The recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that history would made a must-pass subject in the SPM examination at the Umno general assembly raises many doubts on his motives behind the move. Why did he choose to make such an important announcement at the Umno assembly? Shouldn’t it be more appropriate for him to make the announcement with the top officers from the Education Department? Was this decision discussed elaborately before being announced? Is there any hidden agenda behind this abrupt decision like what many believe?
While making History as core subject in primary schools may be a good move but making it a must-pass SPM subject I am afraid will not be wise as it would become just another subject that would be studied to pass the examination. History is an important subject that must be studied by all in schools but making it a compulsory exam subject will not have any benefits as our students will just memorize the historical facts just to pass or even score A in the subject. What is needed is a clear understanding of the historical facts that shaped the world in which we live. For this there is a need for lively discussion, debate and visits to places of historical sites to appreciate what, how and why certain events took place.
On the local scene the subject should be taught to make our students appreciate the real facts in history in particular those related to our country’s founding, the rule by foreign powers and the Federal Constitution and not to indoctrinate our students with a narrow and biased interpretation of these facts. It could be a tool for racial unity if it is taught rightly to enable our students of all races to value the sacrifices of the founding fathers of our nation without any ethnic distinction. It is a fact that all races contributed to what we are today and this is what they must be taught and not hidden for political or other reasons.
Besides our own history, world history should also be included as of late the knowledge in such history is rather poor. Many of our students do not know anything about major personalities who have shaped the world. Many do not know the circumstances surrounding the world wars, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and cold war between the West and Communism. Many of our students know little of the great religions of the world, in fact they are ignorant about any religion other their own, which is indeed a sad state of affairs.
There is a need to be more open about the teaching of history in schools. Teachers must be more objective and not carried away by emotions in narrating the events that took place in history. There should be no attempts to hide the truth behind the events that unfolded in the past. In fact students should be allowed to engage in discussions on the various historic events to judge for themselves the right and wrongs in history.
History is an important subject that we should be taught but making it a compulsory subject for the passing of an examination is taking it too far. Furthermore the timing and place of the announcement of the decision at the Umno general assembly smacks of a political motive and politicization of our education system in particular the crucial examination like the SPM is indeed detrimental to the future of the nation.