Objective view of history
When receiving the MCA delegation on education recently,
Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin expressed hope
that the five-yearly review of the secondary school history
textbook which is going to start soon will not be
politicised. He asked the MCA representatives to look at the
review from a wider perspective.
I am one of the representatives who met the minister. Though
I faced opposition after the parliamentary debate as I
raised the incomprehensiveness and imbalance of the textbook
in its contents and syllabus, I did not give up. Instead I
initiated a review group and later obtained the recognition
and acceptance of the MCA leadership for the review paper.
In this review paper, we proposed that the ministry set up a
committee to re-examine the curriculum, the committee having
a balanced and multi-racial composition to ensure the
quality and balanced content of the textbook.
I agree with the minister that the review of the history
curriculum should not be pol-iticised. However, the present
content of the history textbook contains politically
aligned, incomprehensive and narrow views, hence the request
for a review.
For example, the book touched on the issue of "Malay
supremacy" (Ketuanan Melayu). It also implies that pendatang
immigrants) are now still eyeing the wealth of the country,
and uses the term kongsi gelap (secret society) to name the
Chinese clan association in the 19th century, demeaning
other communities or races. The teaching of history can
influence and shape the attitude and mentality of students
towards nation-building in the future. Thus the contents of
the textbook can have a negative effect on their
development, contributing to a more narrow outlook.
Secondly, the textbook also mentions that the independence
of our country was achieved through the joint effort and
cooperation of all races. However, a quote subsequently says
that this state belongs to the Malays and should be returned
to them. This contradicts the spirit of unity and will have
an adverse effect on efforts to foster unity among the
The textbook also states that only national primary schools
can unite all the races. This is to say that Chinese and
Tamil primary schools cannot promote unity. This is not true
as vernacular schools are recognised by the government as
being part of the education system which is open to all –
the curriculum and textbooks used having the same syllabus
as the national primary school, and emphasising loyalty to
king and nation. There are also more non-Chinese studying in
Chinese primary schools.
I also agree with the minister that the review of the
textbook must be looked at from a wider perspective.
We would like to see the book take a wider and more
comprehensive angle to ena-ble students to think critically
and understand the development of the nation’s history, and
have a good understanding of the past and evolution of other
civilisations in order to be able to live, understand and
compete with people of other cultures, societies and
religions. In other words, to be globally competitive.
In the Form 4 history text-book, there are 10 chapters. Five
touch on Islamic civilisation. The old textbook used only
one chapter with 35 pages on Islamic civilisation. The new
textbook uses 97 pages to talk about Islamic civilisation.
It uses 100 words/phrases to talk about Confucianism and 153
for Taoism. The old textbook had 330 words on Confucianism
and 220 words on Taoism. It mentions Buddhism and Hinduism
but has little on Christianity – just 208 words.
Parts of the book that carry a narrow view and demean other
races should be removed. Only by doing this will the
teaching of history achieve its purpose of helping the
students to understand the past and evolution of history in
our nation and effective in bringing unity and nation
Therefore, the contents of a history textbook must be
objective, and the review and correction of its syllabus
should not be delayed further.
Loh Seng Kok
former Kelana Jaya MP