In his Malay speech for the National Day Rally last Sunday (Aug 23), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will provide more support to madrasahs in Singapore, especially in strengthening the teaching of secular subjects in these schools.
Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah principal Herman Cher Ma’in has welcomed the initiatives and said the funding provided will be used to improve teaching skills.
“We do not have the details about the initiative’s implementation. What we can do later is to sit together with MUIS and identify training courses in secular subjects – that will be one area in which we can work closely with MUIS,” he said. “There is also scope for us to explore customised training for our teachers to hand-hold them to teach better in secular subjects to make them more effective.”
He added: “Under the Joint Madrasah System, we are looking at how we can standardise the curriculum within the three madrasahs. But each madrasah is unique, so we need to value the uniqueness of each madrasah.
“For the Joint Madrasah System, work is in place to ensure the curriculum is meaningful for the children to ensure they are successful … In this sense, the curriculum needs to be looked at, and we can also look into how we can make the assessment more rigorous. And with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and MUIS, working in partnership, I believe we can do that.”
Since 2008, MUIS has spent more than S$3 million on teacher training programmes. This includes both the structured programmes organised in partnership with the National Institute of Education (NIE) and Edith Cowan University in Australia, workshops and seminars.
REACTIONS FROM FORMER STUDENTS
Currently, there are about 3,500 students enrolled in six madrasahs in Singapore.
Former madrasah student Hazimah Mohd Nordin said the additional support will help boost the standards of secular learning. The laboratory executive at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore said: “During my time, 10 years ago, they had mathematics and science, but it was not really up to standard yet as compared to now. Now, it’s really very good for the students.
“Mostly, I had to learn from outside, from my tutor and the tuition centre, which also had a science lab. We didn’t have a science lab last time in my school. But they did support me when I (told them) I’m studying outside (and that) after school, I have to rush to the tuition centre. They understood that they didn’t have the resources to support me.”
Her sentiments are shared by former madrasah student Nur Fathin, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Islamic Banking and Finance in Malaysia. She said that it is important to achieve a balance between religious and secular studies.
“For madrasah students, it’s really a necessity for them to equip themselves with secular subjects because living in Singapore, we are facing various challenges,” she said. “We are not just a single-religion community, we are multi-religious. With the secular subjects like maths, science and all that, we can still remain relevant, we can complement the knowledge and help the society.”
This was also highlighted by the Mufti of Singapore Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram on Sunday.
Dr Fatris said it is important to train madrasah teachers to be competent in both religious and secular subjects to guide the Muslim community forward.