As an advocate of 1Malaysia which stresses national unity and ethnic harmony, I view with concern the substantially lopsided and biased content of our current Form 1-5 History textbooks.
To make matters worse, there are more than 10 factual errors and contradictions in our current Form 1-5 History textbooks.
The Education Ministry should immediately appoint a multi-ethnic Advisory Panel to ensure students are learning Malaysian and World History that is generally objective, well-balanced and wholly accurate.
The trend of “rewriting” Malaysian history started in 1996 with the formation of the Jawatankuasa Penerbitan Buku Teks Sejarah Tingkatan 1 and Tingkatan 2.
Its members (more than 15 for each committee), including the writers and consulting experts of the textbooks, were all drawn from ONE ethnic group. (sic. Malay)
Indeed, all 17 authors of our current Form 1-5 History textbooks are drawn from ONE ethnic group. (sic. Malay)
Hence, it is not surprising that our students are now primarily learning History as viewed through the lens of one ethnic group (sic. Malay).
This does not augur well for the creation of a truly united and prosperous 1Malaysia.
Our current History textbooks are biased in the sense that they DOWNPLAY the roles of the non-Malays in the development of our nation and its independence.
As an example, the previous textbooks used to adequately mention the contribution of the Chinese and the Indians in the development of the tin mining and rubber industries.
Now it is given scant attention.
- There is also lopsided emphasis on Islamic Civilisation. I personally counted that about 39% of the content of the current Form Four History textbook (compared to 15% in the earlier textbook) deals with Islamic Civilisation.
Hence, the recent statement by the new Education director-general that the weight of the Islamic Civilisation in the current Form Four History textbook is the same as the earlier textbook is inaccurate and misleading.
He ( the new Education director-general) must have been misinformed by his officials.
- Interestingly, the current textbook has reduced more than 25% the amount of text related to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism as compared to the earlier textbook. Our History textbooks are also biased because they do not tell the whole truth.
- For example, why can’t we state categorically that the founder of Malacca (Parameswara) was a HINDU prince from Palembang who died a Hindu. We must be proud of our multi-religious and multi-cultural heritage.
- The earlier Malaysian History textbooks do mention the role of Yap Ah Loy (Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur from 1868 to 1885) in developing Kuala Lumpur. The current Form 2 History textbook has just one sentence (not even in the main text) on Yap Ah Loy: Yap Ah Loy antara orang yang bertanggungjwab membangunkan Kuala Lumpur (Yap Ah Loy is one of the people responsible for developing Kuala Lumpur).
- As for Gurchan Singh, his wartime exploits were contained in a textbook, Heroes of Malaya, which was widely used in Malayan schools in the 1950s. Indeed, our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was among those who grieved at Gurchan’s death in 1965 and personally offered condolences to his family.
History is an interesting subject which has been made uninteresting by teachers.Most students have a natural curiosity about the past and how the present came to be.
Unfortunately, many teachers adhere religiously to the lecture and note-taking method of teaching History. Worse still, very few teachers ask higher-order questions.This is the major reason why most students view History as a boring subject.
In short, what is boring is not History per se but the way History is being taught.
The teaching and learning of History should be geared towards enhancing deep learning, critical thinking, information literacy and presentation skills of our students and not merely just for memorisation and to pass exams.
History should be taught in a lively and interesting manner using various instructional strategies (such as discussions, debates, group presentations, document studies and video clips) and not be limited to the traditional lecture method.
Students should not be mere spectators in the teaching and learning process; active learning should be promoted.
In our quest to create 1Malaysia, all of us have a moral duty of ensuring that our students study History that is not only accurate but generally objective and well-balanced.
Let us all work towards creating a truly united, harmonious and prosperous Malaysia wherein every ethnic group is treated equitably under the Malaysian sun.
DR RANJIT SINGH MALHI,