This is the novel that has been designated to the state of Sarawak to be taught in Form 5 starting next year…
I managed to get hold of a copy and read through it. The language is simple enough for the average and above-average students, so that is one good thing about it.
The story is interesting but I find that there are too many characters and students may find it difficult to place their finger on who’s who as they read. Perhaps the teachers would have to draw up a chart indicating the names of the characters and their relationships with one another.
Another thing that may make it difficult for the students to follow is the frequent use of flashbacks. It may be of some help if the teachers can get them to plot a time-line and jot down the significant events in the story in chronological order.
One thing that struck me was the absence of the author’s name. It is not on the cover, unless it has been hidden from view by the school’s SPBT (Skim Pinjaman Buku Teks or the Textbooks-in-loan Scheme) barcode sticker. I did not see it in the inside cover page either…
It only appears on the spine of the book and in very small print where the copyright is indicated. There is, however, a write-up on the author at the end of the book but I wonder how many will actually bother to go through that. After all, I have seen with my own eyes candidates in the examination writing something like this, “The novel I have studied is ‘The Pearl’ by K.S. Maniam,” even though the names of the novels and the authors are listed in the question without fail every year.
They did not neglect to add the 1Malaysia logo on the cover though…
…and the Rukun Negara on its inside page. I wonder how patriotic that would make the students become in the end.
In the text proper, one thing that caught my attention was this:
I like the phrase used: “…that country of white ghosts and falling bridges,” but I wonder how many of the students these days do know about the bridge that is falling down. There may be some, of course, owing to their home background…but I do not think many of the kids today, if any, play those “childish games” that used to give us so much fun and joy during our time. As a matter of fact, I wonder how many of our young teachers know…and whether they do know also that the bridge is not the Tower Bridge of London, but another less impressive one beside it.
I had something similar in one of my comprehension passages about an old settlement in a setting similar to Sungai Merah here in Sibu way back in the colonial days:
“…Sometimes, it was so quiet that one could hear the voices of the children in the Christian mission-run school a stone’s throw away, reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood or chanting about the house that Jack built. At other times, they would be singing, despite being in broad daylight, about twinkling little stars, or reciting the timetables in chorus…”
Unfortunately, when I was teaching that, to my dismay, I discovered that most of the students did not have the slightest inkling as to who Little Red Riding Hood was nor were they in the least interested in whatever house Jack had built…and some probably knew of the twinkling stars but in a language other than English.
This programme has been going for a number of years now and I wonder how effective it has been in inculcating the love for reading and Literature in the students and in raising the standard of English. I guess we all know the answer…