PETALING JAYA: A historian has criticised the latest edition of secondary school history textbooks for being biased and inaccurate, and called on the education ministry to take action.
Ranjit Singh Malhi said the textbooks, for use in Form 1 to Form 5, were Malay and Islam-centric and had omitted key facts relevant to nation-building while including factual distortions and exaggerations.
Pointing out that most of the textbooks’ writers were Malay, he said this meant that students were learning world and Malaysian history from the perspective of one particular ethnic group.
“The glaring defects in the current history textbooks only confirm the bias of the writers. They do not provide an adequate, balanced and fair account of the emergence and growth of Malaysia’s plural society,” he said in a statement.
“Our young are not being taught the real and inclusive history of our nation but a consciously selected historical narrative skewed towards establishing Islamic and Malay dominance based upon the divisive concept of ‘ketuanan Melayu’.
“For example, unlike earlier textbooks, the current history textbooks downplay the important roles and contributions of the Malaysian Chinese and Indian communities in the economic and infrastructure development of the nation,” he said.
Ranjit, who is an adjunct professor at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation, said the role of Indians in developing the rubber industry and the Chinese in growing the tin mining sector had been relegated to two to three sentences in the Form 3 history textbook.
He also said the textbooks failed to show the impact of Hindu-Buddhist civilisation on Malay culture, language, literature and even government.
“It should be noted that the early Malay kings were considered as the incarnation of Hindu gods based upon the concept of ‘devaraja’ (god-king). Indeed, till today, elements of the Indian cultural influences are still prevalent in Malay culture,” he said.
Ranjit said the Islam-centric bias in the textbooks were obvious with topics on Indian and Chinese civilisations covered in less than 10 pages each, while Islamic civilisation took 26 pages.
He added that there were several “inexcusable” errors in the textbooks despite having a panel of experts vet the book.
He called for an end to ethnic and religious prejudice in textbooks, saying Malaysians needed to learn how to value the nation’s rich multicultural heritage which makes up the soul of the country.
“The teaching of inclusive history is an integral part of nation-building. Our history textbooks should adopt a ‘pluralistic framework’ which promotes a sense of national identity and belonging which is crucial for racial harmony and national unity.
“I have no objections to the Malay/Islam narrative being the core of Malaysian history, but definitely not at the expense of marginalising the history of non-Malays, Orang Asli of West Malaysia and Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.