The need to think

Monday July 2, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/7/2/focus/11587197&sec=focus

I REFER to P. Gunasegaram’s article “Making sense of history” (The Star, May 23) where the writer posed the question: Is it really necessary to make a pass in History compulsory to ensure better understanding of how this country developed?

In October 2010, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Sejarah (History) had been made a compulsory subject. This means that for students to pass SPM as a whole, they must pass this subject which is equivalent to BM as a compulsory subject.

Additionally, History will be made a core subject in primary school starting in 2014. This represents a step forward for History which is currently part of the Local Studies (Kajian Tempatan) subject.

But before the implementation, it is necessary to consider whether we have enough History major teachers to teach the subject competently at Form 4 and 5 level.

It was also announced that the new format of the Sejarah SPM Paper 3 will be an open book test, whereby students can consult reference materials during the examination. What is the rationale behind this open book test format? Is it just to help students pass the test?

As a layman, I agree with the move to make History a compulsory pass subject, because students should know more about the nation’s history and also that of the world. However, the Jawatankuasa Pusat Kurikulum (curriculum committee) should revise the way History is taught in school. This subject should not be “memorise then vomit it all in the exam”.

The same goes for Moral Studies (Pendidikan Moral) in SPM where the exam format of this subject is so rigid that students are forced to memorise the 36 “values” and their definitions. They are then required to regurgitate word for word what they have memorised when sitting the SPM paper.

History should incorporate more analysis. In the British curriculum, History examination questions are set with the objective that the students use their knowledge to analyse and explain. It revolves around the proposition that analysis – like scientific thinking in science instruction and mathematical thinking in math instruction – is central to history instruction and that students should become more competent as historical thinkers as they progress in school. But developing analytical skills is not in our syllabus.

Sejarah records high failure in most schools in Malaysia. Students tend to think that history does not bring any future benefit, so they don’t mind failing the subject. This is definitely the wrong attitude. It’s a pity that students tend to disregard subjects that they perceive to be useless, and hence do not put in their effort.

Also, are there any practical benefits from the constant changes made to the education policy affecting national schools in this country?

JACK WONG KIN TUNG

Ipoh