Monday, May 23, 2011

The times, they are a-changing, Malaysian History that is.

WHAT??? Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat removed or omitted from our History books? Uh-oh, have UMNO finally come to admit that Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat (and Hang Lekiu) were Chinese after all, because they share the same surname as Princess Hang Li Po? Read on as what one Rama Ramanathan has to say.

I went to Malaysian schools. I grew up in the Science and Technology era. I recall the excitement in our small town when a billboard went up at a major crossroad. It had a picture of the Prime Minister. He said the future was in science and technology. We were told we should aim to do well in school so that we could enter the science stream.

Streaming in schools happens in Form 4 (the 10th year of education). Results in the Form 3 examination determine whether you continue into Form 4, and which stream you enter. Kids who pass the Form 3 exam are allowed to enter Form 4. Kids with better aggregate results are placed in the science stream.

I entered the science stream.

I’m not sure I wanted to. Like almost everyone else, I accepted the schools streaming decision, although I loved literature and didn’t care much for maths – though I eventually graduated as an engineer. At that time, I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a lawyer or an engineer. I knew science students could opt for either later. I chose to keep my options open.

When I entered Form 4, I did not have the option to study history. Geography was compulsory, history was not even optional. I had enjoyed history in prior years, even though I had poor teachers. I just liked the stories of conquests and heroism. I even liked knowing what the key dates were.

So it was with tremendous shock that I learned today about what Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said at the Umno assembly in 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. He said that from 2013 a pass in history will be compulsory for getting a pass result in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) marking the successful completion of 11 years of schooling. [The future of students without SPM certificates is severely limited.]

I was stunned when I heard this. Why did the deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia announce this during a meeting of his race-based political party? Why is history to be made compulsory? And why did he say it was necessary to review the history syllabus “to inculcate a better understanding of Malaysia’s formation?” He said this to Umno!

Those who follow my blog will know I consider Umno the feudal party of elite Malays, the party which says the vast majority of Malays are imbeciles who are impressionable, easily confused and easily give up their rights, per Mahathir’s book, The Malay Dilemma.

Umno is a party of the rich oppressing the poor using Islam and racism as tools to build the wealth of Umno members and friends while denigrating others. Umno Malays flaunt Malay Supremacy and say non-Muslims born in Malaysia are forever to be treated as first-generation immigrants – unless they convert to Islam and marry Malays.

It’s an insult to suggest that Malays are impressionable, easily confused and easily give up their rights – especially when over 90 % of the civil service and the armed forces are composed of Malays – many of whom are highly competent, gracious and honest. The leaders of Umno come across as racists who use Islam to serve their own agenda.

So I wonder what's going on with the history curriculum. Today, thanks to a group of concerned citizens, I found out what is being taught as history in our schools.

History in Malaysian schoolbooks is propaganda. History in Malaysian schoolbooks doesn't have to be factual. History in Malaysian schoolbooks is silent about the role of the British in developing Malaysia and even lies about the role of Indians in defending Malaysia.

History in Malaysian schoolbooks says Chinese and Indians came as investors and coolies. Why only investors and coolies? What about teachers, traders and administrators? What about fleeing famine and lack of opportunities in their own countries? What about coming to Malaysia when no one else would? [Read more here.]

History in Malaysia is another tool in Umno’s arsenal.

According to our current schoolbooks, race and religion are the most important factors in our history. A thematic approach is being used to formulate and teach history – it’s all about race and religion. Much of what I learned of history in school is no longer taught.

Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat have been deleted. Yap Ah Loy has been deleted. Arabic civilization is taught without discussion of other civilizations. Little is said about non-Malays who built the nation long before anyone had citizenship papers. Little is taught about China, India and Indonesia: countries which will be important trading partners.

What is the purpose of learning history? Is it to build national pride? Is it to teach morals? Or is it to know what happened and why? Should history be about learning the propaganda of the ruling party? Or should it be about learning to distinguish truth from falsehood, whether of facts or of interpretation?

A group of concerned citizens and NGOs have come together to propose an alternative history syllabus, one that will be factual, balanced and relevant. Yesterday [May 15] I attended a meeting chaired by Dr Lim Teck Ghee and heard several presentations by prominent Malaysian scholars outlining their outrage at what is being taught in our schools.

They are initiating a campaign called Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar (Campaign for a Truly Malaysian History). Their goal is for the government to implement “a new syllabus which provides a liberal and progressive approach to the teaching of world and Malaysian history.”

These are what they expect will characterize the new syllabus:

  • Equips our students with a broad and balanced perspective of the major civilizations and events in world history

  • Accurately records historical facts on Malaysia’s historical development from diverse viewpoints

  • Gives due and fair recognition to the contribution of all communities towards the historical development of the nation

  • Captures the wealth and diversity of all civilizations and religions, and

  • Focuses on historical facts and processes, instead of promoting any political or other agenda.

As the Irishman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) said long ago, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing. Please support the campaign.

Malaysians, you can start by signing a petition to call upon the government to review the history syllabus in Malaysia.

1 comment:

  1. They have already amended the Constitution 600+ times to suit themselves. They even have redefined the Constitution according to their interpretation to suit themselves. So it's not surprising they rewrite history to put themselves and their religion at the top of the pedestal. Soon a new history book will be written that shows the ancestors of ex-PM (TDM) and his deputy Ibrahim "Shitladin" Ali discovered Tanah Melayu back in the 10th century. If immigration records of a certain descendant of Genghiz Khan can be wiped off, it is not difficult to re-create Tanah Melayu/Malaya history.