Chinese history lessons in school must inspire curiosity to be effective

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 10:46pm

I agree with your correspondent Karen Chan (“New Chinese history course is not needed”, November 9) that Chinese history should not be a compulsory subject in secondary schools.

No doubt the topic is important and young people should learn about it, but what needs to be debated is whether studying it as a school subject is the best way to go about it.

At this critical moment of curriculum change, we should ask the fundamental question: how can we make Chinese history stimulating and inspiring enough so that students enjoy the learning process?

What are the alternatives to textbooks and rote learning, that are all oriented towards exams?

To get the ball rolling, may I suggest using a series of well-produced and well-designed history documentaries, combined with different activities.

For example, to make sure that something is retained, students could be quizzed at the end of the session – but this should have no bearing on their grades. Or, there could be group discussions afterwards. Students could also perform historical plays, write essays based on library and online research, create history-themed art objects, even blogs and video games, and so on. Encouragement could come in the way of prizes within the school; there could also be interschool competitions to motivate students.

Let’s hear other suggestions on the forms of learning that can be adopted to enhance students’ learning experience.

Having taught at secondary and tertiary levels, I am convinced that the pressure of exams could kill a subject.

What is more, we all know how quickly students forget everything once the exam is over. It is exactly because Chinese history is so important that we must ensure that students learn it in the most effective and painless ways possible.

This is a plea to decision-makers to save our students from further unnecessary homework and exam pressure.

Let’s think outside the box to provide them with a chance to enjoy discovering history.

I believe that if we could capture their imagination and nurture in them a fascination for history at a young age, they would continue to seek historical knowledge and ponder deeper historical issues for the rest of their lives.

Elizabeth Sinn, Pok Fu Lam