dropping the ballot paper into the ballot box.
A photo illustration of a voter dropping the ballot paper into the ballot box.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

During GE2020, several political parties, including the Workers' Party and the Singapore People's Party, proposed that the voting age be lowered to 18.

While I appreciate the parties wanting to listen to Singapore's youth, as an 18-year-old, I am unsure if this is suitable for Singapore.

I know many young people today who are passionate about and well versed in the intricacies of politics and world affairs.

Yet, it would be disingenuous to say they are necessarily representative of the general population of young people in Singapore, and it would be unrealistic to impose this expectation on everyone.

At 18, junior college students are scrambling to prepare for national examinations, and polytechnic students have plenty on their plate, too.

And let's not forget national service for men, along with worries about one's future studies and career. Not everyone can stay informed.

While a survey of more than 1,000 19-year-olds last year showed that more than half of them read newspapers (Young people do read newspapers, and books too, May 12, 2019), this says little about the relevance of what they read to Singaporean politics.

Most of us can barely name our own MPs, much less explain and critically evaluate their policy platforms.

Perhaps lowering the voting age will decrease youth political apathy and incentivise participation. Yet, I also question whether the syllabuses in schools adequately prepare us to vote wisely. Fundamental political concepts are mostly absent, with social studies being one of the rare, but inadequate, exceptions that teaches skills, including evaluating the reliability of information sources, and highlights some signature government policies.

Mere enthusiasm is not enough when it comes to voting. We need responsible and informed enthusiasm.

Therefore, the lowering of the voting age should at least be accompanied by improvements to education.

Ho Song Yee, 18

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2020, with the headline 'Don't lower voting age to 18 for now'. Print Edition | Subscribe