History or Soviet-style propaganda? That is the question

by Andrew Aeria
The Malaysian Insider
Aug 15, 2011

AUG 15 — If anyone from the Ministry of Education held an honest, open and non-patronising discussion with our secondary schoolchildren on the subject of history as it is presently taught in school, they would discover that a huge majority of students view it as a painfully boring and utterly worthless subject.

They would also discover that students learn practically nothing from the subject. Instead, students only force themselves to memorise vacuous facts about people and events merely to pass their exams; an indoctrination exercise that defeats the whole purpose of why we educate our children in the first place.

I should know. I taught an introductory-level university course, “Malaysian Social History” to undergraduates for a few years. And to my astonishment, I discovered how intellectually and emotionally impoverished my undergraduates were about history. Not that they had not studied and even passed the subject with flying colours in their SPM/STPM exams, but because what they had previously memorised in school was simply not worth remembering! Stunned by their lack of interest in the subject, I examined the current school history syllabus and its teaching methods. I discovered to my horror and dismay that it is presently more predisposed to Soviet-style propaganda instead of being a subject that nurtures a passionate appreciation of our rich heritage and common humanity.

Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited by a group of concerned parents and scholars in mid-May to participate in the formation of a committee to assist the government revise the current history syllabus to be more representative of facts, events, processes and personalities in all its diverse, kaleidoscopic dimensions.

Calling ourselves Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar (KemSMS), the campaign comprises over 20 distinguished individuals from academia and other reputable civil society organisations from all over the country. KemSMS aims to hold workshops to highlight and raise public awareness about the inaccuracies and inadequacies of our current history syllabus. KemSMS also aims to undertake scholarly reviews of the current syllabus so as to input our informed views as a complement to the on-going parallel government review process of our history syllabus and its teaching.

I came away from that Sunday afternoon meeting with the impression that KemSMS wants to present a well-researched, substantive, informed, coherent and persuasive argument that the history taught in our schools should focus on the role and contributions of all communities.

KemSMS also hopes to convince the Ministry of Education that the history taught in schools should be a people’s history; one that gives adequate recognition to a broad spectrum of social movements and which is people-centred instead of being elite-focused. In other words, the history our children learn about should be social history rather than one that focuses on select individuals and key events that politicians wish to glorify for their own partisan ends. As well, it should focus on the roles and contributions of women and not only of men. It should also have a liberal and progressive outlook.

Furthermore, the subject matter of history should encompass all regions in Malaysia, i.e. it should account fairly and give due emphasis to Sabah and Sarawak and not only be KL- or peninsula-centric. Finally, history as taught in schools should place Malaysia in a wider regional and global context that celebrates our common humanity despite our unique, diverse civilisations.

KemSMS clearly has its work cut out for it. But all long journeys begin with a first step. I am optimistic. — Aliran

  1. #1 by digard on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 9:59 pm

    What you, what KemSMS, are doing is ridiculously wrong! – I can’t believe that you have lived in this country for long.
    Of course, I appreciate your good, if not best intentions. Though I can promise you that you are on the wrong track. In some sub-Saharan country your initiative would flourish, because there actually might be a lack of knowledge. Not so in Malaysia! You are – very sorry – fools to believe that MoE could not come up with the same, if not better, material than what KemSMS will be able to offer. There is no shortage of knowledge, of knowledgeable staff and authors.
    What MoE does is fully intentional. It is the desired outcome of the process to develop material for, and to conduct, these classes.
    What we as university teachers encounter is not a set of products of an imperfect process, but rather close to what was intended.
    The powers that be are the least interested in a conscious, class-aware populace. This awareness is about the most threatening ingredient to a future monopoly of the governing elite
    So what we experience is intentional, is desired, is wanted. The last thing you and KemSMS can expect from our government is a ‘Thank You!’. What you offer is exactly what they wouldn’t touch with a pair of pliers.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 10:24 pm

    Everything the government does are linked to their long term plan…to stay in power forever,
    And better education systems and syllabus will make it harder for UMNO B to fool Malaysians.
    Unfortunately for them…internet educates young Malaysians more than schooling.
    We can say…most Malaysians are self taught and guided by parents more than schools or teachers..right now…and that spell the end of double talks…nonsensical slogans out to fool young and old for votes.

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 10:28 pm

    There is no soul in our History. A lot of emptiness, a lot of meaningless stuff, a lot of bull-sssht, a lot of fairy-tales.

    We need to revert back to DGE Hall’s History Book ‘A History of South East Asia’ now that we have ASEAN.

  4. #4 by monsterball on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 10:31 pm

    Do you notice….Najib keep on referring to his late father …did this..did that.
    Is that his new bright idea to get more votes?
    Or maybe we are seeing the real small boy brain man talking…crying for help.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 10:44 pm

    And Hang Tuah is no more the most powerful Muslim worrier in history book…not like before…for the truth is out…Hang Tuah is not a Malay.
    If our Educational system is so good…why do all the thieves and robbers send their children to overseas for education?
    They encouraged Malaysians to buy Proton and all of them buy Mercedez or BMW..or foreign made cars.
    They not only have double standards with people…but double standards in living conditions.. and showing so much bad examples.
    What kind of leadership are these people projecting?
    They steal millions..non stop and only know how to play dirty politics.
    Come to true love and respect for all Malaysians …Najib’s leadership is so low class.
    He actually thinks he is the King of Malaysia…and can do whatever he likes…

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 15 August 2011 - 11:07 pm

    I have noted this as a joke all the while; when you have, what was the term?, Half past 6- brains trying to influence ‘smarter brains! It has been joke all the time in school. I came across smart form fivers making a mockery of their Maths Graduate teacher, obviously this graduate in Maths would not have even passed the old Form Six pure maths or applied maths papers! Each year, we have literally born jokers trying to change or influence others by virtue of the fact that they are empowered to do so!! and being given free scrolls to write their names. Of course, the real smarter ones will go thtough the third class syllabi and still can survive at the next stage of competition. Those who were literally emplaced at there will continue to churn out the same products; hence they is no way any kind of improvement can be make over the next 10 generations!

  7. #7 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 - 1:01 am

    In the latest Shanghai Jiao Tung University rankings released on 15th August, Universiti Malaya is ranked in the 401-500 range in the world. No other Malaysian universities made it into the top 500 in the world.

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 - 1:29 am

    p/s MU’s ranking is actually an achievement as this is the FIRST time it has entered the top 500.

    Open the champagne bottle.

  9. #9 by dagen on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 - 9:33 am

    Umno is malaysia and malaysia is umno. That is, in a nutshell, the unshakeable fact of malaysian history.

    Habis cerita.

    Kalau mau cerita lagi sebutlah: ALL HAIL UMNO!

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