Youth panels is about passion and participation, not just mere technical knowledge

Youths also shared that while policymaking was not an easy process, it can also be a positive one.

Fitri Mahad

Probably the only person that likes to hear the koels go ‘uwu’.

Published: 26 May 2023, 4:40 PM

While the idea of policymaking can sound very technical, having extensive knowledge about policies is not necessarily needed when youths take part in the policymaking process.

Having the passion and willingness to participate is more important – a sentiment shared by both youths and panellists alike at the National Youth Dialogue held on Wednesday (May 24).

At the dialogue, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong announced that two to three youth panels will be set up by the end of this year, and each panel will comprise 20 to 30 youths.

Mr Tong, together with environmental advocate Woo Qiyun and Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Dr Carol Soon, also discussed the issues youth are most concerned about, the perception youths have of the Government when it comes to taking in their views, and how the Government can improve to include youths in policymaking.

Youthopia spoke to three youths – Attiya Ashraf Ali, Yuvan Mohan and Salwa Sanaullah Khan – to find out their sentiments about the youth panels.


Participants could also vote for the top three issues they are most concerned about on a board located outside the dialogue’s venue. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL

Not an easy process, requires patience

Yuvan, who is the chairperson of the SINDA Youth Club, shared that youths need to understand that making policy changes is not a process that would take place overnight.

Stamina and resolve will be needed to go through the whole policymaking process, he added. According to the National Youth Council (NYC), the youth panels are expected to take up to a year for its first run.

However, Yuvan added that from his perspective as a youth, there is also a need for youth panels to be clear in the commitment it requires from panellists. More importantly, it should present a “positive experience” for youths.

“And at the end of the day, I think we should use this policy panel to attract youths not previously engaged (by the NYC) and show them a different side of how youths can play a role,” he explained.

That is why it is important that the “problematic aspects” of youth panels, such as the recruitment process and youths potentially being fatigued by the process should be addressed early on.

“What we then need to work out is a recruitment process. How do you manage your attrition? I mean, those are other more problematic aspects we also need to focus on” Yuvan said.

Beyond that, Yuvan highlighted that being part of a youth panel is also a privilege.

He stressed that youth panellists have the responsibility of transferring these privileges to other members and people that are also privy to information provided to youth panellists.

Youths should also expect that their perspective “is not going to be the only one at play” and to be “comfortable with the perspective being challenged and changed”, he added.

“So don’t go with just an end in mind but go in to say, ‘I’m going to explore and through this exploration, I’m going to refine my thought process’,” Yuvan said.


This National Youth Dialogue is the sixth in a series of seven dialogues held as part of the Forward SG exercise. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL

Participation is more important than technical knowledge

Salwa was initially worried about attending the dialogue as she thought she lacked knowledge to be able to contribute to discussions on policymaking or the issues of concern effectively.

The 17-year-old Kaplan Singapore student revealed that she received an invitation to the dialogue as a participant in last year’s Our Singapore Leadership Programme catered for Secondary 4 students.

An advocate of environmental and sustainability causes, she was initially intimidated by participants who appear to have “put a lot of thought” into the dialogue and came “well prepared”. Salwa eventually learnt that the participants – who she found to be “eloquent and knowledgeable” during the dialogues – gained their knowledge by attending multiple dialogues and events.

Salwa added that these dialogues also function as networking events. Aside from gaining knowledge, participants will get to meet new people with the same interests.

“So even if you are worried that you cannot contribute meaningfully in the discussion, just at least come for learning, from listening to others and getting to know people,” she added.

More importantly, youths who do not have a specific cause they care about, but still want to know how they can make a difference, should come for such engagements.

Underscoring the importance of the engagements, Salwa explained that youths can also “learn a lot” and contribute to their community through attending these dialogues.


The Youth panels will give an opportunity for youths hoping to make a difference to do so. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL

Topics should be prioritised based on needs, passion

When deciding which topics should be discussed by youth panels, Attiya believes that it’s a matter of “engaging the different youth meaningfully and prioritising accordingly”.

While it is possible for youth panels to tackle any number of topics, the vice president of Mendaki Club added that prioritisation (of topics) also reflects society’s need “at that point in time”.

It calls for two factors: An understanding of which issues are more critical to address now and topics that youths have a higher stake in.

Attiya expressed her excitement with the youth panels as it goes beyond just a dialogue. But she also cautioned against oversaturating panels with too many topics, so that it wouldn’t end up being counterproductive.

“I think in order for youth panels to gain credibility, it’s quite important to take things slower, instead of fishing for the whole ocean.

“You focus on a few core topics first. And then to make sure that the process is refined for these youth, before extending it to the other (topics),” she remarked.


Attiya (second from right) pioneered a Women’s Chapter within Mendaki Club named mGirl Co. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


Yuvan also suggested that youth panels should not only look at topics that impact youths, but Singapore as well.

“You do not need 100 per cent of the youth population to resonate with topics, you just need a select group who are passionate about it,” he remarked.

He added that prioritising topics in such a manner also increases their credibility, and considers it a “necessary effort”.

Youths have the added challenge of being seen as “idealistic”, said Yuvan. It becomes a matter of how their idealism can be “warranted”, including those who have become “disillusioned”.

“By doing so, you’re able to show that youth do have a voice and your voice matters, and your voice impacts others” Yuvan shared.

Those who wish to indicate their interest in joining the youth panels can find out more here.

To find out more about the youth panels, visit the National Youth Council’s website here.

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