‘Pupils not aware of past monarchs’

National 3 minutes, 12 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

MANY primary students in the sultanate have poor knowledge on Brunei’s history, especially about past monarchs, said officials from the Brunei History Centre.

Speaking on the sidelines of a history roadshow at Katimahar Primary School last month, Brunei History Centre officer Azwan Kampong said many pupils were not aware of Brunei’s past and the genealogy of former rulers.

He said the poor history knowledge among pupils could be attributed to the education system where pupils do not learn about Brunei’s history in a comprehensive manner.

“They (pupils) don’t know a lot of things (about Brunei history), sometimes when we ask them, they don’t even know the names of former monarchs,” he said, adding that several teachers have raised concerns over pupils’ poor history knowledge.

The National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21) was introduced in 2009 when history and geography subjects were combined into social studies, and included aspects from other fields such as science, entrepreneurship, economics and sociology.

Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Nawi, director of the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Development Department yesterday defended the merging of subjects into social studies, saying that surveys among teachers and students in 2006 gave positive feedback on the SPN21 move to combine the subjects.

He said 88 per cent of the questionnaire respondents gave positive feedback on the SPN21 implementation.

“A lot of attention was put to make sure social studies still contains major historical content from the previous history subject.

“Careful analyses were done by the syllabus developing team to ensure all major historical elements are included in the subject (social studies),” he continued.

The director went on to say that SPN21 seeks to equip students with the skills to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers, and is aligned with the system practised in Singapore and Australia.

He said the department has been taking steps to ensure students gain the needed history knowledge, and all parties should play their part in ensuring social studies is given due importance.

Pupils do not sit for social studies exam in the Primary School Assessment. Instead, they take Mathematics, Malay, English, Science and Malay Muslim Monarchy (MIB) in the public exams.

“Even though social studies is not examined in PSR, everyone should be aware that social studies at primary level is the basis for students to undertake social studies at Years Seven and Eight, and then proceed to take either history or geography in the O-levels,” said Hj Abdul Rahman.

He said teachers play a fundamental role in ensuring students are well-equipped with knowledge on Brunei history, adding that teachers are expected to deliver quality teaching and generate effective learning by using creative tools under SPN21.

“I believe that teachers must engage students to learn more about history, they should make history more interesting and interactive using creative tools like role plays and go on field trips,” he said.

Brunei History Centre Head of Services and Exhibition Pg Hjh Mahani Pg Hj Ahmad agreed with Azwan that there is limited content on Brunei’s history being taught at schools.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that some students don’t even know names of past sultans, they only know about the current monarch,” she said.

Assistant Principal at Katimahar Primary School Hjh Limah Hj Lusin said pupils had better knowledge about Brunei’s history and its past rulers before SPN21 was introduced.

“Students back then had to memorise all the names of the sultans and knew their achievements. Only few know now,” she said.

Hjh Limah, who was a former history teacher, added that technological advancements and lack of parental support at home could also be the reason behind pupils poor knowledge on Brunei history.

She said students cannot be blamed entirely, as their parents and teachers also play an important role in cultivating interest in Brunei history.

The Brunei Times