S’PORE HISTORIAN: OUR HISTORY TEXTBOOKS ARE TOO DAUNTING FOR STUDENTS

The lower secondary history syllabus is a pretty daunting introduction to the history of Singapore for a freshly minted Sec 1 student, I must say. As a historian and teacher, I can see much thought has gone into the syllabus, with interesting and innovative ideas such as how historians work with varied sources and historical concepts such as evidence and causation.

But it’s a little too much too quickly. Take a look at the page below which is cramped with 2 sources, background information, and suggestions for further reading. It’s not until page 72 of the textbook that we get something akin to a narrative of Singapore history between the 15th and 18th centuries. It does get better from this point on however.

But where are the stories? It’s always been the compelling stories that turn people to history, as it was for me many years ago. It’s as if the curriculum writers had thrown out the story in favour of showing how the story was constructed. Would you rather watch Hacksaw Ridge or how Mel Gibson made it? I don’t think even historians would have gone into the discipline if they had to learn all the skills first? Arguably source based studies and historical investigation have become two of the most teacher-centered ways to teach history.

So perhaps time to bring back at least some of the stories and excite our students and teachers again?

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