History syllabus and textbooks: The non-Malay fig leaf and more serious matters

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
Centre for Policy Initiatives
Sunday, 02 January 2011

The Ministry of Education has finally replied to concerns raised by many Malaysians that the teaching of Malaysian history has been debased through changes in the syllabus and textbooks. However the letter by the Corporate Communications Unit of the Ministry totally ignores the allegations and makes no attempt to address the specific and general concerns articulated in the media and the internet.

Instead, the reply is a public relations job detailing non-Malay participation in the writing of text books and referrals made in recommending text book writers. This is insufficient to allay concerns or refute the allegations made of the political bias, crass nationalism and blatant Islamization that have come to dominate the history syllabus and textbooks.

Now that various names have been made available to the public, the onus is on these individuals identified in the Ministry letter to step out of the shadows and to vouch for the high standards and integrity of the syllabus and textbooks process put in place by the Ministry.

One of these select experts, Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, has already spoken out. What do the others – presumably paid for their services by public funds – have to say in response to the charges of a racialized, politicized and religiously propagandistic process that has infiltrated and subverted the history textbook and syllabus system?

The history syllabus is presently undergoing revision. This is the right time for those named in the Ministry’s letter, as well as others that have been participating in these expert panels and textbook work, to come clean and provide some feedback to the public on what is wrong with the current system and what should be done to ensure that the Malaysian history taught in schools has a truly balanced perspective of the contributions of all ethnic communities and civilizations.

Besides Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, those mentioned in the Ministry’s roll of honour owe the hundreds of thousands of students, who will be required to spend many hours memorizing and regurgitating what the Ministry decrees to be the true history of Malaysia and the world, no less than their full and honest disclosure and appraisal of the system, its products and probable outcomes – a system that the Ministry is imputing has not only their full participation but also their endorsement.

There are larger issues as well that we need to debate vigorously in the public sphere. Will the teaching of history, especially in its current form, foster patriotism and national unity? Or will it result in greater racial and religious polarization? There have been no studies as well as empirical evidence showing that the enhanced teaching of history will bring about the wildly optimistic ends that the Minister of Education has publicly pronounced.

Should history be made a compulsory pass subject? And does this imply that more hours in the schools and greater attention should be given to the teaching of history?

How useful is the emphasis on history, Malay studies and Islamic studies to the student population in schools and in the universities?

The outcome of the emphasis on cultural and religious learning and knowledge (including history) in our national schools and universities has been disastrous, especially for Malay students. It has resulted in poorly trained, low quality human capital unable to meet the needs of a competitive global market and lacking the flexibility, open-mindedness and adaptive knowledge to contribute to economic development and national productivity.

Does the Government not see that this misguided move to strengthen the teaching of a racially and religiously bigoted history may in fact reinforce the culture of alienation and poverty that is at the root of many of our social and economic problems?

Instead of emphasizing the importance of history and other narrowly cultural-religious subjects in the schooling system (religious learning has a place but it should be in the private sphere of the home, and not in the public sector), the government should prioritize the teaching of science, mathematics, computing, communications, English and other related subjects that are internationally acknowledged as the main drivers of innovation and intellectual capital.

If the Minister of Education is hell bent on making his mark in history the wrong way – and at the expense of our precious young minds – it is incumbent on his cabinet colleagues to put him right. But perhaps they do not give a damn since their children and grand-children are studying in private schools and abroad.

  1. #1 by dcasey on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 3:16 pm

    Dear Dr Lim, you are right, all these big headed cabinet ministers do not give a damn since their children and grand-children are studying in private schools and abroad. You are also absolutely right to say that each and every of our Minister of Education, past, present and future, are hell bent on making his mark in history the wrong way – and at the expense of our precious young minds. Ask Anwar, Mahakutty and etc… How else are they going to bankrupt Malaysia….these are the real traitors of the country!

  2. #2 by k1980 on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 3:30 pm

    //If the Minister of Education is hell bent on making his mark in history the wrong way – and at the expense of our precious young minds – it is incumbent on his cabinet colleagues to put him right.//

    Doc Lim, you are barking up the wrong tree. The Edu minister acts according to the instructions he gets from his boss, the pm. So his cabinet colleagues will be too scared to put him right.

    These umno twarts are only following the Japanese example in whitewashing their historical crimes in WW2. Pakatan Rakyat needs to set up a Nuremburg-type trial after the 13GE to hang them all.

  3. #3 by dagen on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 3:44 pm

    They made the mistake of equipping our local graduates with useless and unemployable knowledge. Now it seems, they want to equip every young malaysian with useless and unemployable knowledge. In the name of levelling the playing field, you see. So, if they are equally stupid then in the eyes future employers they are all the same.

    Good grief. Another irresistable reason to want to leave the country.

  4. #4 by sotong on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 5:47 pm

    The panel of experts is just window dressing….they already decided what should or should not be in the history book.

    There is no basic freedom of speech to protect the truth. Nobody dares to come forward and challenge the authority.

    A country with so much resources and talented, capable and hardworking people….what a mess!!

  5. #5 by negarawan on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 5:53 pm

    It is no wonder that Malaysia’s education standard is dropping to the standard of Zimbabwe. UMNO continues to abuse the education syllabus in primary, secondary and tertiary levels to promote UMNO’s political idealogy of ketuanan. The question is why has MCA and MIC done nothing over the years and allowed UMNO to adulterate and damage the education system? Even our medical degrees are no longer recognized in many countries, and local university graduates don’t even have a decent command of English for basic communication!

