The Union ministry of human resource development has set in motion a plan to include more information about the democratic exercise of voting in school syllabi, including as extra and co-curricular activities, following a request from the Election Commission.
As many as 20 million first-time voters are added to the electoral list every year and the EC wants to focus on this demographic of 15-17-year-olds or 62% of the future voters to drive home the importance of the franchise and ethical voting.
Though information about electoral processes is part of civic science syllabus in most states, the poll panel wants more. It has cited the examples of countries such as the United States, Canada, South Korea and Australia where electoral literacy is part of the school curriculum.
“Schools in these countries carry out mock elections either close to the state or national elections or an annual exercise to familiarise the students with the actual voting and counting process. Even young democracies like Kenya, Namibia and Myanmar have included voter education in the school curricula, adopting best practices from countries where voter education has been successfully imparted in schools,” the panel said in its letter to HRD minister Prakash Javadekar.
The curriculum is expected to cover the whole gamut of electoral aspects, from the formation of political parties to how elections are held and the use of electronic methods of casting a vote to malpractices.
The idea is to not only introduce children to voting exercise but also help them make an informed choice when they are eligible to vote, said a source.
Following a positive response from the HRD ministry, the panel has set up a working group at its headquarters to draw the blueprint for the implementation of electoral literacy.
“Commission has initiated steps to introduce electoral literacy in school curricula and co-curricula. Committees have been formed in every state to review the existing curricula and suggest new contents to inculcate electoral awareness among future voters,” chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said recently.
“A national level working group has also been set-up in ECI to prepare co-curricular activities and toolkits for students and teachers,” he added.
The poll panel has also suggested that till the time new curriculum is introduced, National Council Of Educational Research And Training (NCERT) should develop a booklet on elections and as supplementary reading.
In 2013, the EC collaborated with the National Literacy Mission Authority of the HRD ministry to introduce electoral literacy in the Sakshar Bharat programme. Earlier, the EC appointed campus ambassadors to motivate students to register for voting.