History books to stick to facts

(The Star) – There is no written record of the existence of Princess Hang Li Po, Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat and the stories that made their way into the history textbooks are just myths.

As such, history textbooks would be rewritten to reflect proven historical facts instead of myths and legends, said historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim.

However, it is unclear if non-verifiable historical anecdotes will be included in the proposed new History syllabus scheduled for 2014.

Prof Khoo of Universiti Malaya, who is part of the special committee appointed to analyse the History curriculum, said that hearsay should not be presented as historical fact in textbooks.

“The main agenda for the committee is to instil a sense of patriotism (among students).

“My personal stand is that myths and legends should not be included in the curriculum.

“However, if they do choose to include them (myths), it should be clearly indicated that these stories are not factual,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Prof Khoo added that the committee was still in the process of reviewing the current History syllabus.

“I cannot say at the moment whether there will be substantial changes but there should be more emphasis on historical figures.

“When you ask people who was the first Malay to be absorbed into the civil service or when electricity first arrived in Malaysia, they don’t know (the answer).

“The value of history is that it helps to explain the present, of where we are today,” he said.

In 2010, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that History would be made a compulsory subject to pass in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

The announcement sparked calls for a review of the History syllabus and on May 3, 2011, the Education Ministry announced the appointment of a 10-man committee to review the current syllabus with a nation-building agenda.

Meanwhile, Campaign for a Truly Malaysian History spokesman Dr Lim Teck Ghee said the Government should immediately improve the teaching of History in schools.

“While waiting for the (syllabus) review, we can replace the current textbooks with the more accurate ones used between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“Schools should also be allowed to pick their own textbooks,” he said.