Saturday, October 23, 2010

History to become a compulsory subject in schools..

Muka masam tidak suka frngan cadangan.

The 61st UMNO General Assembly has ended and one of tht bold resolutions made was that history should be m
ade a compulsoy subject in schools. As we usually understand it a compulsory subject means that all students must take it and get a pass, otherwise you fail the whole examination.

One can imagine the reaction of our kids to this momentous decision for as far as i know many of them hate history - the srudy of things which happened in the past. It's considered as one of the most boring subjects in school. If this is not so amymore, well everything is ok. I suppose Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim is very happy about this. Those people who don't know history might tend to repeat the mistakes of the past again. The citizens of this nation should know the history of the nation, how Independence was gained, how the people of Malaysia (then known as Malaya) from various racial origins worked together to convince the British that we can govern ourselves, how we fought the Communists, overcome the bloody racial clash of May1963 etc. It is believed that only a good understanding and knowledge of these crucial periods in our history will make people appreciate what our past leaders have done for them and how fortunate they are to be a citizen of this country.

Well, the argument is convincing and plausible enough. But history covers a very wide area of interests. Everything that happened in the past csn also be given several interpretations. Our understanding of history depends on how the textbooks are written, who writes them and how the subject is handled in class. If the teaching of history falls into the wrong hands one can imagine the damage and injustice that can be done to the thinking and emotions of our students. As it is do we have sufficient textbooks on the history of the nation to cover all those aspects of political development that the Prime Mnister covered in his Keynote addreess a the UMNO Geneeral Assebly and do we have enough teachers who can handle the subdject effectively? As I understand it there's yet many aspects of Malaysia's past and contemporary history which have not been written. Who is going to teach them? teachers who are UMNO leaders?

Talk about giving our kids a good comprehensive education that will enable them to function as a skilled and informed citizen on entering the work force, there are many other subjects that had been identified as crucial to their wellbeing. Computer knowledge has been emphasized in other meetings before while the study of Science and Mathematics is considered as a basic need for a good education. Then comes the need to improve the command of Bahasa and also English. I believe that a pass in all these subjects is still necessary to pass the UPSR and SPM examinations. With history coming into the picture, I really pity the students of today.So many subjects have become compulsory that they have no choice of their own.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
As far as I could recall my former schooldays in learning history, you hit the nail right on the head with regard to teachers who are teaching the subject. One can either become an avid learner of history or hate the subject depending on who is teaching it. I had one great history teacher who died in a car crash by the name of Mr. Anton Ponniah, when he taught the subject, everyone was alert and he made it a real lively subject. However not many has this talent and now since it has become a compulsory subject, I have my reservations.
But it is in the right direction and let us hope that every good citizen of this country begins with the knowledge of the past, especially how this Nation was born.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
Making 'History' compulsory means exposing ALL the young minds to matters relating to culture, religion and race. It needs a good moderator to diffuse any tensions arising from discussions. I'm not sure if this can be done well by any good teacher. The teacher may even colour it according to his own beliefs and prejudices. It would be tough going initially, I imagine.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Norzah,

I studied history in Form 3 (std 7 than)and I disliked the subject. It was all reading. I was more for maths and science. How happy I was that I could drop it from form 4.

Somehow later in life I began to think that history is not bad after all. I remember some of the things I studied in form 3, the like of John Cabot's discovery of North East passage, the voyage of Pilgrims's Progress from Plymouth to North America, Boston Tea Party, East India Company etc. It was world history and I think one is richer to know something of the world.

Today's history is very much about home with emphasis to make children 'patriotic'. I think on balance I prefer the world history if I were forced to choose.

It is something like geography. I think people like us are richer than today's children with the knowledge about the world we live in. I remember beginning geography book with proofs that the earth was round! We learned to sketch maps of various continents, knowing cities of the world, large rivers of the world, deserts of the world, vegetations and occupations on earth , formation of fiords and valleys, ocean currents, etc, etc.

My form form two pupils do not know what 'atlas' is believe it or not. Only this morning I was reading to Form 3 pupils Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now". They asked me whether Venice (the setting of the book) was a town somewhere on earth - in Italy, where was Italy?

In short I just do not know what benefits today's children get from geography and history the learn today.

norzah said...

Akhi Halim, Kaykuala and Pakcik Al-Manar,
It would appear that everyone is agreed on the importance of history being taught in schools to get a good understanding of our historical development, our racial origins and our cultural inheritance. Whether it has been an interesting subject to us or not depended on the capability of the history teacher to bring the events and characters to life or just be presented as memoirs of the past.

But look again at why the UMNO General Assembly decided that the teaching of history be made compulsory. So that inter alia, the kids of today know who were the national leaders who have brought to them the benefits of development and the prosperity and harmony we enjoy today. These include of course those who have fought against the Malayan Union, the Communists and negotiated for Independence. They must appreciate and respect the heroes.

Nothing wrong with that. But has the full history of Independence been written relating the roles that our esteemed leaders have played. What if history teachers pick on their own heroes and present history from their own perspective. Wont the truth be distorted? Would it not be dangerous, for the young Malaysians may acquire a contradictory account of what happened, and each pay tributer to their own chosen heroes? How much of our modern history has been written and accepted by all?

I'm all for history being seriously taught in schools. But to make it compulsory in the sense that if you fail the subject you fail the entire examination, I have my reservation.