The Parent Action Group for Education (Page) chairperson Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the group was “optimistic” that the new syllabus would present historical context that is more equitable to all races.
“We want the truth. It may not be nice and rosy, but we just want our children to be taught the truth... the facts must be told as they were,” she said.
Noor Azimah said patriotism is subjective and the new syllabus should not be skewed towards a particular objective.
“I think doing the best in what you do and contributing that very best to the nation is what patriotism is all about,” she added.
Historian Khoo Kay Khim (left) said history should be taught truthfully and thoroughly, without adding or subtracting any of the facts.
“A love for the country must be induced by getting our children to properly understand Malaysian society,” he said.
Monash University Malaysia political scientist James Chin said the government must take heed of the demands by NGOs and decentralise the teaching of history in secondary schools.
“Official history which tends to be manipulated usually backfires in the long run. The large section of the population will reject official history in favour of alternative history which we are seeing in many countries around the world.
“In certain countries like the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA, teaching history is actually decided not by a central authority but by the institutions themselves. There is no such thing as official history there,” he said.
How is patriotism defined?
Universiti Utara Malaysia School of International Studies dean Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, said the statement made by the deputy prime minister was very vague and needed further clarification.
“How does one define patriotism? Sometimes patriotism is defined by the victor or the government of the day. What is more important than instilling patriotism is to instill unity among the different races in the country.
“I think it is going to be the same old rhetoric and there will not be any significant changes to the syllabus,” he said.
Society had called for the History syllabus in schools to be revised for several years now and reached an apex when the 'Interlok' controversy broke.
'Interlok', a novel authored by national laureate Abdullah Hussein, was part of the Bahasa Malaysia literature syllabus for Form 5 students last year but it erred on the Indian community’s sentiments for the use of derogatory terms such as pariah and “black people” to describe Indians.
A panel was formed by the Education Ministry to make amendments to the novel, which was frowned upon by the literary community and other critics as it was toying with the context of the novel.
Another controversy broke out last year when historians stated that Malaysia was never colonised by the British.
They made the statement after PAS deputy president Mohammad Sabu had allegedly said the communists who fought against the police in Bukit Kepong should not be viewed as criminals but freedom fighters as the police were working for the British empire.
Former political analyst and DAP member Ong Kian Ming said it was also imperative to have teachers who are able to mould the perception of students about the nation’s history.
“We need to have teachers who are able to teach students to think critically as well,” he said.