Hasty move on History

Stakeholders say that the decision to make History a must-pass subject should have been given some consideration and thought.

LIKE it or not, the policy of making History a compulsory subject for passing the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) has taken root.

In what was totally unexpected, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced at the recent Umno General Assembly that from 2013, SPM students must have a pass in History.

The minister’s statement caught many people by surprise.

Naturally, there was cause for concern as the decision was announced not at an Education Ministry-related event but during a political party gathering.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said at the assembly that students who failed History would not receive their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate.

Parents and especially students, who are already struggling with the subject, are obviously concerned with the decision.

The minister’s statement has drawn extensive criticism and deep concern from various stakeholders, likening it to a situation of putting the cart before the horse.

A secondary school teacher Sarah*, who has been teaching History for 19 years agrees that students should pass the subject, but not for the purpose of cultivating a sense of pride and nationalism.

“How can you measure an individual’s patriotism in a national exam?” asks the teacher.

There were calls to review the content of the History syllabus following the announcement that History must be presented in such a way that it truthfully reflects the roles played by all races.

Why not English?

Muhyiddin’s decision also sparked notable reactions from some quarters who felt that English being a global language should be made a compulsory must-pass subject instead of History.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairperson Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim says that English Language should have been made compulsory.

“The declining standard of English among students is a serious concern as English is the foremost global language.

“If the decision to make English was made compulsory, it would have complemented the MBMMBI (Upholding Bahasa Malaysia while strengthening the English Language) policy which is expected to begin next year,” she says.

If it is made compulsory, she said, students would buck up and improve their proficiency in English.

When the Ministry decided last month to abolish the PMR, she says, the rationale was to discourage rote-learning and make the education system less exam-oriented.

“Making History a must-pass subject, only means putting the pressure back on many students and making it impossible for them to obtain an SPM certificate, since the new condition requires them to have at least a pass in the subject,’’ she says.

There are also some quarters who feel that giving such importance to History, would further reduce the importance of Geography, an equally important and interesting subject.

Meanwhile, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) has welcomed the emphasis on History as announced by Muhyiddin.

Secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng says creative and innovative thinking can be nurtured in students through the learning of History.

Nevertheless, Lok says students who are less academically-inclined will be put under more pressure as they need to pass History in order to get their SPM certificates.

“The Education Ministry must make sure that there is a wide range of questions in the SPM paper, from easy to difficult, that can be answered by students who are academically poor and those who are high-performing,” she says.

“In a way, students must also be given flexibility in answering the questions,” she adds.

Lok says it is necessary for the Ministry to study the results of the history paper after the 2013 SPM to check whether students are able to cope with the pressure to pass the paper.

by Tan Ee Loo and Kang Soon Chen.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/10/31/education/7301300&sec=education

Comments are closed.