Friday, May 04, 2007

Facelift for Literature Syllabus

We talked the other day about the teaching of literature as part of the English language syllabus, but revisions have also been made to the SPM* syllabus for literature, Hariati Azizan points out in an article from the Star's education supplement.

English Literature SPM is an elective subject for Forms 4 and 5, taken by only a very small number of students (about 1,000 nationwide, I understand). For many students an already crammed time-timetable or a lack of teachers for the subject in schools means that they have to study the subject out of school with a tuition teacher.

Head of the English Language and Literature Unit and assistant director at the Education Ministry’s Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar reckons that another factor in the small number of students taking up the elective is that:
Most students today are more visually inclined and don't like to read; those who are still reading and writing are doing it on the Internet.
(I wonder. It actually seems to me that young people here are reading more than in the past, especially as there is access to a lot more bookshops.)

Anyway, these are the texts chosen, and as the article points out:
The new syllabus for the elective subject for Form Four and Form Five, like the old one, is aimed at developing an ability to read, understand and appreciate literary works. However, while the old syllabus emphasises the universality of issues and concerns, the new one revels in the diversity of the texts selected.
I find this rhetoric interesting - can you teach literature at all without "universality of concerns" coming into the discussion?

But it seems to me that the new syllabus has some very interesting texts that the students (and their teachers) should enjoy.

It goes on to say that:
Films, multimedia learning software and audio books, although not new, will now be an integral part of the new programme.
I'm a little sceptical about using "multimedia learning software" to teach literature, but that's because I haven't seen any locally produced educational software that's impressed me and a whole lot that doesn't. (And it's terribly expensive to produce!) A good teacher is the ultimate interactive resource.

But I am enthusiastic about the use of audio-books and film versions in the classroom. Purists might baulk at the idea (and I'd always want students to tackle the book first) but I think the film of the book can enhance enjoyment and understanding and lead to further discussion ways of interpreting the text. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Holes by Louis Sachar have both been filmed.

There's a delicious irony about teaching Farenheit 451 in these book-banning days that I don't think was lost on those who set the syllabus!

*SPM is Sijul Pelajaran Malaysia, the exam students sit for at the end of Form Five, a sort of 'O' Level equivalent.


Anonymous said...

but it says "FAHRENHEIT 45"!

not hot enough!!!

Something Wicked Viz Way Comes

bibliobibuli said...

me can't spell! ta, viz

Anonymous said...

no, seriously, it says FAHRENHEIT 45 in the graphics from The Star!

bibliobibuli said...

haha - i was so buys looking to see if the star (and myself) had remembered to put the first ilent "h" in that my eyes slipped over the number. i'd never be a proofreader.

misprints in the star? naw, it never happens! ;-P

it always makes me laugh when i think about the alternative name for the guardian in the uk - the grauniad, because of all the typos maybe we should dyslexify the name of our favourite newspaper?

bibliobibuli said...

how many typos in my comments??


Anonymous said...

well, i'm sure you've heard about the one where the dyslexic walked into a bra and ...

The Da Viz Code

Anonymous said...

There was a great interview in the Star yesterday about the book-banning and why it happens. Must say I understand their point of view now. In this country children are let loose in the bookstores. If porn (for instance) is allowed, it would be difficult to prevent a kid from picking it up.

bibliobibuli said...

i missed that ... and i read the star!!! (sort of, obviously) must go and look

but that's a pretty feeble excuse imho

bibliobibuli said...

anon - please can you give me a more precise reference as the article doesn't seem to want to be found?

lifelongreader said...

LOL - that must be the censored, abbreviated version of Fahrenheit 451 (only a tenth as long)

lifelongreader said...

Dyslexics of the World Untie!!

lifelongreader said...

Sorry for posting again, but I just say your reference to Holes and I am using that in class at the minute.

My class is working on developing a wiki for it here, and are doing all the main work, let me know what you think.

Anonymous said...

Well then, an alternative name for The Star could be The Rats. And the NST can be The New SisTart Mites.

Cheeky Anon

Nuri said...

I took Literature in English at SPM level last year and though I've not read the novels for the '07 syllabus, they sound about as interesting as their predecessors. For one thing, I only properly recognize two of the novels on the new list, not unlike before. =P

The other categories seem meh, poetry aside. But I'm no expert, so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt if it suits you.

bibliobibuli said...

lifelongreader - very nice to meet you. the wiki would be an interesting resource for out teachers here too ...

yes, dyslexics rule k.o.

(amnesiacs rule o.)

cheeky anon - love it - esp the rats!

nuri - as a sometime lit teacher i think the syllabus looks very nice to teach from (but then i like the previous one too - "lord of the flies" is excellent)

Anonymous said...

i heard Holes the movie is damn good.

Lord Of The Viz

animah said...

I think the new syllabus is quite bold. Kassim Ahmad has some banned works.

Nuri said...

I found Lord of Flies a little depressing and recall rushing through the last few chapters in time for lessons. It wasn't my cup of tea, at least not for class.

My novel choice was The River Between...the whole religion versus culture factor was fascinating from an analytical PoV.

I hope that the Lit students of '07 will enjoy what they're learning as much as (or more than!) I did with the old syllabus.

