04 Mar Teaching Politics to Preschoolers?
Over the course of the next two weeks, China’s “Parliament”, the National People’s Congress (The NPC), and it’s political advisory council, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), will be meeting in what is described as China’s greatest political spectacle (see Guardian; BBC; Bloomberg; Nikkei Asian Review). 5000 delegates will convene in Beijing to discuss matters of policy, legislation and more in wide ranging debates that tend to approve the State’s legislative agenda and budget for the coming year. Key appointments are made to government and personnel are juggled around in one of the world’s largest political structures….
But what do any of us really know about it?
There seems to be remarkably little research done to figure out how well we all – voting adults that is – understand what some now consider the largest economy in the world.
I remember doing my own straw poll amongst friends, having just returned from China myself and found any knowledge rather…well let’s say limited at best.
Well yes. But also not quite. It’s complex and difficult to define and that, perhaps, is part of the problem. Nothing, in my recollection, was really done by way of teaching politics in our day
But is it important that we learn? And if so, at what age? Surely it’s too heady a subject matter to introduce to pre-schoolers?
Well it may come as a surprise to some of you that we are actually required, by law, to start teaching politics to pre-schoolers. The Prevent Duty, part of the the Government’s Counter-Radicalisation Agenda, actually formally incorporated the requirement to teach nursery children “Fundamental British Values“, namely: Democracy; Rule of Law; Individual Liberty; Mutual Respect & Tolerance for those of different faiths (there is a pretty useful blog by PACEY on the matter here).
Whether or not you find that any of the above are fundamentally “British”, is another matter – the principle that the Government wants us to teach is the rudiments of civics – what kind of society we are, how we govern ourselves and why it matters. Teaching politics, see?
And it makes sense in my view – to get children bought into the society in which they live, it makes sense to help them understand how it operates. Hopefully, in teaching politics, we can get them interested in the political processes that matter to them.
But should we also expand that to talk about other forms of governance and political systems in the process? Teaching politics shouldn’t just be a single view, should it?
I would say that we should expand teaching politics to broader areas. As a bilingual Mandarin & English early years education business, much of what we do in our nursery schools is about fostering greater understanding, linguistically as well as culturally, in our children. And if we are to talk about what it means to be democratic in the UK, we must surely talk about what means to not be in China.
And for those of you interested, there is a rather good essay on the differences between our own, liberal democratic model and China’s “political meritocracy” on the Economist by Professor Daniel Bell of both Shandong and Tsinghua Universities. Food for thought!