Various approaches and methods that are brief yet effective, have been used to deliver the idea of transformation to the public.
The aim is to make society more knowledgeable, appreciative and capable of translating transformation according to their own field, expertise, capability and ability.
When rural folk talk about transformation, it means that they have been exposed and know what transformation is all about.
The size, form and approach become the debatable points, not the question of whether transformation is needed or not.
Everyone has a role to play in national transformation depending very much on their ability which is an important point.
The education fraternity should be aware of national transformation, especially educational transformation.
For educators involved in teaching History, transformation in the subject must be known, appreciated and then implemented.
As generally known, the transformation of national education has empowered the position of History from being a core subject to a subject that must be passed at SPM from 2013.
At the same time, the Education Ministry continues to document History as a core subject in the KSSR (Standard for Primary Schools Curriculum) from 2014.
At present, History is taught as one element of Kajian Sejarah Tempatan or KST(Local History Studies) in primary schools.
This means that all students who sit the SPM from 2013 must pass History as the subject is compulsory.
Learning History is seen as boring, dry and rigid, because learning about the dead requires transformation.
Transformation in History requires teachers to play the role of transformers.
They should have the ability to change the approach, method and strategy, and instructional techniques in order to attract students to the subject.
Students are eagerly waiting to find out the type of approach, method, techniques and strategies the teacher will apply in teaching and learning. Will they have the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions this time?
Transformation in teaching and learning of History requires teachers to give space and opportunity to students to voice their opinions and expose their talents as novice historians.
When interest takes the top spot, excellence will follow. This is the transformative education which is not tied down by examination and syllabus that must be finished. Examinations are not the measure of excellence of a student.
In contrast, transformative education requires the teacher to be an educator who can polish the talent and realise the potential of the student so that he or she can emerge as human capital with excellent behaviour and character.
New teaching focus
History represents a collection of events that have occurred resulting from human actions in the past.
This does not mean history can be allowed to pass or be forgotten just like that. We must remember those who forget history, forget their own identity.
Those who forget history are inclined to repeat mistakes of society or the previous generation.
The fact is, history is truth about people and humanity and it is dynamic because humans are always creating history.
History appreciation or historical empathy can change humanity and resolve problems of humans and humanity.
Hence, history teaching and history learning need teacher dynamism and pupils to know the truth behind some event or action; history needs to be explored based on evidence left behind by those involved with the event.
Learning history means bringing students in an imaginative way to be in an era that is very different from their present.
As transformers, history teachers are responsible for helping and facilitating students in understanding an event or action by some historical figure.
With the help of concrete and proper source material as teaching aids, the teacher is able to bring students close to the era which becomes the focus of the lesson and learning.
Three categories of materials of historical evidence become the historian’s source of reference namely primary source (such as memorandum of agreement), secondary resource (such as copy of agreement), or tertiary source (such as copy collection).
All these sources contain information that need to be explored and interpreted to prove the truth about some event or action by a historical figure.
Teachers who can motivate students so that they interact with source materials can bring students closer to the context of a historical event and action of a historical figure.
Interaction with source materials means the student can query, interpret and link source materials with the context of the past which have become the focus of the lesson and learning.
Making the change
The ministry has delineated six objectives through KST.
They include knowing one’s roots (family), being responsible, friendly and respectful to family members, strengthening ties between family members and others, developing self confidence, practising good values, and mastering the skills of collecting recording and analysing information on the family tree.
At the School of Educational Studies (SES) at Universiti Sains Malaysia, KST is a project that must be carried out by those who choose to be history teachers.
Two of my students carried out a study on legendary figure Mahsuri and the Senoi Prag Team for their KST project.
In the first example, one of my students Nadia who happened to be from Langkawi, with the help of the family members and the local people, managed to come up with three versions of the legend of Mahsuri.
The student was also able to trace her family roots to that of Datuk Pakerma Jaya, who had accused Mahsuri of wrong-doing until she was finally killed.
In the second KST project on Senoi Prag (war) Main Chea, a student was appointed to head the study as he was a Senoi himself.
The Senois in the 1940s had set up a team to defend their tribesmen, many of whom had been killed by the communists. By protecting their men, the Senois were in effect also defending the country.
There was another incident where I went to the house of a friend and was attracted to a photo on the wall. She replied that it was her grandfather.
However my friend’s school-going children knew little of their great grandfather Abdul Rahman Andak who was the Johor state secretary in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His picture and contributions are still mentioned in Form Two History books.
Even with a historical figure so little had been said and mentioned about him and I was in a way disappointed that memories of the man who had much influence in the state and the Johor sultans then, hadn’t been kept alive even in his own family.
The lessons from history also can motivate us not to repeat the mistakes and situations of the past.
Teachers of History need to transform themselves and their teaching and learning, so that they can develop the potential of others to attain excellence in character and behaviour.
History does touch on topics of trust, betrayal, trickery, morals, confidence, treason, conviction, deception, expectations and faith.
After all, these are issues that we face in our lives that can either make or break us.
Students should be taught to take the good and leave the bad and to love and honour.
If teachers are able to inculcate these values in their students, then, that in itself is a their contribution to national transformation!
The writer Dr. Siti Hawa Abdullah, is in charge of the History Programme at the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. The STAR Online Home Education Sunday December 2, 2012