WHEN LAUNCHED in 2004, the Madrasah Program of the Department of Education (DepEd) covered only Muslim areas in Mindanao. Madrasah is Arabic for ?school.? Today, the program is being implemented in 16 regions nationwide.
Some 754 public elementary schools and at least 36 private primary schools all over the country are now teaching Islamic values, Arabic language and Muslim subjects like the Qur?an in addition to DepEd?s standard curriculum (basic subjects like English, mathematics, science, Filipino and Makabayan).
Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and Gen. Santos City) hosts 206 of the public schools, followed by Northern Mindanao, 139; Davao provinces, 94; Zamboanga Peninsula, 68; and Metro Manila, 60. Cagayan Valley public schools have yet to implement the Madrasah program.
The department is developing the Madrasah curriculum for public high schools for implementation starting school year 2010-2011.
Education Secretary Jesli A. Lapus said ?mainstreaming Madrasah education in the basic education system was one of DepEd?s priority programs.?
He said, ?Through this enriched curriculum, the Filipino national identity is promoted even as the Muslim-Filipinos? cultural heritage is preserved.?
Lapus stressed DepEd?s commitment to ?provide quality education to all children irrespective of their religion or culture.?
This year, the government has set aside P200 million for Madrasah, the same amount as in 2008. In 2010, the initiative would need at least P600 million, said a DepEd budget report.
Citing the ?marked expansion? of the Madrasah, Manaros Boransing, DepEd undersecretary for Muslim affairs, told the recent 5th Mindanao Educators? Congress in Butuan City that ?finally, Muslims have a sense of belonging.?
He said: ?Before they felt they were only citizens of Mindanao. Along with the lumads and Christians, they now consider themselves citizens of the Philippines.?
In many Muslim schools, ?there is no unified curriculum. Many asatidz (teachers) are not professionally trained. Learning materials are insufficient. The quality of instruction is poor. Less than 20 percent of Muslim children are enrolled in the Madrasah. Many Muslim private schools are not recognized by the government,? Boransing said.
A DepEd report Boransing furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer stated that ?for years, Muslim education in the country has been dichotomized...On one hand are Muslim children in public schools and those in sectarian madaris on the other. The education received by Muslim children in public schools was not entirely sensitive to Islamic values and practices while the madaris did not follow the basic education curriculum.?
Boransing said the dichotomy resulted in problems like non-transferability of private madaris students to public schools and vice versa. Graduates of local Muslim schools were not competitive in the local job market because they lacked communication skills in the English language, technical skills and professional competence, he said.
Boransing said Madrasah ?would provide Muslim children quality basic education that would be comparable with education given to non-Muslim learners.?
Madrasah?s basic components are Arabic language and Islamic values (Alive). The program has been adapted to the differing requirements of public schools, private madaris and Muslim out-of-school youth. Alive textbooks and teachers? manuals were developed in 2005 under a World Bank-Philippine government agreement.
To ensure that asatidz have basic competencies in Arabic and Islamic studies, applicants have to pass qualifying examinations. The government is also developing teacher education courses like Diploma Course in Arabic Language and Islamic Studies and a four-year Bachelor in Science in Elementary Education degree (major in Arabic language and Islamic studies).
Most of the country?s 1,500-plus asatidz get a monthly honorarium of P5,000 from local government units.
On the other hand, Alive for out-of-school youth and adults is being handled by mobile teachers of the Bureau of Alternative Learning System.
Boransing said ?the number of Muslim out-of-school youth and adults in the country has increased. Also, the rate of school dropouts is highest in Muslim areas. This is a cause for serious concern, not only for their education but also peace and order issues in these communities.?
Meanwhile, DepEd has released P19.2 million in financial aid to 36 private madaris in Mindanao.
Recipient-schools include the Dhayfullah Islamic Institute and Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao in Marawi City, Sharif Awliya Academy and Datu Maguda Timan in Shariff Kabunsuan, Noorul Eilm Academy and Al-Azharie Academy Central School in Cotabato City, Banay-Banay Pilot Madrasah and Al Munawarra Islamic School in Davao City, and Wamy Academy in General Santos City, among others.
The funds will cover teachers? salaries and improvement of school facilities, according to DepEd Order No. 81.