Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why History is Important

I was very amused to read the letter by Elaine Lee titled “Why add History to tight primary schedule?” in The Star of 21.10.08. It is possible that she has missed the joys of history lessons at school. I, on the other hand, welcome such a move to address the growing ignorance of history amongst our young from school children to varsity graduates – clearly a result of the over-emphasis on the science and math subjects in Malaysia for decades. In my school days in the 1950’s for instance, History was taught from Std. 5 itself in a cyclical curriculum all the way to Form V even when I was in the Form V Science class of 1959 at the Muar High School.

Many benefits of History have been forgotten or simply ignored. History will enable students to better judge the future. History recounts important stories of events and people who can serve as models of who to be, and not to be, what to be involved with and what to avoid and can serve as the basis of decision-making all our lives. The discipline of history provides skills such as critical thinking about documents, cause and effect relationships, and abilities to read and summarize material. It is a subject that teaches living skills that must be taught alongside the other subjects.

History is also important because it helps us to understand the present. Part of history teaches us that we must lead toward a more peaceful world. If we will listen to what history has to say, we can come to a sound understanding of the past that will tell us much about the problems we now face. If we refuse to listen to history, we will find ourselves fabricating a past that reinforces our understanding of current problems. History, therefore, also teaches values.

The education planners at the Ministry of Education have my full support for such moves that equally accord to the arts its rightful place in the school curriculum from the primary school level itself. It is very important for our youngsters to understand especially the history of our country and of the ideals that make our country strong.

By: Johami Abdullah @ Joe Chelliah