Blog: The Death of History
No minister has since the first curriculum renewal initiated by Parsuramen taken seriously the task of modernizing the curriculum. Obeegadoo used high sounding terms like ‘relevant, modern’ but he paid not the least iota of interest to the mechanics of curriculum development. Let it be understood that it is only when minister wills a change that change takes place.
But then who are the pallbearers of the coffin in which History lies? In spite of the over centralization of the state in matters like selection, admission into secondary schools, there is a lawless, anarchic jungle life led by schools.
In spite of the formulation of the framework for secondary curriculum, little has been done to monitor the implementation of curricular objectives at ground level in schools. What has happened to the teachers of History who have been recruited for aeons? Have they been recycled as language teachers? Are they teaching Environmental Studies which, by virtue of the fact that they combine History and Geography and Sociology, yield to the predilections of departments according to their composition?
The more the teachers of Geography and Sociology, the less History is taught because our teachers believe they are specialists because they possess an Honours degree in History. The graduate is too presumptuous to teach Geography at Form 3 level because he confines himself to this area of specialisation. History has thus for many years become the orphan of the secondary curriculum because its parenthood has been converted to new faiths.
There is absolutely no opportunity at the level of form 3 to promote certain subjects that rise above the utilitarian service they provide for employment decades later. Some feel that students who study History have to become History students at the tertiary level. We have to realize the importance of History as a vehicle of analytical skills, an agent of comparative studies, an instrument of patriotic build up by delving entrenched into the heritage that gives us a national identity.
We do not seem to realize that our love for the land springs from a common body of knowledge that makes us feel we share a patrimony. Is it enough to teach our children slavery, Indian Immigration as though these were all we have to be proud of? Harold Walter is some British colonizer, Razack Mohamed is a Pakistani who visited Mauritius before independence. Did Mahatma Gandhi ever come to Mauritius? If you expect our youth to have a knowledge of the past history of their country and show awareness of all these facts, you are sadly mistaken.
We have allowed our Secondary curriculum to become a playground for all sports to be played alike, to be auctioned so that it serves the lucrative interest of different stakeholders The curriculum has been submitted to the narrow, parochial interest of convenience like the rest of our values do. We have thought that History had better surrender its place to subjects that the students will study till the end of the secondary level. We have become so profit seeking and materialistic that even our children’s education has been subjugated to mercenary ends.
The ministry has conveniently closed its eyes to this sabotage. Authorities have been alerted about this crisis but very often politics is the art of placating those who crave for action by the promise of a garden where the air will be embalmed with multiple blossoms. That is how citizenship education has been promised and has never appeared in the secondary curriculum. Attempts have been made to teach Humanitarian education and even that has been abandoned by Rectors because the ministry lacks the policy of consistency and sustainability.
Now that the funeral rites are over, what can be done? We should beware of depriving posterity of the chance of knowing the History of Mauritius and of the world. The ministry should take a searching interest in what is being…done…in our schools. The best way of being overtaken by the youth is to ignore what they are studying at our school. A standardized History textbook for Mauritius has to be commissioned so that we do not mortgage the future of our youth. We must be selective at Form III level. We cannot dump every possible subject in this crucial year of the school calendar. We can’t have languages, maths and science, economics and commercial subjects, technical subjects, entrepreneurship studies, computer studies and a host of other auxiliary domains of learning within five days of the week. Will there be people who can take the responsibility of deciding the quantum and the time to be devoted to each subject so that the child has a balanced education?
Activity periods should b spent on exposure to History of Mauritius and of the world.
The school should become inventive and develop attractive pedagogical strategies to induce our youth to learn the History of the world and of their country.
We cannot afford to push under the carpet a tragic accident of our system which seems to be on automatic pilot. We cannot fetch pretexts off administrative incompetence to excuse a major setback in our system. I wonder what the PM thinks of this sorry state of affairs because I know he loved History in his student days.