Bible Knowledge (BK) is one of the papers in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). However, not many Christian students and parents are aware of the existence of this subject in the examination syllabus. This paper tests candidates on two books – The Gospel of Luke (Luke) and Acts of the Apostles (Acts). Luke is generally about the life of Jesus, his ministries and teachings, whereas Acts is mainly about the growth of the early church after the ascension of Jesus. The language used for this paper is English. Over the years, BK has been taught in schools as an elective subject, and in churches by church leaders or individuals. There are also candidates who prepare for the paper through self-study.
The BK paper has been introduced into the public examination since the British colonization era. We are indeed very privileged that BK is a recognised paper in the public exam in Malaysia where the majority of its people are Muslims. We are probably the only Muslim country where the government makes available a paper on Christianity. Each year, the administration of this paper consumes a huge amount of expenses borne by the Ministry of Education. However, it is disheartening to find that the number of candidates registering for the paper has dwindled over the years. In the 1960’s, many thousands used to sit for the paper. In recent years, we see only around 300 candidates – in government secondary schools across the nation. It is now one of the few subjects in SPM struggling with the lowest turnout of candidates.
What are the benefits of taking BK?
1) Study God’s Word more seriously
Nowadays, accomplishment of good academic results is very much sought after by parents and students themselves. The pursuit of academic excellence is prioritized over the learning of God’s Word. Many students would spend countless hours on their studies, homework and tuition classes each day, rather than spending quiet moments reading the Bible. Taking BK in a way makes students study God’s Word more seriously and conscientiously, as they are to prepare for the exam. This doesn’t mean students are to study God’s Word for the sake of exam, but Christian students in fact should know God’s Word as well if not better than their other academic subjects. The Bible says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my wordswill never pass away.” (Luke 21:33). Spending time studying God’s Word is definitely a worthwhile investment for eternity.
2) Grow spiritually
By taking the subject, students have to consciously discipline themselves to master the content of Luke and Acts. Through the course, students also look into the societal, religious and cultural backgrounds of the scriptural passages about the life of Jesus and growth of the Early Church which helps them better understand the Bible. The in-depth study of the two books would be an invaluable foundation for the study of the other books of the Bible, or even be a great help for their theological studies in future. Taking BK is like embarking on a personal journey with Jesus and his apostles. For example, while studying Luke, we get to observe Jesus along the journey, paying close attention to His words and deeds – he fixed his eyes on God and remained faithful to Him while being tempted by Satan; he compassionately stretched out his hand to touch and heal a leper rejected by the community; he humbly submitted himself to the will of God while struggling through his prayer of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane etc.
3) Provide a moral compass for everyday life
Taking BK provides youngsters the truth that will guide their actions and decisions in their everyday living. With the ubiquitous presence of information communication technology today, the young minds are constantly bombarded with endless information and entertainment that potentially corrupt their value system. What is fundamentally crucial for them is the absolute biblical principles that point them to the right path, to lead a life pleasing to God. Psalm 119:105 tells us “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” By learning God’s Word by heart and doing constant revision to prepare for the BK exam, students keep God’s Word in their heart which becomes their life-long treasure. God’s Word will keep them steadfast and give them strength during the trials and storms of life. This may help them hold onto their faith in times of turmoil.
4) A testimony to others
Taking BK for SPM is a testimony to others, especially the non-believers around us. Our seriousness in learning God’s Word tells them that our Christian faith means a lot to us. Undeniably, registering for an extra paper means the need to go the extra mile. Candidates need to spend more time and energy to study and prepare for the exam, on top of the pressures they face. God proclaims in 1 Samuel 2:30, “I will honour those who honour me.” Having taught this subject for several years, I have witnessed wonderful testimonies of BK students achieving excellent overall SPM results. Taking BK not only did not jeopardize their overall performance, but also gave them the drive and motivation to study even more diligently. They learned to manage their time more effectively having to cope with an extra subject. Eventually some of them were offered government or private scholarships to further their studies.
5) Improve command of English
Undeniably, the English language has been an important language for knowledge acquisition and communication. It plays a significant role in one’s education, work and life. However, many students from Chinese speaking background are struggling with the language. Their overall proficiency of English leaves much room for improvement due to their lack of exposure to the use of English in their daily life. Taking BK for SPM will help to improve students’ command of English. The Good News Translation used in BK is easy to understand, and helpful for their mastery of English. By consistently studying and memorizing the Scripture, students would pick up the language patterns and new words. This helps them to brush up on their English. Reading, discussion and written homework in English also give useful practice for the language. Isn’t it killing two birds with one stone? Currently in Sarawak, proactive efforts have been taken by some schools and churches in Kuching and Miri to promote BK. In Sibu, SMK Methodist is now the only school that teaches the subject. It is my sincere hope that more Christian teachers, church leaders and members will rise up to teach and promote this subject. It is also my humble prayer that more Christian students would consider taking BK for SPM, and more Christian parentsencourage their children to take up the challenge.
We are uncertain about the future of this paper – how long it will last. Will this paper be scrapped by the Ministry of Education one day, if the number of candidates keeps dwindling? If our own Christian students do not register for BK in SPM, who else will?!
By Daniel Pan,
Zion Methodist Church, Sibu