Must pass history a commercial boon.

IN Malaysia’s education system, the parties directly involved in making the system what it is today are the Government (formulating policies, curriculum and syllabus), teachers (teach, guide and instruct) and students (learn to pass examinations).The fourth interested party is the politicians with a keen eye on the happiness of parents and teachers (as a huge repository of votes and political support) on what gets taught and whether what gets taught is appropriate for the students.

There is a fifth column with strong influence in the education system which practically everyone above has a stake – private tuition centres and workbook publishers, either operating as a one-man show or a corporation with an army of tutors fully committed to Malaysia’s system of myriad of must-pass examinations (UPSR, PMR, SPM, STPM) with the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs looking for a big killing.
Since Saturday after the Education Minister announced the latest fait accompli education contract – SPM students must pass History as a core subject or they’ll flunk everything else the same way they have no choice but to pass Bahasa Malaysia, guess who is swaying silly in doing a celebratory dance? The same fifth column whooping at the latest and likely to be the most lucrative business opportunity.

Tuition centres’ exhilaration at the Government’s bid to compel history as a must-pass SPM subject comes after a lucrative aspect of their business is under uncertainty – the replacement of the UPSR examinations with school-based assessment that will the centres to revise their business model.

But with the History boon, tuition centres and workbook providers are expected to see a spike in demand and business – it is one thing to tutor kids to face examinations confidently armed with exam-answering strategies and accurate spot questions, but it is another when failure is NOT an option.
Long neglected and overshadowed by their maths and science brethren, history teachers, especially those with expertise in contemporary post-war narration, will be a sought after lot.

The commercial planning to reboot History lessons and tutoring now hinges on the syllabus provided by the Education Ministry but pertinent inquiries remain:

* will it be an unnatural burden on current Form 2 students who must face the gauntlet when they sit for the 2013 SPM, especially when they are Science students beginning to explore History as a subject?
* what is the meat of the contemporary history that is to be taught? Early indications are citizenship, patriotism and the Constitution.

Looking at the History initiative as a response to adverse inquiries on the interpretation of the Constitution, Deputy Education Minister Dr Puad Zarkashi dismissed concerns of a burden, arguing that the new teaching method promotes understanding and not only memorisation of key historical dates and events.

From Parliament House yesterday, Tony Pua (DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara) & the party’s National Publicity Secretary predictably questioned the History initiative: while he doesn’t seem to object to History as a must-pass subject, he demands a review of the syllabus and whether it might be an attempt at historical revisionism.

“…we fear this is a blatant attempt to indoctrinate our students with a narrow and biased interpretation of the Federal Constitution and the country’s founding history,” Pua told a media conference at the Parliament lobby.

On the consideration that Pua may not be the only politician pessimistic with the outcome of the History initiative, the Education Ministry may need to hold a national roundtable or two, as advocated by Pua, on what will constitute the syllabus and how it will be presented and taught.

by Azmi Anshar.

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