Academics slam NGO proposal to replace History with subject on social contract

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

Changing the History syllabus or replacing it altogether with a subject on the 'social contract' will be detrimental to students' understanding of the nation's past, say many academics. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 28, 2015.

Changing the History syllabus or replacing it altogether with a subject on the ‘social contract’ will be detrimental to students’ understanding of the nation’s past, say many academics. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 28, 2015.

Academics and teachers have denounced a suggestion by the head of a Penang-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) to do away with the teaching of History in schools.

They said the proposal by Persatuan Melayu Pulau Pinang chairman Tan Sri Mohd Yusoff Latiff to replace the subject with one that explained the social contract was regressive and that young Malaysians would grow up without truly appreciating the sacrifices made by their nation’s founding fathers.

On October 12, Yusoff was quoted by a daily as saying that a textbook on the social contract should replace all History books as the former would provide a clearer explanation of the basic concept of nation-building.

Claiming that the current History syllabus was too general, he said the teaching of the social contract would allow students to better understand the key points behind the formation of this country, in particular matters involving inter-ethnic ties.

Broadly speaking, in the Malaysian context, the social contract refers to the agreement made by the nation’s founding fathers to grant the Malays special rights and privileges, the institution of Malay Rulers and citizenship to the non-Malays.

Commenting on Yusoff’s proposal, historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim (pic, below) said History should not be replaced with any other subject in schools as literacy in history was important in order to produce generations of people who possess a strong sense of belonging to the nation.

More importantly, he stressed, it was through learning the nation’s history that the younger generation can get to know the origins of its people and their cultures, as well as the nation’s politics which, in turn, would enable them to appreciate the sacrifices made by their past leaders.

“History covers various aspects, from the pre-independence days to the time the nation was formed.

“Although it’s not easy to understand history, it is through history that we learn of civilisations of the past eras and their economic, social and technological developments,” he told Bernama.

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Datuk Lok Yim Pheng (pic, right) said any decision to replace History with another subject should be preceded by a detailed and thorough study on the matter.

She said such a study was important to ascertain the impact it would have on teachers and students, as far as the teaching and learning process was concerned. History is a must-pass subject in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination since 2013.

“A proposal cannot be implemented without establishing its positive and negative implications. A lot of factors have to be considered as it involves the future of our students and the nation’s education system.

“As far as I’m concerned, History is a relevant subject as it equips students with the knowledge of past civilisations of this countr

y and the rest of the world,” she added.

Senior lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Educational Studies Dr Wan Marzuki Wan Jaafar, pointing out to the danger of not teaching History in schools, said the lack of insight into the nation’s past may lead people into being easily swayed by propaganda dished out by irresponsible parties.

He said having a firm grasp of the nation’s history was all the more important in today’s borderless world and sophisticated technology which allowed people to have easy access to information – or, for that matter, misinformation.

“The teaching of History cannot be abolished just like that because people must realise that the harmony and peace that exists in our nation was inherited from the past. If the younger generation has no clue as to their origins, then how are we going to maintain unity in our country,” he asked.

Wan Marzuki also said that instead of replacing History with another subject in schools, the authorities could look into making History lessons more interesting by using more creative approaches to teaching the subject.

“It’s better to add value to the teaching of the subject (History) and improve the skills of the teachers, so that History lessons need not be boring and students will actually find the subject interesting,” he said. – Bernama, October 28, 2015.