Does History still have any value in schools and for children? In our technological society, certain subjects are regarded as “more important” to one day be financially successful in a very competitive business world. History, however, is quite necessary in the current South African context. Considering that History may likely become a compulsory subject until Grade 12, developers of the new curriculum must ensure that the value of this subject is extended so that learners’ interest in the subject is stimulated.
As South Africa’s dynamic has changed considerably over the past few decades, South Africans are still struggling to create a nationality where everyone can feel at home. In a society characterised by uncertainty and insensitivity, qualified History teachers can play a vital role in giving the youth guidance and direction. These teachers’ positive influence can be invaluable for the future of our country.
Curriculum developers will have to work carefully to ensure that the facts are presented in such a way that one group is not favoured over another, and to equip learners with the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed and responsible decisions. Responsible decisions by the youth can contribute to the promotion of democracy in the country.
History is no longer the mere learning and memorising of dates and facts; it has turned into a more comprehensive approach regarding the past, with the view to what can be learned and the value it holds for future actions and decisions. In this way the subject not only promotes knowledge, but also critical thinking, as learners are taught to reason, compare, evaluate and analyse. These are the exact skills required in the workplace and for further studies.
In History, learners cultivate empathy, as they are exposed to different circumstances and can put themselves in the position of others. History is no longer just a story about the past, but a lesson that must be learned and understood. It also contributes to the development of emotional intelligence. By knowing where they come from and learning lessons from the past, learners can be equipped for the future. The development of self-understanding that stems from this, can contribute to responsible citizenship in a diverse, complex and uncertain democracy.
It is clear that History holds great value for learners, provided that it is presented with passion. The holistic and interdisciplinary nature of the subject makes History an interesting and life-shaping subject for all those who take it.