Saturday, January 8, 2011


The move by the Education Ministry of Malaysia to make the History subject as a compulsory pass in the SPM beginning 2013 is questionable..  Why History? Why not English? After all, they are going all out to promote the MBMMBI , after flooring the PPSMI !!! Why History? Why??
Malaysia, being a multi-racial country is quite sensitive when discussing about history. We can learn history, but we don't need to remind the public every now and then. Unless, there's a prawn behind the noodles...
The syllabus of the subject itself would be difficult to tabulate. Facts will remain as facts, of course. But, the question here is - from whose point of view? This is difficult to discuss.. Take a look at the letters sent to the local newspaper today:

History: A task best left to historians and scholars

HASSAN TALIB, Gombak, Selangor

HOW should History be written or re-written in multiracial Malaysia, so as not to touch on the sensitivity of any ethnic group?
To glorify the achievement of one ethnic group will incur the wrath of other ethnic groups. Such is the sensitivity of Malaysians who want to see the true spirit of 1Malaysia reflected in history books.
So how to walk the tightrope? I suggest we use the following approach:

- Do not translate the original English version as it leaves room for interpretation. Instead, the teacher should try to explain the English text verbally in class based on his understanding.
- All history books written locally should be edited by all parties concerned (historians, educators, political parties, non-governmental organisations, etc) before they are submitted to the Education Ministry.
- Use the old Cambridge syllabus as it has much to offer students in terms of understanding world history. Everybody has his or her own interpretation of history based on his or her own unique experience.

Take the tragedy of May 13, 1969 for example. How do we explain to the present generation without touching on their sensitivity? Or how do we explain to the satisfaction of everyone the heroic roles of the various ethnic groups in fighting the Japanese during World War 2?
History as a subject was never an issue during my schooling days in the 1960s and early 1970s. I don't understand why it has now become a sensitive issue. Our children are entitled to understand history as it opens their mind to knowledge and understanding of past events so as to prepare them for the future.
Do we have the right to re-write history as we see it for some political reasons? I believe history should be written by true historians who have no hidden agenda but seek knowledge for knowledge's sake. Only true scholars understand history and make history books interesting for young and old alike.

History: Let's be honest with subject

I am glad that we are taking history more seriously. The passion and insistence for nationalism has, at times, blinded us to many historical facts.

The rewriting of the subject for secondary schools should be done not only with patriotic and national motives in mind, but with moral, ethical and human considerations.
It should be an unbiased account of what actually occurred. Historians need to record what happened without hiding any part of it. The readers should be the judge of the truth.
The truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction and definitely more interesting. Writings with ulterior motives cannot stand the test of time and can confuse the students.
History should never be used only as a tool to unify the various races in our country. It should never become just a story of brave and patriotic leaders and fighters of the various races who fought for the sovereignty of the country -- leaders devoid of self-interest and racial and religious prejudices; leaders with only the interest of the country in mind.
This is not true. In the early days prior to our independence, racial, religious and social differences were put aside mainly to accommodate the need for independence and convince the British colonials of our ability to live together.
The differences have always been there. Spelling this out in the books would have been more effective than covering it up in the guise of unity among the races.
Our children should be taught that the harmony, prosperity and peace that we are enjoying now need to be maintained through relentless efforts on their part.
In fact, the May 13, 1969 riots, and an earlier racial incident in Penang, should never have been underplayed and kept away like skeletons in the closet. They should be portrayed with all their gory and bloody details. Our children need to learn from the mistakes of the past.
The writings on many of our earlier leaders, too, have been exaggerated even though many of these leaders and fighters were initially motivated by self-interest and thirst for power.
Tok Janggut, the legendary Malay leader, for example, only started his fight in 1915, many years after the British were in Kelantan and only when the right of taxation was taken over by the British.
Yap Ah Loy, the founder of Kuala Lumpur, was closely linked to the triads. In fact, he was able to fortify his position as the Kapitan Cina only because of his association with the Hai San -- the notorious gang generally implicated in gambling, feuds, opium dealings, murders and many other immoral activities.
His assistant and right hand man, Yap Ah Shak, was the leader of the Hai San. These aspects of the characters were never mentioned.
These are some examples of how national motives for the unity of the races can distort history. However, these weaknesses do not in any way eliminate their greatness.
Tok Janggut and Yap Ah Loy were great leaders in their own right and should be accorded their rightful place in our history. Their roles and that of others should be properly told with truth in mind.
The dirt in history should never be cleaned up or made to look good for the consumption of our children. These human failings would make great reading and enhance their greatness in the minds of our children.
They were, after all, real men who rose over and above themselves and others to achieve greatness. A boy who hears a lesson in History does not just want to be told about the greatness achieved.
He wants to hear more about the mistakes, fears, failures, sufferings and the weaknesses of these great leaders as they stumbled through history and eventually achieved greatness.
These are down to earth, full-blooded human beings -- heroes they can relate to and associate with.
Thus, we should humanise our history and deal with actions of the leaders of the past with candour, humility and sincerity.
A look at the History books for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and General Certificate of Secondary Education would give us many examples of such fine readings. They are based on many authentic, primary and secondary source collections of the past.
The students will be the judge and make their stand regarding a happening in history. These writings do not make tedious reading and students need not memorise the facts.
Lessons are geared towards analytical skills and not merely memorising facts to pass examinations.
Imagine how interesting our Malaysian history would be if we lay bare the sayings and quotations of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Lee Kuan Yew, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and others during the height of the formation of Malaysia and the withdrawal of Singapore.
Was Tunku right in making his decision? Posterity will be the judge of that.
M. ALKUT, Kota Baru, Kelantan

Don't distort facts
THERE are people who say that the writing of history should be left to historians. But the reality is that politicians do intrude.
Take the History books in Japan for example. They don't talk about Japanese aggression during World War 2. They talk about advancing into Asian countries to help them change policies of the British imperial government.
I suppose those who write History books in Malaysia look at things this way, too.
What went wrong after the early years of independence is that history, and what should go into our History books, was decided mostly by politicians and not by historians.
Some of these politicians do not have any knowledge of history.
History never was an issue between the 1950s and the 1970s. The students were properly taught about world history and its impact.
The hundreds of senior government officers today cannot deny that their knowledge of world history is excellent and can put many of today's younger lecturers and graduates to shame. Facts should not be distorted. Our children should learn the truth. Call a spade a spade.


Rethink move
IN a few years, History will not only be a compulsory subject, but also a must-pass subject in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.
The announcement came as a surprise to many. I believe an indepth study and consultation with the relevant stakeholders should have been done before such an important announcement was made.
We are all mindful of the fact that education is very important for our children and any new changes to the education policy should be well-planned and deliberated before a policy is adopted for implementation.
The government has another two years to implement the policy and, therefore, has ample time to discuss with the relevant stakeholders on the feasibility of implementing the policy.
If it has to revoke the decision then by all means it should, rather than face the same fate as that of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, where taxpayers' money went to waste when the decision was reversed.

S.T. RAJ, Klang, Selangor.

You see, it's going to be tough !! Best of luck Ministry of Education....

Have a nice day...

1 comment:

Wake UP! said...

Both English and History should be made compulsory to pass.

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