Years ago when I was in Britain studying, I saw a quiz show on TV. It was a light weight quiz series as the sponsors of the show wanted the participants to walk away with some prize each.
The participants were in mixed family pairs, hubby & wife or father & daughter or mum & son, etc. There was a mum & son pair when I switched the TV on. The scene went like this (as far as I can recall):
Quiz Master (QM): Who is the president of our neighbouring country, France?
Mum & son: [looked at each other in embarrassment]
QM: Never mind, here’s another and better question about our neighbour. What is the capital of France?
Mum & son: [again looked at each other in embarrassment]
QM: Oh, who in the world would be interested in France anyway. Here’s the real question, what was the score in the Arsenal versus Chelsea match last Saturday?
Mum & son: [both smiling, with son saying] 3 – 1.
QM: Correct, you're both winners [amidst an appreciative applauding studio audience].
Of course my mates and I had a good laugh, and discussed the insular outlook and narrow interests of many Britons. Without saying anything, we were of course (automatically) comparing them with us and our globally-orientated education.
Fast forward to today – Malaysiakini’s headlines No to compulsory history lessons.
The author of the article, renowned AB Sulaiman, wrote a scathing criticism of DPM and Education Minster Muhyiddin’s policy to make history a compulsory subject, a policy pronouncement that will have a major impact on the future of your youths but one which emerged in cavalier fashion, not unlike an UMNO cowboy shooting off from his UMNO hips immediately post-UMNO general annual assembly.
AB Sulaiman warned us that with Muhyiddin’s policy statement, a student has no choice but to take history as an exam subject, and pass it or else, as a fail in history means he/she fails the entire crucial exam.
Everyone knows the compulsory history curriculum will be nothing more than an extension of the sinister Biro Tatanegara’s (BTN) propaganda indoctrination, now to penetrate into the schools' classrooms.
No doubt Muhyiddin believes that by indoctrinating our youths on UMNO-BTN’s propaganda, these same youths in future won’t raise questions on issues such as the UMNO-rised ‘social contract’, Malay (but in actuality, UMNO’s) supremacy and various other snouts-in-trough gravy train matters.
Let me tell you something - as a graduate of the Methodist Boy’ School, I can quite confidently confirm that a very insignificant number of my hundreds of non-Christian schoolmates and cousins ever converted to Christianity after 13 years of Christian education with compulsory chapel services every Friday (except for Muslim pupils).
Those few who converted (you could count them on the fingers of one hand) did so because of other reasons than classroom indoctrination. And not one of my female relatives (sister and cousins) who went to Catholic convent schools became a Catholic.
It’s what was at home and in our social grouping that influenced our thinking. The school only trained and stimulated us to think. But our schools today are hardly into that line of education (of teaching students to think).
Furthermore, AB Sulaiman wrote: Not too long ago I read through the history textbooks for Forms Four and Five students. About 10 percent (at most) of the text was for early world history. The bulk I remember was concentrated for Islamic history amply supported by an account of the history of the Malay civilisation. [...]
The point that struck me hard was it was as though the present modern Malaysian life today has been mainly the result of the strength and achievements of the Islamic and Malay civilisations.
This must surely be a distortion of the truth and the probable reason for the concern of parents. I was brought up with a much wider vista of world history.
He continued: The present Malaysian civilisation is one end-result of the sum total of the generic human civilisation. A minor one at most.
It's not difficult to substantiate this quick observation. I look around me as I write this article: I see a table, chair, computer, hand phone, ceiling fan, a box of tissue, books, electricity, TV, by the corner.
These are products of the generic human ingenuity, brilliance and experience translated into modern tools and appliances. In these examples none of them are the direct products or influence of Islamic or Malay civilisation!
Looking elsewhere in my neighbourhood too would reveal very little direct Malay and Islamic influence or contributions save for the mosque some distance away and my neighbours wearing headgear or tudung.
The only direct contact I made today with the Malay 'civilisation' is the nasi lemak I ate this morning.
Please read his most erudite and educational (excuse this deliberate pun) article.
As I had written in an earlier post A central pillar of Chinese culture:
... since Merdeka, thanks to the political ambitions of successive (UMNO) Education Ministers who used their ministerial portfolio to play nationalistic politics so much so that the once renowned quality of our national schools plummeted to such depths that the Chinese medium schools by comparison, began to assume the only reliable schooling with decent standards in Malaysia.
And as I had written before, I now write again, that the UMNO-occupied Education Minister continues, without any pause since independence in 1957, on his politicized destruction of our education system.