Loh Seng Kok

Parlimen Malaysia

Barisan Nasional MCA

Loh Seng Kok 卢诚国
Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya
(2004 - Feb 2008)

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Objective view of history

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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 asing (foreign

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 races.

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 building.

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



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Last modified:  Monday, August 10, 2009