JAKARTA — Indonesia is helping the Philippines gain a better understanding of Islamic education by organizing a two-day workshop as part of an effort to help combat religious extremism in the southern Philippines.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi opened the workshop on Wednesday. The workshop’s participants include officials from Islamic schools from both countries, the Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry and the Philippines’ Department of Education.
On Wednesday, the officials exchanged information on the Islamic education systems of both countries, which was of great help to all parties, said Mita Parocha, supervising education program specialist of the Philippines’ Department of Education.
“Getting informed on Islamic education is important for Muslim Filipinos,” said Parocha.
She said the Philippines government faced problems forging a unified voice on Islamic schools, also known as madrasah, regarding funding and other issues.
Despite being Asia’s largest Catholic country, she said the Philippines had a law that separated religious affairs and the state. According to this law, the government can only fund non-religious based schools.
“The law says we can only fund schools that offer a general curriculum,” she said, adding that the curriculum focused on modern sciences taught to international standards.
This, she said, posed an issue for the funding of Islamic schools, most of which are reportedly funded by parties from other countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Most Islamic schools refused to implement the government’s curriculum as they concentrated on Islamic education, she said.
Of the thousands of Islamic schools in the Philippines, only 81 complied with the regulation, she added.
Therefore, the workshop allowed concerned parties to learn from each other.
“I’m impressed with the Islamic education here [Indonesia] although I read there are a few problems,” she said referring to the recent religiously motivated attacks in the country.
“I was impressed to learn that science and modern technology is taught in madrasahs in Indonesia.”
Muslims in the southern Philippines have struggled to gain a better understanding of systems of Islamic education since the Spanish colonized the country 484 years ago, said Alzad T. Sattar, undersecretary of madrasah education at the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“The Philippine government is now starting to help but I guess it has not been enough,” he told The Jakarta Post. “We [Muslims] are a minority, so we are not heard as much as those in the majority.”
Sattar said the government, consisting mostly of Catholics, was incapable of properly developing an Islamic curriculum.
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