Worst Educational Measure Ever? Making History a Compulsory Pass Subject

Koon Yew Yin

The recent policy decision to make history a compulsory pass for SPM students ranks as one of the most ill-conceived and irresponsible measure ever introduced into the Malaysian educational system since we gained our independence.

According to the Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, the move is an effort toward teaching students to become good citizens.

“It is not our intention to fail them. We intend to pass them, but at least let them know the basic history of our country. He also said that if history is not made a compulsory-pass, many treat the subject as unimportant and they don’t want to know our history, what happened in the past and will not appreciate what we have now,” he said.

Everyone knows what a bad state Malaysian education is in. At the secondary school level standards of mathematics and science are low; fluency of Bahasa and English is poor; and knowledge of ICT and technology is limited. At the same time competence in skills such as analysis, problem solving, reasoning and communication are lacking.

These are the core subjects and skills that need more time and attention if Malaysia is ever going to make it to the first or even second rung of nations. Without mastering them we will continue to wallow amongst the also-run nations living off our oil and gas bonanza which will end sooner or later. Without improving on these internationally core subjects and other work-related learning, we will continue to churn out even worse than half baked high school products who will enter the job market or colleges and universities woefully unprepared and unable to compete with their peer group from other countries.

Instead of improving standards of attainment in these areas, what we are getting is a policy departure which will have the opposite effect. None of the advanced countries that I am aware of have a policy of making history a core subject. None of them insist that the student needs to have a pass in history before he is deemed to have successfully passed through his secondary education and can move on to higher studies or the job market with a formal certificate.

In Britain, a country after which we have patterned much of our educational system, history, geography and the arts are part of what is regarded as non-core non-compulsory subjects which are made available to students if they so desire to learn them. This should be our policy – history as a non-core, non-compulsory subject with no ulterior political or other agenda or objective or as an elective subject.

What will be the effect of the new policy measure? Firstly, we will see less time and attention given to the core subjects. Secondly we will have greater controversy rather than unity or loyalty. There has already been much opposition to the current history curriculum by many parents educationists which have gone unanswered by the authorities.

If the Minister of Education, Muhyiddin and his colleague, Idris Jusoh, believe that making history a compulsory pass subject will make for good and loyal citizens, they are badly mistaken. What will happen are the following negative impacts:

1. Students will regurgitate what is necessary to earn a pass. There will be no attempt made to instill critical and analytical skills as these skills will lead to a questioning of key subjects such as the pre-Islamic history and culture;the British and immigrant role in building up modern Malaysia; the anti-Japanese and nationalist movement; the struggle for independence; what happened during May 13; etc.

2. If the history curriculum is as badly skewed as shown by the Kempen Sejarah Sebenar (KemSMS) or Campaign for True Malaysian History group, then we will see racial and religious extremists and bigots get their introduction in indoctrination in the schools leading to greater polarization.

3. Already, one of the country’s top Malay civil servants, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, has recently revealed that he sensed a high degree of sensitivity and resistance to change, especially among young bumiputeras. If a ketuanan mentality emerges among young bumiputeras and they cannot cope with change, the history curriculum and entrenchment of history as a core compulsory pass subject will be among the key causal factors. We already have one film producer, Shuhaimi Baba failing to distinguish between fact and fiction and lies, distortions and truth in the film, Tanda Puteri. The new policy will see other such bigoted and opportunistic individuals being nurtured to emerge and ply their propagandist products to Malaysians.

4. We can also expect rural and poorer students in the national school system to be the main victims of the new policy measure as many of them will fail in the subject and become drop outs. This will also only widen the inequality between private and public schools with the private schools offering a superior syllabus focused on making their students compete in the global market and the national schools offering an inferior all-round syllabus.

If the government is of the opinion that Malaysian students need to be inculcated with patriotism and loyalty to become good citizens, then the right place for fostering these values is in the realm of citizenship studies. It is in this subject where older students can study, think about and discuss topical political, moral, social and cultural issues, problems and events and also by extension, the historical developments.

Citizenship studies is also where our Malaysian secondary students can be provided with the foundation of the legal, political, religious, socio-economic and constitutional and economic systems that influence their lives and communities and look more closely at how they work and their effects. Here too, they can be involved in the life of their school, kampung or new village or urban area and develop a wide range of skills, knowledge and understanding in these areas.

At the end of it, they will learn much more about fairness, social justice, respect for democracy and diversity at school, local, national and global level, and become the more holistic good and patriotic students that the Ministry is looking to produce.

I predict that the proposed method which makes history as the main channel for knowledge to produce loyal and patriotic students will be an unmitigated disaster and call on the authorities to review and reverse the policy decision before it is too late.

  1. #1 by good coolie on Friday, 8 November 2013 - 10:40 pm

    We are going to be dished out a distorted version of Malaysian history. Our children are going to be brainwashed with inaccuracies and outright falsities.

    What is the government’s secret agenda in all this?

