Catholic students need to know God’s word as well, if not better, than their academic subjects. Far too many Christians strive for success and achievement in an increasingly materialistic world and use the yardstick for success by the number of As attained at school but are content to leave their knowledge of the scriptures at Sunday School level. They may know the content of their academic subjects to ensure that they score a distinction, but unfortunately when it comes to the Bible they are lost and unsure of what God has to say in the scriptures.
Taking Bible Knowledge is an investment of time for eternity. Think about this: Matthew 24:35 tells us “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away”. One day the earth as we know it will disappear into nothingness, and all the science, mathematics, history, etc associated with it will not be applicable any more. But God’s word shall not pass away. It will be the only thing that we take into eternity of all the subjects that we study in the 11, 12 or 13 years in school.
Bible knowledge is the anchor that our students need for these times of uncertainty and turmoil. We live in such times of social unrest, physical disasters, political turmoil, economic uncertainties and moral decadence, that many young people grow up with an unspoken fear in their hearts as to what tomorrow may bring. The transience of time is felt as never before. God’s word alone can give the sense of security that we need today. If students will get to know more and more of God and of the Bible they will stand secure in the knowledge that God alone “owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine”. How wonderful to know that one hand that “split the stars all across the wide heavens” is the same hand that holds our lives safe and secure in all circumstances.
Bible Knowledge will undergird the minds of our students and provide them with a moral compass that will guide all their actions and decisions in their everyday living. Today young minds are bombarded with all kinds of information that the TV, Internet, newspapers, magazines that they suffer from a ‘sensory overload’ and are unable to filter the good from the bad and undesirable. Peer group pressure is very strong. Many young people are left without adult supervision today because both parents are out at work. The study of Bible knowledge will help our young students to make decisions and choices that are grounded on Christ’s teachings and based on biblical principles.
The Church needs strong leaders today and tomorrow. Leaders are grown and nurtured, not born. Our students need help to nurture their roots in the Catholic Faith in order to provide dynamic leadership for the future. Bible knowledge also trains character. Timothy 3:15-17 says “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, equipped for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. This fact need hardly be explained. Taking Bible knowledge is like having a mini part-time course in theology at the seminary taught at school. The in-depth study of Luke and the Acts will prove to be an invaluable foundation for the study of other books in later life.
Taking Bible Knowledge will help improve the student’s command of the English language. Statistical studies have shown a correlation in this. The medium of instruction being Bahasa Malaysia has meant a definite decline in the standard of English, and many teachers and employers now bemoan the standard of English among our students. This is a real cause for concern. Bible Knowledge is taught in English. The student has to read, write and converse in English. His/her written work is in English and it is corrected. He/She is therefore exposed to basic English Grammar and proper construction of sentences. His/her vocabulary will improve as he reads the Bible. Memorisation of texts forms language patterns in the brain that will further enhance his/her mastery of the language. This is definitely an advantage as he leaves school for life’s challenges.
Moral education cannot take the place of religious education as the two are not synonymous. There is a colossal ethical crisis that afflicts our society in almost all spheres of life. Moral Education is meaningless as it embodies the teaching and learning of a set norms and values without instilling a holy fear of the omniscient God or loving Him as His creatures. Accountability to God is the basis of our being moral persons. In studying the scriptures, we help our children to realise that Christian living should be based on loving God our Father and loving neighbour.
Finally, let us take a stand and show school administrators, government officials and policy makers that our faith means something to us. It is the most important subject of all the subjects that a child learns in school. Not to study this all important subject would be to tell authorities that it is not necessary for a child’s moral and spiritual development. And we risk the danger of it being removed from the list of examination subjects at the SPM level altogether. Just a brief scan of the statistics of the number of candidates for Bible Knowledge nationwide over the years will reveal the dire state of this subject:
Year Number of Candidates
1960’s Many thousands at Form 3 and Form 5 level
500 at SPM level
1993 No longer available at Form 3 level
200-300 at SPM level
1994 Bible Knowledge taken out of SPM syllabus and listed as SAP subject
1995 Bible reinstated as SPM subject, only 20 candidates
1996 50 candidates
1997 115 candidates
Lately it is estimated that only 700 candidates sat for Bible Knowledge nationwide out of several hundred thousand sitting for SPM. The numbers are increasing but awareness over this subject is still very low. Worse still, in spite of a lot of persuasion students are still shying away from this subject out of the fear that they may not ‘score’ in this paper and it would affect their overall results. This is a misplaced fear, because if they are disciplined in following the lessons and study consistently, there is no reason for anyone to fail or do badly in Bible Knowledge. Will parents and teachers rally round and show support for this all important study of God and his Word?
Frequently asked questions by students regarding SPM Bible Knowledge
Q. What is required of the candidate?
A. Since the main aim of this course of study is to acquire knowledge and understanding of the Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ and the Growth of the Early Church, candidates will be expected to:
recall and select factual information
describe, explain, relate and compare events and teachings in an organised manner
describe and show an understanding of the role and importance of special people
appreciate the Christan response to moral issues.
Q. What about textbooks? Where can I get them?
A. There are two basic textbooks, one for the Gospel according to St Luke and one for the Acts of the Apostles. These books may be obtained from your Bible Knowledge teacher when you make an Order. The accepted standard texts are ‘A Study Guide to the Gospel of Luke’ and ‘A Study Guide to the Acts of the Apostles’. Candidates will not be penalised if they use other versions of the text in their answers.
Q. Where and when can I register as a candidate?
A. In your school, when you register for your other subjects. The registration is around February or March, when you are in Form Four. The official registration will take place when the student is in Form Five and payment is made to the ‘Lembaga Peperiksaan’. The procedure for enrolling for the class for Bible Knowledge may vary from school to school. However, for St Joseph’s Parish and other Kuching parishes, private tuition will be given at the La Sallian Tuition Centre at St Joseph’s Secondary School, and St Joseph’s Parish Tuition Centre. Please watch out for announcements regarding the commencement and timetable for Bible Knowledge for 2009.
Q. My child is in Form One. Where can he learn Bible Knowledge as a subject?
A. Although Bible Knowledge is not an examinable subject at the lower secondary level, this subject is offered at the Parish Tuition Centre and The Gospel of Mark will be covered. If time permits, selected texts of the Old Testament will be covered. In Form Two, the students will go on to St Luke and this will help them to better understand the Gospel at SPM level. Again, do watch out for announcements regarding the enrolment of these classes in December, before the school year begins.