The success of any contemporary political system hinges on the political awareness of the general public in that country, given the significance of the voting process and the shaping of public opinion around various ideas and theories. Modern states employ numerous mechanisms to enhance political participation, aiming to incorporate the feedback from the country’s populace into policy formation to ensure the smooth operation of the political system. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, mass participation in the political process has dwindled over time; the voter turnout in the last general election was merely around forty percent (specifically, 44.5%). This trend indicates that people either lack trust in the current political system and its management or fail to recognize the importance of casting their votes. Let us analyze the extent to which education can contribute to political awareness in Pakistan and explore methods to increase political participation.
The Culture of Students Unions
In the early years following independence, student unions played a pivotal role in shaping the political discourse of the country. In addition, the student union platform provided a breeding ground for new political leaders, thus being viewed as a training ground. The prohibition of student unions, along with the imposition of a ‘ban on politics’ on campuses, has not only eroded trust in the political system among the masses but has also contributed to a leadership crisis. Most contemporary leaders struggle to connect with the young population, which constitutes over 68% of the total. Many of these youngsters abstain from participating in the electoral process due to a prevailing sense that the ruling elite has failed to gain their trust, rendering the entire electoral exercise unnecessary in their view. Consequently, they opt to stay home and indulge in their favorite TV shows on election day. It’s evident that the majority of the youth lack a political voice, making them susceptible to various market-driven propaganda and inclined to embrace populist figures as saviors who will miraculously rescue our homeland. The ban on student unions has further deepened the decline of our political culture. As elections approach, it becomes crucial to analyze how education, particularly within universities, can significantly contribute to enhancing the political awareness and acumen of the youth. This, in turn, will empower them to make more informed choices for the betterment of the country
The need for better Political Education: Recognizing the importance of the Political Process
Drawing further on the arguments we have discussed before; the need of the hour is to inculcate the importance of political education in the institutions of higher education. There is a need to introduce more courses even in Stem fields of study to educate youngsters about the history of their country and to make them aware of the functioning of the country’s political system and their duties to participate for the betterment as well. It has been generally observed that students, mostly from STEM fields are so consumed in their studies that they are not very aware of what goes around in their surroundings, but they are likely to climb the social ladder quickly and be in key positions in society. Hence it is very necessary to educate this class and inculcate the skills of critical thinking in the age where the lines between truth and falsehood keep getting blurred.
The Situation of Ruler Areas
A significant portion of the population, particularly in rural areas, still lacks access to quality education. Gender disparities persist, with lower enrollment and retention rates for girls, and this directly affects their political participation and awareness. Moreover, the curriculum often lacks a comprehensive understanding of political systems, democratic values, and civic responsibilities, which hinders the development of political consciousness among students.
The Role of Education in Political Awareness in Pakistan:
Education can play a transformative role in fostering political awareness in Pakistan and in enhancing active participation When individuals are exposed to a well-rounded education that emphasizes critical thinking, civic values, and an understanding of political structures, they become better equipped to engage in the political process. A comprehensive education system should not only focus on academic subjects but also on imparting civic education that instills a sense of responsibility, ethics, and participation in the political sphere.
Education and political awareness are intricately connected, and their relationship is of paramount importance in a country like Pakistan. A well-informed and politically conscious citizenry is essential for a vibrant democracy, social cohesion, and sustainable development. By addressing the challenges in the education system and implementing strategies to enhance political awareness, Pakistan can pave the way for a brighter future where its citizens actively participate in shaping the nation’s destiny. Investing in education is not just an investment in human capital but a pathway to a more enlightened, engaged, and prosperous society.
The writer, Muhammad Saad, is an M.Phil scholar of Political Science at GCU Lahore.