SecretHistory said...

If anyone wants to read an updated version of Lord of the Flies, try Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami. I bought a copy recently from Kinokuniya. Nice story about a dystopian world.

Dean said...

I don't see the problem with children picking up porn in the bookshops. Porn seems to me to be just an excuse for the authorities to ban books generally.

I got my hands on porn when I was 15 and it didn't do me any harm. Most kids younger than 13 won't have any interest in it. They wouldn't understand it at all.

Western societies have simple ways of preventing porn from getting into kids' hands, anyway. They just wrap them in plastic.

This whole panic deal when it comes to "protecting innocent minds" is just a load of garbage, in my opinion.

On the other hand, laws preventing adults from interfering with children are being very strenuously imposed, in the West. In Japan, however, there is a lot of dilly-dallying by the authorites.

Anonymous said...

That's you I guess. I suppose it seems odd to some cultures but people here DO have issues with very young kids and porn. Wrapping them in some sort of grey plastic might work, but then again grey plastic isn't appealing. The idea of a magazine cover (especially a porno mag) is to get get people to pick up and buy the mag. Having a grey plastic cover would just make the mag look dull on the shelf.

sympozium said...

Nothing wrong with porn. Make it a no-big deal and eventually no one would give shit about it anyway...I'd rather my kids grow up horny and lustful than hypocritical and selfish.

bibliobibuli said...

i think the initial comment about the article in the star was a red herring slipped in by that anonymous to get me all worked up!!! can't find anything in the paper or on line ...

almost all books are wrapped up here anyway

Dean said...

"some cultures but people here DO have issues with very young kids and porn".

Like I said, very young kids do not choose to look at it because they just don't understand it.

They see mummy in the bathroom, anyway. They don't get horny by looking at pictures of naked women. They just think it's silly.

This is my firm opinion (written in 1830 by a man well ahead of his time; you can google 'Tennyson' and 'Kraken' to learn more) on all things that are banned by 'righteous' men:


Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Anonymous said...

"Like I said, very young kids do not choose to look at it because they just don't understand it."

They don't have to understand it to have some sort of reaction. A psychiatrist can tell you more about the issue of kids and porn than I can. It's like a kid watching a car crash or someone being killed.

"They see mummy in the bathroom, anyway."

No they don't. Over here, as in the US I think, the idea of bathing naked with your parents is almost a crime. In Finland, though, people do that all the time.

Dean said...

"It's like a kid watching a car crash or someone being killed."

That's bullshit, im my opinion. Absolute crap.

Kids are not hurt by pictures of naked women. You find one psychologist giving an opinion such as that, and I'll show you an out-and-out quack!

Religion does more harm to children than any book -- with pictures or not -- that's ever been published.

If you frighten children with god (or God), they'll stay frightened their whole life.

The brouhaha that's occurred in Indonesia following the publication of Indonesian Playboy is a disgrace. It makes the Islamist thought-police look like complete fools, in the eyes of many people in the West.

Like school-yard bullies who never got enough love.

Anonymous said...

"Kids are not hurt by pictures of naked women"

So why's it illegal to walk around in public without your clothes on ? and what about porn ? should children be allowed access to porn ?

Dean said...

I don't know that it's illegal to walk around naked, in Australia. I'll try to find out.

Encouraging children to look at porn is a different thing from them accidentally picking up a magazine. As I said earlier, pornographic magazines are generally wrapped in clear plastic, and located near the front counter of the shop. So if a child tried to open one, she or he would be quickly stopped by the shopowner.

But that's not what I'm really trying to say.

It is better to live in a country where porn is considered a fact of life and largely ignored (as it is in Australia) than to live in a country where the authorities try to impose their dress and behaviour standards on the individual (as in Indonesia).

I don't know how they behave in Malaysia.

Nicole said...

I really enjoyed taking English Literature last year. And pardon me if this comment is actually a year late. But last year, my school only had 3 students taking this subject, and there wouldn't be any, if I hadn't taken the initiative to find out the books and whatnot.

In fact, we didn't even have a teacher, but we did all the discussions on our own - having some really eye opening ones since the three of us were really different - and we just went online to search for materials.

And I really enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, our favourite discussion would always be about Lord of the Flies, and it was amazing, the questions that we could find in books and other internet materials. We always prompted each other, and had many varied opinions.

Sometimes, we had other students in our class or even in the school to take part in our small discussion group in the library every Wednesday afternoons. Everybody had their own views on each poem, and each statement, and it was fun discussing it all when we weren't distracted. :)

In the end, I can only say that I was rather disappointed with the SPM questions since they were so strict and were the kind that had a set answer and weren't at all like past questions in which we could stare out opinions, and share out point of view. It was tough. Especially since the 3 of us didn't have any proper guidance.

But, the three of us got an A1 anyway, and I for one, am terribly happy that we did take up the subject after all. And I miss those Wednesday afternoons. :(

I just want to say share my views on this, or rather, my experience. :D

bibliobibuli said...

it's really nice to hear this! well done to the 3 of you and i hope this has really kicked off your love for sharing books.

you sound as if you should form an ongoing reading group!