  6. #6 by Loh on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 7:28 pm

    The purpose of making history a compulsory pass for SPM is to brainwash the children into believing what have been stated in the textbook. Usually history is taught to analyse the happenings of days past. But with the intention to distort, and since education in Malaysia means memorising and regurgitating, students will lose marks if they read outside the prescribed text and provide sensible answers different from what the prescribed text provide. Thus, students who did not accept the explanation had no choice but to memorize the ridiculous answers. Students are therefore punished for getting an interest in history to analyse the past. They are also forced to stick to the textbooks and are discouraged to think independently. The Education Minister had created an indirect method to kill education in Malaysia. That would also reduce competition for the children of the Ministers and UMNOputras, who are trained overseas. Who said that Malays feared competition from non-Malays! They fear their own “race” more as they are more numerous and they know secretly that no one race is destined to have inferior brain while claiming that NEP is still needed.

  7. #7 by Taxidriver on Monday, 3 January 2011 - 10:40 pm

    Low education standard in our National schools is not the only reason why most UMNOB big guns and ministers prefer to send their children to private and foreign schools. Their other concern is that Malaysia is not a safe country and because they are filthy rich their children will be targets of would-be kidnappers. Criminal ministers who committed rapes and murders worry that their victims’ family members might make revenge killings.

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 12:55 am

    A non-Malay but a Muslim, Ridhuan Tee Hee Hee, is slated to publish a History book soon which no doubt will be the standard text book for History students beginning 2014.

  9. #9 by Loh on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 2:35 am

    sheriff singh :
    A non-Malay but a Muslim, Ridhuan Tee Hee Hee, is slated to publish a History book soon which no doubt will be the standard text book for History students beginning 2014.

    He considers himself Malay. He was converted to satisfy the necessary condition, and he is behaving more Malay than Malay to prepare for entry into Malay race. Mamakthir did the same thing by simply claiming that he had 100% Malay blood. Ridhuan Tee is less smart, and yet Mamakthir believes that any Chinese, including pork seller is more intelligent than he is.

    • #10 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 7:43 am

      What History has he got after his change?

  10. #11 by k1980 on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 9:44 am

    //A non-Malay but a Muslim, Ridhuan Tee Hee Hee, is slated to publish a History book //

    Important changes in that History book—

    1. The melaka sultanate was found by Parames Tee, a prince from Palembang who also happened to be Ridhuan Tee’s great-great-great grand uncle.

    2. Alexander the Great of Macedonia was the great-great-great grand uncle on his mother’s side of Ridhuan Tee Hee Hee.

    3. The great statesman Lee Kuan Yew once served as the servant of Ridhuan Tee’s grandfather.

  11. #12 by burn on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 10:18 am

    as many have seen and known, history have already being manipulated slowly for ketuanan reason by the bn umno. yet, other bn components have kept mum over it. “barisan national” is only a namesake to make it feel good for all races. but in real, it is only meant for one party, umno.

  12. #13 by burn on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 10:30 am

    forget about ridhuan. i consider him, a half past six lecturer. many kampong ppl in malaysia i have met, imam, datuk, makcik, abang, and akak do not have this sort of mentality. yet, a so call lecturer from university can think this way.

  13. #14 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 10:59 am

    Underlying these kinds of action is the believe the adage ‘the victor gets to write/rewrite the history’. Its actually a fundamental believe that they can rewrite the truth if they win their hegemonistic agenda. Its really a perversion of the lessons of the adage – a betrayal of the source of the motivation for such action.

    In no time in history has such zealotry worked. Shih Huang Ti burned books for the same reason. The Nazis did the same thing. None of them manage to hide the fundamental truth AND it was a lot easier back them what without the internet and other democratic means of information like an education.

    What worries me is that that what they do will work. It won’t. But what worries me is the damage they cause in their road to failures – lost time and focus not educating our children properly and equipped them with the skills and understanding to compete, perverting their understanding so that they will have to relearn and fall behind in adapting to the world and facing challenges they cannot avoid.

    I am not worried they will succeed but I am worried my children is being set up to fail..

  14. #15 by Taxidriver on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 - 11:12 am

    I have no issue with Lee Wong Tee’s conversion to Islamic faith. ISLAM ( NOT the islam practise by UMNOB Malays ) is a peaceful religion. But to denounce one’s ancestry is not acceptable by any society. I despise, yes DESPISE such people who we can find many in Malaysia. The most outstanding one is an indian from Kerala who had the Malays under his thumb!!!!!!!

  15. #16 by dagen on Wednesday, 5 January 2011 - 9:04 am

    Use the study of history to brainwash kids? Ho ho ho ho. That was so last centuary. Kids these days do not place much, if any, emphasis on past public figures and past events. They live for today and look forward to tommorrow. And the heroes in their minds and hearts more likely than not would be celebrities. Muhideen may “islam jenis-umno” for all he wants, his effort will hv little lasting effect or impact on kids of today. On the other hand chaps like namewee would influence them more.

    Doing what he is doing is already showing him up to be stupid and idiotic. As if that was not bad enough, muhideen decided to employ a completely outdated and outmoded method to mould the minds of kids. BTW, is that apco’s advice? If so then it surely is money not well spent!

  16. #17 by MGR1940 on Saturday, 8 January 2011 - 11:36 am

    Why can’t some learned people among us like Dr. Manjit or Prof. Khoo bring up this matter to any World bodies.
    Be proud and be brave to say out laud that your ancestors were were here long before the UMNOputras and not to change the History of this country unless you want be in the good books of UMNO.

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