COMMENT | If you are one the many who went to primary school in the 50s or early 60s, you would have read about the exploits of Francis Drake, Captain Cook, Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus. We learnt about leaders like George Washington ( and his chopping of the cherry tree), Abraham Lincoln, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Winston Church and many others.
We also learnt about Prophet Muhammad and his journey from Mecca to Medina; how Jesus Christ rose from the dead; Sun Tze, Guru Gobind Singh and Lord Shiva. We also learnt about inventors like the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. For a good measure, we learnt the medical achievements of Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie.
Parameswara, Hang Tuah, Admiral Cheng Ho and Princess Hang Li Poh featured when we studied the history of Malacca. Munshi Abdullah and Yap Ah Loy also featured in our history books.
We also learnt about the ancient kingdom of Langkasuka, which is now being disputed, The latest we heard, there is a concerted effort to re-write history.
In Geography, we learnt about Awang the fisherman from Terangganu and how he nets and prepares ikan bilis. We learnt about Ramasamy the dock worker and Ah Chong the vegetable farmer.
In Standard Six, we understood the meaning of entrepot and how Singapore survived and thrived on such trade. We knew the capitals of all the countries in our atlas. That’s because, on and off, there was a quiz competition and we were prepared for it.
These days, if you ask a 10-year-old if he knew what Walter Raleigh was famous for was, he would probably say Raleigh bicycles. The children should not be blamed for this state of affairs.
Our primary school education prepared us for a demanding struggle but yet sounded so easy. We persevered with my Malay friends who took an extra year in the Special Malay Class and my Chinese and Indian friends who spent a year in reserve class.
Throughout secondary school we used a series of books by CV Durrel (Mathematics) and GED Lewis. Our Literature teacher made everyone read a book a week; write a synopsis and identify 10 new words we had picked up and their meanings. Our guide was the Oxford Dictionary, which is now missing from the book list, as is the world atlas...