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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Revitalizing Malaysian Geography Syllabus

When one mentions about Geography, people instantly think about capability of memorizing world capitals or naming top mountains. This is very much misguided view of Geography and more so, Geography is a neglected topic in the broader educational issue in Malaysia. There is a lot of controversies going with the History syllabus and concern of declining standards in English, Maths and Science. However, Geography as a subject is being overlooked.

 Looking at the current situation, our Geography subject is only thought as compulsory subject for lower secondary schools and thereafter, it becomes an elective for remaining school years. This means Geography teachers have 3 decisive years to ensure students to be Geo-literate before Form 4. First issue in Malaysian geography syllabus is the lack of definition and importance of the subject. In History and Science subjects, the text books clearly indicate what defines these subjects and why they are important for the world. In Geography text book, both of them do not exist at all. By not placing them, students would be wondering about the significance of the subject. Geography is basically the study of interactions between nature and human beings. It isn't about memorizing but it is about how the world works, world interconnections and implications of interactions and interconnections. New text books must highlight the role of Geography for society.

 Second issue is MOE previously favoured Science subjects to Arts (60:40) for schools. Since Geography is treated as an art subject, it gets neglected pretty much in many Malaysian schools. The problem becomes more obvious in upper secondary as Form 4 Geography syllabus covers topics of natural disaster and basics of geology. Malaysians must be educated through Geography on how natural disasters happen (as Science subjects do not cover them) so they can be prepared in future (i.e. tsunamis). New core Geography syllabus must cover some basics of natural disasters (especially climate change).

 Third issue is Geography syllabus do not highlight much about potential careers in this field. When the importance of the subject is not being highlighted and lack of knowledge of geographical careers, no one see the value of Geography. One view as a subject just to get 'A' and then forget about it. Today's world have witnessed the unprecedented usage of maps (No.1 geographical tool) in humanity's history. Malaysia, as it continually evolves, need people who are educated in Geography and Mapping Science. Everything from business to medicine to community work has a location aspect. Geography syllabus must highlight careers in growing field. Teachers should contact Geographers/Map-makers to visit schools to introduce exciting careers.

 Fourth issue is Geography syllabus and teachers must integrate new technologies to teach the subject. This must include new mapping technologies (i.e. Google Earth, web maps) to bring excitement in learning. After all, Geography is all about exploring the world we live in. Visualizing Geography through story telling or organize outdoor visits allows the students to appreciate the world around them. Moreover, introduction of mapping technologies will spark interest in students to consider a career in Geography.

 Fifth issue is Geography syllabus should challenge the general perceptions of the developing and developed world. The core Geography syllabus tend to highlight problems existing in developing world (i.e. overpopulation) and less so for developed world. As the world changes rapidly, geography syllabus must highlight alternative advances made in developing world (i.e. sustainable agriculture) and focus less on developed world. Malaysian worldview is skewed knowing a lot of Western World & Asia but very limited for other parts. This could be rectifying by presenting balanced view on issues in developing world.

 In Summary, Geography syllabus in Malaysia needs a refocus to be more relevant and useful. Though Malaysians would better rate understanding the world than Americans, five issues must be addressed to revive a subject of significance importance. Geo-literate Malaysians would be capable understanding their environment, make wise decisions and knowing the implications of actions they do in the world we live in.


  1. Danesh, what you have indicated is whats needed in the school syllabus. GEOGRAPHY has been much neglected.

  2. Going through lower secondary in Malaysia, I found Geography to be a very interesting subject...I still find the field very interesting. It is unfortunate that people don't see the importance of the subject but at the same time, the reason it's not as popular as science because it is not perceived to be as lucrative as science....

  3. First of all, big thanks to those who have commented. People do not see the importance of Geography because no one is educated. The field in terms of pay is not lucrative. However, concepts of Geography exist in Environmental Science, demographics studies, economics and others. That's means if you work in theses fields, the pay check is bigger I think.