Making History my ‘overcoming’ story

THREE years ago, as a Form One student, I took off my glasses midway through revising the History subject for an examination and sighed in exasperation.

I wondered why it was compulsory for students to study the subject and why it was so dreary to begin with.

Whenever I reflect on my journey with the subject, I laugh with amusement at my struggles. Not only can I now pass the subject easily, I can also obtain a good score with ease.

As a kid, I was never good at history because I never studied it. History was never in my private school syllabus in Brunei, where I was born and raised until the end of my primary schooling.

Faced with the sudden influx of subjects after I moved back to Malaysia with my family, I found History to be the hardest of them all – all those years and dates, names and places, and to top it all off, everything in Bahasa Malaysia. This had to be the end of me, surely, I thought to myself.

I am passionate about studying the subject because not only do I get to learn about my country’s rich history, but I also enjoy reading all the facts and information.– SarvendraI am passionate about studying the subject because not only do I get to learn about my country’s rich history, but I also enjoy reading all the facts and information.– Sarvendra

But I managed to pass my first History examination, despite leaving many questions unanswered.

After getting my graded examination paper back, I pored over my textbook to look for the answers to the questions I had struggled with. It was then I realised that the answers were not in the book as these were higher order thinking skills (HOTS) questions that demanded more than just textbook answers. I could have easily obtained higher marks if I had put on my thinking cap.

When the 2021 academic year began, I vowed to make progress in my studies. Since online classes were conducted as schools remained shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had plenty of time to do self-study after classes.

However, I still found that I could not master the History subject despite devoting hours to it. Everything was just as confusing as it had been the year before.

This time, there were more dates and more facts to memorise. And to make matters worse, online classes did not have a good effect on me as I could not focus as much as in physical classes.

In the blink of an eye, the year was over and I gained a decent final year score for History, but it was largely due to the projects I had completed. Everything, however, changed for the better in 2022.

One day, while meeting up with a close family friend Neesha Devi Kaneisan – Aunty Neesha as my family calls her – my parents told her about my struggles with the History subject. Incidentally, Aunty Neesha, or Cikgu Neesha as I soon grew to call her, was a History teacher with years of experience teaching the subject.

A godsend, she took time out of her busy schedule every week to guide me on the tips and tricks of acing the subject for examinations. More importantly, she opened my eyes to the beauty of understanding history as a window to our origins and roots.

Her guidance, coupled with the knowledge imparted by my schoolteacher, enabled me to develop a newfound interest in the subject.

I remember turning the pages of my History textbook one day and was struck by the ease with which I absorbed the information. Everything became as clear as day to me, and that is when I truly began to love the subject.

And this time, I had developed a better understanding of the HOTS questions. I had bought reference and exercise books to master the one thing that had held me back from getting good grades for the subject.

When the examination paper came for History, I felt as though I was definitely getting an A for it. Imagine my delight when my History teacher announced that I got 95 out of 100 marks – the highest mark in the school, no less.

All my hard work had paid off and from then on, it was simply a matter of maintaining the momentum.

Nowadays, I help to tutor my friends and juniors who have difficulty with the subject. I am passionate about studying it because not only do I get to learn about my country’s rich history, but I also enjoy reading all the facts and information.

As clichéd as it may sound, hard work and practice really do pay off, and to anyone who struggles with the subject, I hope you gain some learning points from my journey.

I definitely did not reach where I am on my own, so I would like to take the opportunity to thank my parents and sister for constantly encouraging me, my schoolteachers for the role that they had played in educating me on the subject, and Cikgu Neesha for truly opening my eyes to the beauty of learning history.

Sarvendra, 16, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For more information, go to

Now that you have read the article, test your understanding by carrying out the following English language activities.

1 What was one subject that you struggled with and how did you overcome it?

Share your experience with your activity partner.

2 Why do you think it is important to study history in school?

Discuss with your partner.

Then, turn to the Comics section in today’s copy of the Sunday Star newspaper.

Look for a comic strip with at least two characters. Draw speech bubbles around the characters and fill them out with their thoughts on the importance of studying history. Be creative! When you are done, review each other’s work.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

#BRATs , #Star-NiE


Next In Education

PSD sponsorships not extended for first degrees in medical, dental, pharmacy and education fields
Negri optimistic of being first state with 60% of students in STEM, says MB
Govt asked to study cause of school dropout at secondary level
Preserving art of gamelan music
Taking edutourism partnership further
Schools get set for storms and lightning
‘2024 school session unlikely in January’
UM leads M'sian varsities in QS World University Rankings
Use of Bahasa Malaysia not compulsory in private institutions, says Deputy Higher Education Minister
Johor floods: Repairs on badly-hit schools to begin next week

Others Also Read