Monday, October 25, 2010

American Experience In Strenghtening History Subject-Lesson to Malaysia

History will be a must-pass subject in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination from 2013 along with the Bahasa Malaysia subject, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told Malaysian.
That means:
  • Students must pass the subject to be able to obtain the SPM certificate. 
  • Need to give students some time to adjust. 
  • Need time to train teachers and to prepare students to face the new system, 
  • From 2014, history would be made a core subject in primary school under the Primary School Standard Curriculum. 
  • Improvement to the subject, with emphasis on enhancing the understanding of the Constitution so as to enlighten students about the country’s nation-building process. 
WZWH as citizen of Malaysia, educator, politics and social blogger fully support this move with good faith and goodwill for the benefit of this lovely nation.

Already there are outcrys dissenting the move by the minister of MOE. Here see what DAP says,the DAP demanded that the Najib administration review completely the SPM History syllabus before making it a “must-pass” subject beginning 2013.

Tony Pua, the DAP national publicity secretary, claimed that the government’s sudden interest was likely to be selective — emphasising Malay rights provisions and conveniently neglecting others.

“Given the announcement of the measure at a Umno national convention, the focus will naturally be on Article 153 and other related articles with regards to Malay rights.

“Will there be an equal emphasis on say, Article 8 which states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”? asked Pua.

Pua said that the onus was on Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to form an independent advisory and review body to conduct a complete “overhaul” of the subject before it is made compulsory.

“We fear that this new measure is a blatant attempt to indoctrinate our students with a narrow and biased interpretation of our Federal Constitution and our country’s founding history.

“We call upon the DPM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to first convene a independent advisory and review body comprising of representatives from the Bar Council, eminent retired judges as well as renowned academics on the history of Malaya,” Pua told reporters today.

The SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) is the national examination for all fifth formers across their country before completing their secondary education. The examination results will decide their passage to tertiary education opportunities locally and abroad.

Furthermore The Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) slammed Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s decision to make History a compulsory pass in the SPM examinations as “inconsistent” and at odds with Malaysia’s high-income goal.

Page chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim accused Muhyiddin of succumbing to populist pressure and likened the decision to the government’s policy reversal on the teaching of science and mathematics in English (commonly referred to using its Malay acronym, PPSMI) last year, after pressure from Malay language nationalists.

Muhyiddin, who is also Umno deputy president, made the announcement on Saturday in his winding-up speech at the party’s general assembly here after the idea was first mooted by delegates earlier in the week. They had argued that non-Malays did not understand the “social contract” the country’s founding fathers had agreed upon as there was not enough emphasis on the nation-building process.

“Page is of the view that this is yet another politically-motivated decision to appease and please Umno delegates at its general assembly, without any thought given to recent policy decisions that have been made by him on education thus far,” Noor Azimah said in a statement.

She argued that Muhyiddin should have instead declared English a must-pass subject, as this would have “perfectly complemented” the MBMMBI (To Uphold Bahasa Malaysia, To Strengthen the English Language) policy set to come into effect next year.

“The minister had earlier spoken about making English a must-pass subject at SPM but fell short of making a decision. This would have been a better call as statistics show of appalling English proficiency and writing skills among students... However, such a call would not have been ‘popular’ at an assembly of such magnitude,” she added.

Noor Azimah said the decision to make passing History compulsory also did not gel with the government’s determination to move away from rote learning and overemphasis on exams, which some critics have blamed for Malaysia’s lack of innovation.

“The rationale behind abolishing PMR was to remove the overly examination-oriented system, rote-learning and tuition away from students,” she said.

“By now making history a must-pass subject, he is not only re-burdening the students but instead further magnifying ... the stress of not obtaining the SPM certificate because the student did not pass History, as opposed to Bahasa Malaysia which is justifiable!”

She warned that unless History was enhanced by incorporating world history and given “serious housekeeping”, the move to make it a must-pass subject was unlikely to pay real dividends.

“Until this is enforced, such a decision cannot be imposed, for we will instead see another short-term rush for tuition or lowering of the passing mark to meet this objective, as we have witnessed over the years,” Noor Azimah said.

“As it is now, the passing mark for SPM History is 20 per cent which implies that it is a difficult subject to pass, almost as difficult as Additional Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia!”

WZWH wants to give readers to study the American experience in strengthening history subject in school.

PHOENIX — Students who don't know key elements of U.S. history and civics may be bound to repeat eighth grade.

Legislation approved Monday by the House Education Committee would require students get a passing grade on a test composed of questions from the same examination that the U.S. government requires before someone can become a citizen.

Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, said the requirement, which would take effect next school year, probably comes too soon to actually hold anyone back. But Huppenthal said it is his intent that it eventually become a barrier that students need to hurdle to get to high school.

"This is really pretty serious business when you're talking about the culture of your country and the history, and passing on to the next generation some sense of what America's all about."

Huppenthal said that unlike the standardized tests now given to students to check their reading, math and writing, this would be relatively simple — and relatively cheap — to administer.

He pointed out that the federal government already has a list of 100 questions, complete with acceptable answers, used as the basis for citizenship exams. SB 1404 would require schools to pick 20 of those questions, with youngsters required to obtain a passing score to advance to the next school year.

But Toni Badone, Yuma Union High School District superintendent, opposes any additional tests.

"Right now AIMS doesn't have a history or civics exam and I'm not recommending it. The state cannot afford it so why would we make it a requirement? It makes me wonder where are they coming from on this legislation."

Badone added she would like to believe all eighth-grade students could pass such an exam. She pointed out that Arizona standards already require them to know history and civics in order to advance to high school.

Also, once in high school, all students are required to have three credits in history, Badone said. That includes one credit each for world and U.S. history as well as a half-credit each for government and economics. So SB 1404 would be another unfunded mandate and unnecessary, she said.

Passing the test, said Huppenthal, should be easy — especially since schools would be free to post both the full list of questions and answers on their Web sites.

"You know what the questions are going to be in advance, you know what the answers are.

"If you look at those questions, you would agree that's core information that every citizen should know,'' Huppenthal continued. "It's definitely knowledge every eighth-grader can obtain.''

But Mike Smith said what it may not be is information that eighth-graders have been taught.

Smith, who lobbies for the Arizona School Administrators Association, said there's nothing in Huppenthal's proposal that aligns itself with the curriculum spelled out by the state of what youngsters are supposed to learn by that point.

A report released last month revealed that 65 percent of college seniors surveyed failed to pass a high-school level American history test. Would your students pass the test that so many college students failed? Would you? Included: A printable version of the Elite College History Survey.

"Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that -- ... history teachers and educators at all levels should redouble their efforts to bolster the knowledge of United States history among students of all ages and to restore the vitality of America's civic memory."
-- excerpted from The House-Senate Resolution on American History Education, June 27, 2000

A Sampling of Survey Results:
  • Seven percent of students surveyed thought Sputnik was the first animal to travel into space.
  • Twenty-three percent thought it was John F. Kennedy who said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
  • Twenty-six percent thought the Articles of Confederation established the division of powers between the states and the federal government.
  • Forty-three percent identified the Declaration of Independence as the source of the phrase "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
  • Forty-seven percent could not identify the president who was in office when the United States purchased the Panama Canal.
  • Sixty-three percent did not know during which war the Battle of the Bulge was fought.
In a recent American history survey, only 23 percent of college seniors correctly identified James Madison as the "Father of the Constitution"; 98 percent knew that Snoop Doggy Dog is a rapper. The survey, conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis (CSRA) at the University of Connecticut, at the request of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), was designed to measure students' knowledge of American history and government.

More than 500 seniors at 55 of the best colleges and universities in the United States responded to the telephone questionnaire, which consisted of multiple choice questions on topics ranging from the Magna Carta to the Monroe Doctrine, from the Battle of Yorktown to the Battle of the Bulge. Sixty-five percent of the students -- from such schools as Yale, Northwestern, Smith, and Bowdoin -- failed to "pass" the test and only one student answered all 34 questions correctly.

Ninety-nine percent of the respondents, however, correctly identified Beavis and Butthead!

According to the CSRA, the survey results demonstrate that "little more than half of college seniors know general information about American democracy and the Constitution," and most "do not know specifics about major wars the United States participated in." Perhaps most troubling is that no significant differences were found between the responses of history majors and those of students pursuing other academic majors.


The dismal results of the survey spurred The House-Senate Resolution on American History Education, which calls for the strengthening of American history requirements at all levels of the educational system. In proposing the resolution, Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn, said, "[The] survey reveals that our next generation of leaders and citizens is leaving college with a stunning lack of knowledge of their heritage and the democratic values that have long sustained our country. ... We cannot ignore the role of our public schools in contributing to this historical ignorance, so we must ask educators at all levels to redouble their efforts to bolster our children's knowledge of U.S. history and help us restore the vitality of our civic memory."

WZWH conclude that if the American Senators really worry that the American kids today do not know much about the nation values then it will be appropriate that DPM Muhyiddin Yassin as the minister of MOE decided that students must now pass History as well as Bahasa Malaysia to obtain the SPM certificate from 2013 onwards.

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