S'pore Model Parliament invites students from JC, Polytechnic, ITE & NSFs to stage mock debates

Step into the shoes of an MP.

Sulaiman Daud | Ruth Chai | October 17, 2022, 07:08 PM

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Parliament, the highest forum of the nation, sits most months to discuss issues that affect all Singaporeans and residents.

And some youths recently got a taste of what that's like in the Singapore Model Parliament 2022 programme.

Crash course, dialogues and debates

This eight edition of Model Parliament, themed "#YouthMatters", is organised by REACH, the national feedback and engagement unit, in collaboration with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) and is supported by Parliament House.

The Model Parliament participants were given a crash course on Singapore's parliamentary system, with public policy workshops by the LKYSPP. These sessions included a workshop by former Minister Yaacob Ibrahim and workshops by academics Leong Ching and Woo Jun Jie.

They also had dialogues with Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam, also REACH deputy chair.

It concluded with a mock Parliamentary debate on Oct. 15, at Parliament House itself.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua opened the debates, which included topics on education, gender and income inequality, and bridging the gaps between people of different ages and integrating new citizens. Chua also serves as REACH's Deputy Chair.

Photo from REACH

Building trust

Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How gave a speech, noting that it was the programme's 10-year anniversary, and the first to be held in-person since the Covid-19 pandemic.

He revealed that the idea to hold a Model Parliament came from REACH youth ambassadors who wanted to know what it was like stepping into the shoes of a Member of Parliament.

Tan also spoke a little on REACH's work in gauging ground sentiment, crediting its officers with having "thick skin" and speaking to strangers to find out their concerns:

"You build trust, build a relationship, and work through partners. But why we do all this, is because we believe that every voice matters, when we are shaping policies.

You're thinking about charging the future of Singapore, the nation that we love so much. Singaporeans' voices, especially those who are less vocal, less in the mainstream, should also be given time and space to hear from them. So this spirit of REACH is very much expressed in our Singapore Model Parliament."

Photo by Ruth Chai.

Bringing diverse groups together

Speaking to Mothership, Tan highlighted that programmes like these allowed students and others of different backgrounds to come together, discuss issues which they're passionate about and also make new friends.

When asked how healthy conversation between diverse groups can be furthered in society, Tan said, "In fact, REACH is always reaching out to different groups of different segments in our community, in our society, to have this conversation, to have these discussions, especially during this period. "

Tan mentioned the Forward Singapore exercise headed by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong as an example of a government effort to engage different groups and hear their concerns.

Proposed their own policies

Participants came from Junior Colleges, Polytechnics, Institutes of Technical Education, local universities and even some full-time National Servicemen.

According to REACH, 110 post-secondary participants were selected to attend, out of 260 sign-ups, the highest in the programme's history.

During the debates, teams proposed policies of their own, like introducing a teacher's assistant training scheme for six months to provide tuition for others, or merging international and local schools for greater social integration.

Photo by Ruth Chai.

Give youths space to express themselves

Speaking to Mothership, Isabelle Gan of Anglo Chinese School Independent said the programme was insightful, allowing her to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.

"Everyone here are all interested in the same thing, and that is to learn more about the future of Singapore and how they can contribute," she added.

Fabian Ong from ITE East, when asked about the biggest problem facing youths today, said there was a need to give youths more space, care and concern.

"We are all kind in nature, but with more care and concern, we'll be able to do better and know what's right and wrong," he said.

You can see the winners below:

Top image by Ruth Chai.