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MA approves integration of basic education
and Islam-based curricula

December 10, 2004

MANILA (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is supporting a government plan to integrate its basic education curriculum into the Islam-based learning program of schools called 'madrasa' mostly located in Mindanao.

Department of Education chief Florencio Abad announced this plan today as he explained that the integration is part of a roadmap that authorities drafted to improve the education of Muslim Filipinos and to enhance the teaching skills of 'madrasa' instructors.

To improve their learning experience, Abad added that government will also soon begin publishing instructional materials in Arabic.

"Such moves are unprecedented since this will be done for the first time in the history of Philippine education," he explained after discussing the matter in Malacañang with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, other Filipino education officials and Brunei's Minister of Education Pehin Dato Haji Abdul Aziz Umar who expressed support for the plan.

According to Abad, authorities thought of integrating the two curricula since they observed that the current 'madrasa' program is limited in scope.

"The current program is basically confined to providing training and education and Islamic studies and values," Abad noted.

Among the subjects taught in 'madrasa' schools is the Quran or sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

For centuries, curriculum in a 'madrasa' institution was always essentially religious in character because the school aimed to prepare an 'ulama' or future Islamic religious scholar for his work.

The Nizamiyah was among the earliest 'madrasa' schools, having been established in Baghdad around 11 A.D.

Integration is also timely, Abad continued, since the number of teachers qualified to teach in 'madrasa' schools is not proportional to the number of Muslim students in the country.

He said some 2.2 million Muslims are currently enrolled in Philippine schools which offer government's basic education program.

"There are about 1,000 'madrasa' instructors, however, whose ability to teach subjects under the Islamic curriculum vary," Abad observed.

President Arroyo and Minister Pehin view this development as a confidence-building measure, he said, since this demonstrates government's sincerity in improving the plight of people in Mindanao.

"We want to increase public investment in 'madrasa' education so that it will be easier for Muslim students to eventually move towards studying under our regular curriculum," the DepEd head added.

To implement the integration plan, he said authorities are currently looking into public schools with a significant number of Filipino Muslim students.

The Cabinet member did not elaborate on funding details although he said the administration will appreciate additional financial assistance for this undertaking.

Pehin himself expressed optimism that the integration plan will be successful.

"We are looking forward to brighter years ahead as we hope to improve the curriculum," he beamed.

The education roadmap is actually already on the road, the minister continued, since Filipino scholars continue to enroll in Brunei's learning institutions.

Pehin is hopeful that the number of enrollees from the Philippines will increase since scholarships are still open to citizens of countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Brunei and the Philippines are both active members of ASEAN which held its 10th summit last month in Vientiane, Laos.


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