HISTORY IN ENGLISH
The announcement by the Minister of Education that History is to be made a compulsory subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination in 2013 could not have come at a more significant time. It is significant for two (2) simple reasons:
- the nation’s citizenry, especially the young must be fully cognizant of their own history
- History is an engaging subject if taught with clarity and imagination
An important aspect of the subject is its descriptive and explicatory nature where language is used in all its forms and functions viz to record, tabulate, list, describe, explain, illustrate, summarise the events and deeds of the nation’s peoples in the past, and view them against the nation’s development in the present. Here, the point to be stressed is that the events of the present will make up the developing history of the country.
Students will therefore be exposed to the widest use of language in their reading and references and in the teacher explanation in the classroom. This includes the grammar,vocabulary, turns of phrase, idiomatic expression and pronounciation. The students will therefore be trained to show the same flair for language in their oral or written response.
As History lends itself to interpretation, the teachers can take the opportunity to lead the classroom discussion where students can be grouped for better interaction and participation. The students’ thinking and reasoning processes will be stimulated as they use language to present their arguments orally, in an essay or a project paper. History is not an exact science and the evaluation of the students’ work can therefore be less exacting. The proportion for the subjective analysis of the events and the deeds surrounding the protagonists and antagonists in history on the one hand, and objective statement of the facts on the other can be determined by the education experts
The total immersion into the nation’s socio-cultural and political milieu through language in the History classroom will guarantee the widest possible development of the children’s knowledge and experience of their own country and its interactions with the world. This will in turn contribute to their development into rational, thinking and wise adults.
All these arguments provides a compelling rationale for the teaching of History in English. The honourable Minister and his team will gain the support of a large segment of Malaysian society if he also announces that History will be taught in English, a move that will raise the much-lamented decline in the standard of English and communication in the country.
It is imperative that the Minister of Education, the ministry officials, academicians, teachers and students consider seriously the advantages of teaching and learning History in English.