PETALING JAYA: An educationist has called for a revision of history textbooks to remove what he says is a heavy bias for a Malay-centric retelling of events.
Former education professor Santhiram R Raman told FMT he saw a need to “stop racial and religious prejudice” in history textbooks for secondary schools.
“There is a saying that history is written by the victors,” he said. “During the colonial era, it was the history of England and the growth of the British Empire. In recent years, it’s the history of the dominant race that has taken centre stage.”
In his book, “From Decolonization to Ethno-Nationalism: A Study of Malaysia’s School History Syllabuses and Textbooks 1905-2020,” he says the storytellers have changed but the point being made is largely the same and is dictated by political interests.
“The colonial education policy advocated a study of the history of the colonial masters,” he said in reference to pre-independence books, noting the similarities with the history syllabus that emerged in the late 80s following the rise of Malay ethno-nationalism.
In 1987, Anwar Ibrahim, as education minister, gave an instruction that history taught in schools should reflect the dominant position of Malays in politics. This became compulsory two years later.
“Malay ethno-nationalist historians and history textbook writers argued that the Malays were the base society and non-Malays were immigrants or splinters who had broken off from their home communities,” Raman said.
“Ideas like this led to the rewriting of history textbooks which centred upon Malay dominance and Islamic history.”
He noted that the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 purports to aspire towards inclusiveness and the embracing of diversity, but he said this could not be achieved if current trends persisted.
“One wonders how it is possible to achieve such a lofty goal if the teaching of history in our schools is devoid of a truthful, liberal and progressive curriculum and is instead a religiously and racially skewed one.
“Hence, our education authorities need to discard the ‘Ketuanan’ mindset and start treating the non-Malays as Malaysians.”