  2. #2 by tak tahan on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 12:05 am

    How history a must pass got to do with securing ours and next generation future.Help all present and future generation regardless of race and religion and let the history remember you for who you are and great things you have done.That alone should make us more than patriotic la idiiiiiiiiiiot.Tu pun tak tau.Pusing sana pusing sini reka cipta history nak murid pass supaya jadi patriotic sudaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah la.

  3. #3 by tak tahan on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 12:19 am

    Macamana boleh jadi patriotic kalau pass history serta dapat penuh A dalam semua pelajaran pun tak dapat masuk public unversity kerana nama tak da bin atau binti ? Logik tak ooooooooooooooi menteri yang cukup bangang ni ? Pikir la sikit masya a!!ah hampa semua ni mengaku diri Muslim pulak konon !.Patriotik la suuuuuuuuuuuudah la !

  4. #4 by negarawan on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 12:59 am

    This is another dastardly attempt by UMNO to brain wash young students, and cause further damage to the already low education standards. Wherever and whatever UMNO is involved in, everything will go backwards. The sooner UMNO is kicked out, the better for the country.

  5. #5 by Noble House on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 4:37 am

    Politics should not mix with religion and likewise, education should not mix with politics.

    When education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.

    In the collective society of the future is where people will be defined by their associations. What that interferes with one’s learning is one’s education!

  6. #6 by undertaker888 on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 5:08 am

    It is the effing history of bad umno’s governance that make this country and the people in a disloyal predicament. And that is the history we want our children to learn. They think they can program our children’s mind.

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 5:54 am

    What does Malaysia and Somalia share in world-class achievements? Piracy. Shocking but true.

    PDRM should hve less SB officers and more combat police in the Straits of Malacca.

    Malaysian Insider: “Second oil tanker in a month hijacked off Straits of Malacca”!!!!!

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 6:37 am

    Mahathir may have started the wreckage that is now our Education system but Muhiyiddin scares the hell out of me as a parent as Education Minister. The man’s idea of education is NEANDERTHAL – suited for teaching cavemen.

    Education is NOT magic. EVEN PROPAGANDA IS NOT MAGIC. The idea that somehow we can fill our children with bias opinion based on inclusive wrong facts will give positive overall productivity is STUPID. IDIOTIC. There simply is no other way to put it.

    Muhiyiddin approach to education simply what is already a wreck and basically make a bigger mess of it. He takes some glue and tape and think he can put something back together – all it does is make it worst – its held together BUT it just means it got to be hauled away in bigger pieces which would have been easier if it was all broken up in the first place.

    Seriously, Mahathir is to be blamed but Muhiyiddin not just gets in the way, he makes it worst.

  9. #9 by yhsiew on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 6:52 am

    Umno should stop hijacking education to propagate their ideologies.

  10. #10 by Di Shi Jiu on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 9:44 am

    It’s quite obvious what this is all about – for UMNO to forcefeed Malaysian children with a false version of the history of our nation.

    There will be no mention of Chinese or Indian involvement in Malaysia from the 1300s.

    Instead, the Chinese and the Indians will magically appear out of thin air around the 1940s or 1950s.

    Ketuanan Melayu will be subtly reinforced.

    No doubt, the role of UMNO in the fight for Malay supremacy will be higlighted.

  11. #11 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 10:07 am

    Students have this habit of returning to their teachers all that their teachers have taught them.

    So there. Take note umno.

    Guess what? I suppose in that case would umno take a further step towards purer stupidity by compelling all students to take refreasher course every (wot?) 2? 3? years after they had left school until say they turn 50?

    That is a money making opportunity umno. Budget allocation 10billion a year. Hows dat, huh?

    Hoi, cintanegara, interested? Come on. Pull your cables and start lobbying for this, rambutan boy.

  12. #12 by tak tahan on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 10:57 am

    cintanegara sudah masuk Tanjung Rambutan setelah dapat tau Mahatai kalah 3 kosong kat Lim Kit Siang.lol

  13. #13 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 6:57 pm

    Siapa siapa ada maklumat atau senarai anak anak menteri sekarang atau bekas menteri di mana mereka belajar? Kalau boleh senarai penuh dari sekolah rendah ke sekolah menengah sampai universiti (termasuk uitm)…

  14. #14 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Saturday, 9 November 2013 - 6:59 pm

    Kalau takda boleh mana mana yb pr buat soalan formal di parlimen? Lepas tu senaraikan di utusan meloya…

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Sunday, 10 November 2013 - 12:20 am

    Of cos, History must b made a compulsory P@ss subject
    Every student must memorise historical facts ala UmnoB’s, like LKS pissed at a flag post n started May 13

  16. #16 by good coolie on Sunday, 10 November 2013 - 1:10 pm

    There should be an “alternative history” taught in the internet. This alternative history would be the accurate version of Malaysian history. The government sanctioned version should be learnt only for passing government examinations.

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