The battle to defend Vietnam’s Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef on March 14, 1988 will be officially included in the high school curriculum, an act to pay tribute to the 64 Vietnamese martyrs and help infuse their unyielding spirit into future generations.
Representatives of authorities and young people of Khanh Hoa province pay homage to the 64 soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Gac Ma battle at the Gac Ma soldiers memorial site in Cam Lam district on March 14 (Photo: VNA)
The remark was made by Prof. Pham Hong Tung, chief author of the high school history curriculum, in an interview with Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the sea battle. Tung, who is also head of the history faculty of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University Hanoi, said in the new high school curriculum, the Gac Ma incident will be taught at different levels using different methods according to school grades. Explaining why the Gac Ma battle is only included in the curriculum after 30 years since it happened, the Professor said that historians need a certain period of time to collect sufficient documentation and thoroughly study a historical event, especially the complicated ones relating to the country’s internal and external relations, before official information can be publicised and taught at school. They need even more prudence if the teaching of those events may affect the understanding and thinking of future generations, he said. “The inclusion of the Gac Ma battle on March 14, 1988 in history textbooks is the way that we, as historians (and I believe that people nationwide also agree with us), pay a tribute to the 64 soldiers who sacrificed their lives in that fight to protect the homeland’s sea and island sovereignty and protect the sacred territory of the fatherland,” the historian said. According to him, the event will be mentioned four times in the new high school curriculum. He said that it will be part of the history of Vietnam, Southeast Asia and the world in the 8th and 9th grades at junior high schools. Students will learn about the East Sea and islands of Vietnam, from geography, economy, environment and geo-politics to the sovereignty and all the struggles to protect the country’s sea and island sovereignty on the basis of legal and historical evidence of Vietnam and international conventions. That will help future generations be aware that the fight to defend and affirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos and the East Sea has sufficient legal foundation, and that in the battles to defend Hoang Sa in 1974 and Gac Ma in 1988, justice is on the side of the Vietnamese army and people, Tung said. In the curriculum for senior high school level, the Gac Ma incident will be among the battles to liberate and protect the country’s territorial integrity, and mentioned again in lessons about the East Sea and islands. The professor affirmed his viewpoint that the teaching of the Gac Ma battle must firstly respect the truth, but it must not rekindle feud or disagreements of the past. The most important thing is that the teaching must educate students to promote peace and cooperation with not only the Chinese people but also people around the world. Tung added a scientific and humane approach toward peace and cooperation are the consistent viewpoint in the teaching of the wars protecting the northern and southwestern borders and the marine sovereignty of Vietnam in the high school curriculum.