Whenever I tell my non-Malay/Muslim friends (or even some Muslim friends) where my children are schooling, a common reaction would be, “Do they cover the same syllabus?” “Are they on par with the national schools?” My answer would always be a resounding “Yes!” and then I’ll proceed to share a bit more about their school.
But when I read a comment by some guy online about how Madrasah students only learn Arabic and English (not even Malay??) as if they are undergoing some kind of ‘Arab colonisation’, I felt the need to share more about what at least one of our local full time Madrasahs – Madrasah Irsyad Zuhri – is like.
When the kids are in K2 (or at 6yo that year) in April, they will have to sit for an entrance test which comprise of written and oral papers for English, Maths, Malay and Arabic. Applications tend to exceed the number of vacancies available by more than 100%, so it is a very stressful test for parents actually! That half or less than half that got in really did by the Grace of God.
📕 Curriculum 🗂
At primary school, these are their subjects:
✏️English language (based on latest MOE syllabus, STELLAR and all)
✏️Mathematics (based on latest MOE syllabus)
✏️Science (based on latest MOE syllabus)
✏️Malay language (based on latest MOE syllabus)
✏️Tarbiyyah (Islamic knowledge, consisting of Islamic history, theology, jurisprudence and Islamic social studies – one per term)
As for the first four subjects, MOE-approved textbooks and workbooks are used. The books for the Islamic subjects are locally published in consultation with and under the supervision of the Madrasah Education branch in MUIS.
📗 Enrichment and CCA 🤗
1. They have what they call ‘whitespace’ (2 periods) weekly, where they get to experience different activities (one per term, different progs for different levels) not limited to:
📎 Art programmes
📎 ICT lessons
📎 Leadership programmes
📎 Sports and games
and the list goes on
2. After-school enrichment classes may include mathematical problem solving classes and English/Malay writing workshops, among others. There is also the Tahfiz (Quran memorisation) class that students can enrol in.
3. A plethora of interesting CCAs are highly sought after and students even had to ballot to get a place in CCAs such as:
👍 Junior Masterchef
👍 A variety of sports – soccer, badminton, swimming, netball
👍 Khat (Arabic calligraphy)
and a few others
4. They are not left out in international/national competitions such as ICAS, Maths Olympiads, robotics competitions, Babble and Speak, etc.
5. The P5 camps are usually in training centres/campsites in Malaysia for a more rigorous/interesting outdoor experience. I heard there’s also overseas CIP in the pipeline for them.
6. Once or twice a year, the p3-6 students will have a 2D1N Mukhayyam, a spiritual retreat filled with motivational talks, reminders and night prayers (Tahajjud).
Teachers for the four PSLE subjects comprise of both NIE-trained teachers (ex teachers in MOE schools) and teachers trained in education from local and overseas universities/institutions. They also attend short courses/teacher conferences organised by NIE as well as publishers here. Teachers for the Islamic subjects are qualified ustazs and ustazahs who graduated from Islamic institutions/universities locally and abroad too.
At this point, I must say I have much respect for all the teachers in the Madrasahs, for their sincere dedication and love for the students. If you already feel that the students are going through a lot, imagine the teachers! May Allah reward all the teachers with the best of rewards!
📙 Assessments 📋
The P1s and P2s have bite-sized assessments for English and Maths but CA1, SA1, CA2 and SA2 for all other subjects. Other levels have all four main assessments for all subjects. Yes, it is stressful for both kids and parents! 😅 But we survived, and will continue to survive these ‘tests’ on our mental and spiritual strength!
📕 PSLE 📝
The P6s will take the same PSLE papers for the four main subjects on the same dates and times as the other P6 students in Singapore. What I always admired is their love and care for the P6 students in terms of their spiritual, mental and physical preparation for the exams. Will share more when the time comes.
PSLE results? 100% passes for a few years running and mean score has always been above national average, Alhamdulillah. May it continue that way, Aameen!
📗School hours 🕢
Assembly begins at 7.30 am but classes start at around 7.55 am. Lessons continue till 2.25 pm with 1 recess break (@ canteen) and 2 snack times (in class). At 2.25 pm, they proceed to the adjacent mosque for Zuhr prayers till about 3pm (on Fridays they join the mosque jamaah for Friday prayers and end the day after that). Yes, the kids are very tired (and hungry) at the end of the day, but as many Madrasah grads would say, these are the things (on top of the many subjects and assessments, and climbing of stairs) that mould them into stronger individuals. I pray the same for my children!
Of course, the day does not end there when they have after-school activities/enrichment/CCA/remedial.
They enjoy the same gazetted school and public holidays in Singapore.
📘National Education 🇸🇬
Here, students also learn to love their country. One of the chapters in their Arabic textbooks is about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, narrating his achievements in bringing up Singapore. In their annual Social Studies project, there was a year where the P2s did a scrap book on the different kinds of food unique to the different ethnic groups in Singapore. The P3s did on important landmarks/symbols of Singapore and the P4s did on past leaders of Singapore, with the aim of instilling love for the country. During the recently celebrated Racial Harmony Day, there was an inter-class competition which requires each level to decorate the classes according to a certain ethnic group in Singapore. These projects and programmes certainly raised their awareness about the different cultures and races in Singapore.
I hope this sharing creates more awareness on the kind of education our local full-time madrasah students are getting. There are different reasons why Muslim parents may decide to enrol their children in one – mine is a mixture of them all:
📚To provide them with a holistic education which encompasses Islamic education as well – either to groom them into religious leaders with great foundation in academic knowledge, or into Muslim professionals grounded by their Islamic knowledge.
📚To allow them to study in an Islamic environment.
📚To allow them to wear uniform that properly covers what they need to cover once they reach puberty (we prefer to start young though).
📚To provide them with more options/pathways in education in the future – be it the academic or religious pathway.
What is clear is that, we have no intention of grooming them into narrow-minded, exclusive citizens or worse, into radicalised Muslims for whatever purpose. With the kind of education they are getting, I am more than confident that they can integrate well with the society and will be important assets to the nation too!
The above is based on my knowledge of the system as a parent (please do NOT treat this as official info on the Madrasah!) If you are a staff from the Madrasah, pls feel free to comment on any inaccurate information and I’ll gladly edit it. (My apologies for sharing all these without consulting any of you!) While this information may not be representative of the other full time Madrasahs in Singapore, I believe that they largely operate in the same way. At least where the academic subjects are concerned 🙂.
There are of course many other things about the Madrasah that I may not have shared here, but these are the basic info. May the Almighty continue to bless all Madrasahs with prosperity and progress!
Source: Sri Aisyah