And it’s getting increasingly obvious. I’m sure many of us Singaporeans sat up a little taller during the previous elections and noted how politicians took to using social media to garner votes. Even so, the margin of votes between parties remains low, for all the efforts the politicians took to engage the younger generation.
In the past, people look to the elite to lead them – the kind that had the very best education and opportunities in life. After all, many of the older generation weren’t well educated, if educated at all. Surely, someone with that much education would know better?
That much is true. Without the education and experience overseas of politicians such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore would hardly be the glittering and attractive city-state that it is today. However, it’s about time that the landscape and market for politicians started changing.
I don’t aim to speak for my entire generation – I’m born in the mid 1990s, if anyone is curious – but there is a certain sense of disconnect between these politicians and us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not overly supportive of either the PAP or the opposition; I support the policies that work, and I complain about those that don’t. It’s uncomfortable for me to see the profile of the people who lead us be so similar to one another, when there’s been an increasing number of students that gravitate towards the less conventional route of education. We can’t connect with someone whose life is so vastly different from ours.
The typical profile of a Member of Parliament (MP) in Singapore is this: ‘A’ level educated and did their Bachelors degree in Singapore. Out of the 99 MPs listed on the Parliament website, only six were educated in any of the polytechnics in Singapore, and many of the MPs who did their degree in Singapore went on to further their studies abroad.
That’s hardly the profile of a typical youth in Singapore these days.
According to The Straits Times, around 59 per cent of students were offered places in polytechnics this year. Even more telling is that these poly students (seeing as I’m one myself) are not guaranteed as many places in local universities. With more youths opting for alternate education routes, maybe it’s time to recruit more politicians from various education backgrounds, as youths will better relate to them.
Social media is another thing that shows the wide gap between generations. Social media is a part of my generation’s life, like it or not, there’s no escaping. Schoolwork is discussed there, plans are made there, and every thing is on social media. However, besides PM Lee, the number of followers that politicians in Singapore have range from 2,000 to slightly below 15,000 despite Singapore having 2.8 million Facebook users.
Having said that, the various parties and politicians (especially PM Lee Hsien Loong, whose Instagram and Facebook posts are very endearing!) must be applauded for their efforts to bring them closer to the younger voters. Even England’s Queen has jumped onto the social media trend, having posted her first social media post on Twitter late last month.
Politicians have been taking note of the generation gap. Unlike in the past decades, politicians have been engaging the voters (most often the young adults) in the form of various dialogues and conversations. This is one other thing that differs greatly from the older generation, where most people would assume that the politicians know best and hardly question policies rolled out. These days, information is everywhere, and its no wonder that the younger generations feel the need to talk, to question and yes, to complain.
(Editor’s Note: Communicating is not just about Facebook, blogs and social media tools. It is also a lot about action and not just empty rhetoric. For example – instead of a straight out Shisha ban, I would have worked with the community and try to sell the policy in for at least a few months before taking a small step into restriction rather than apply a sledgehammer ban. I think it is more than “how to communicate”, it is “how to love”.)