Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Their Version of History or The Real Version?

* This post is part 2 of my two cents on the UMNO assembly

HISTORY will be made a must-pass subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) beginning 2013, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin said that beginning 2014, History would be made a core subject in primary schools, too.

He said putting more emphasis on history would create a deeper appreciation of the concept of “negara bangsa”.

“In view of this, the content of the subject would be improved with more emphasis on understanding the Federal Constitution.

“Beginning 2013, History, like Bahasa Malaysia will be a must-pass subject to obtain the SPM certificate,” the Umno deputy president said in his winding-up speech.

The call to place more importance on the subject was raised by several delegates including delegates from Perak and Kedah. - (Excerpt from The Star 24 October)


Talking about History subject is something to be interested with here. Of course, History was one of the subjects in the PMR exams as well as being one of the five core subjects in SPM exam The only difference until now is that to pass SPM you need just to pass Bahasa Melayu of course. Having gone through secondary school, I can remember portions of what was taught in history. And of course my favorite part of history is not about the Malacca sultanate period but instead period depicted during the English residency period. You talk about Swettenham, Maxwell, Hugh Low, etc... well that's the part. And then of course the pre-Merdeka period, if you take merely the face value, you only hear one side of the thing, which we will come back to that shortly.

Before KBSR (primary school curriculum) was introduced, history was taught in the old syllabus. And then it became a subject in the secondary level. For those of you who have kids in school, do have some time to ask them for their textbooks, just to skim through what are the historical subjects covered. There are a few points that can be found from going through the syllabus. The first one is obviously you would notice that the spread of historical subjects, particularly int he upper secondary school levels seems to be a little unfair and partisan.

As a multi-cultural society, the spread of history should be even. Besides covering the usual Malacca sultanate, the after Malacca sultanate, the English colonial times, there seems to be too much leanings towards Islamic history. Waking up to reality, I noticed that many of my schoolmates previously when we studied history had a distaste of this sub-level not because of religion bashing, but from first glance, it is too difficult to know who's doing this and that. In school exams or even SPM exams, most would avoid answering any question that is related to Islamic history due to its complexity. One whole sub-section solely for that is a little biased and is more for the Malay students, sad to speak. There wasn't much of coverage of the European history, particularly during the Renaissance and the French Revolution because events that happened in the Revolution, revealed new thinking methods, philosophy and advocation of Enlightenism.

It's true that some political parties have complained that the Malaysian history is distorted. True. They students to learn from the UMNO version of history, not both sides. As like the saying, "History is written by the winner.",  which means, when the English gave a 1948 Constitution, it was considered a moral victory for UMNO because they were the ones who pressured against the Malayan Union concept. I can list down several pieces of history that actually existed but you can't see in text books:

1. The original date of independence was 17 August 1945, which the Japanese have promised to Malaya prior to their departure. Unfortunately the plan never took off because of the A-Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2.The term "Merdeka" was first uttered by KMM, a left-wing Malay group by. The Left-wing groups like KMM, API, SEDAR and etc.. were actually the first ones who would campaign for that. They even have submitted a "People's Declaration" to the English to be adopted (because it was people, on the ground oriented). But the English ignored it and when for the right-wing idea.

3. Hartal was first witnessed prior to the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu foundation. And then there was a witchhunt against all left-wing leaders including Ibrahim Yaacob.
4. We were told that the Singapore riots in 1964 occurred because of Indonesian and Communist provocateurs. But in truth, it was started from agitation by Syed Jaafar Albar and several ultra-nationalist factions of UMNO (as noted by Lee Kuan Yew and Australian High Commissioner W.B Pritchett)

5. The 1969 riots happened because UMNO is not happy over losing their customary 2/3rds in Parliament. In an interview with Tunku in his later years, he said that "if Razak really wanted my job, he could come straight away to me and ask me for it.", which means that Tun Razak and several people instigated the riots as a coup de tat against Tunku.

Note: These above are based on several witness testimonies and some papers covering the two periods of history.

MCA and DAP have been asking for a review and fix on the syllabus. A significant excerpt (full article here):

MCA deputy publicity chief Loh Seng Kok also noted that newspapers had reported the subject would soon be taught from the primary level onwards — at present it is a core subject only in secondary schools — and would incorporate Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which touches on the “special position” of the Bumiputeras.

“There are also anxieties of the possibility of misinterpretation where ‘special position’ i.e. a ‘privilege’ maybe taken to read as an ‘automatic right’,” Loh said.

Again, to stress the statement above:

According to the original constitution Malay rights never existed. "Rights" as opposed to "privileges". 

If we say "Rights" it means you have the power and the ability to do whatever it is permitted.

If we say "Privileges" (keistimewaan is actually privileges), it means say if you are Malay, you stand to gain something additional as guaranteed by law.

Unfortunately, this has already deliberately been made an issue by UMNO themselves. Other parties didn't make a fuss out of it. Parent groups are starting to get angry over it, even the MCA and DAP have been asking for review. But the inferior motive is almost similar to BTN, instead of brainwashing people, it would be school children instead if neither opponents raised the issue of concern. But Muhyiddin is doing this because the UMNO grassroots have been asking for it, which PAGE has alleged of the reason behind the decision.

I think that English is more important than History because I have noticed that there are still people out working who don't even know English, in which in fact I noticed that some of my managers expressed frustration over their inability to understand a universal language. Bahasa Melayu is still not yet a universal language, unlike English. I mean, let's face it, we are seeing half-baked people outside who claimed to be very good in studies but could not convey in English properly since it's used prominently in business.


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