A vast majority of traditional Muslim schools in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and adjacent regions struggle with limited resources for their operations and aspire for government recognition to get support.
Ninety percent of 1,850 heads of traditional madaris who participated in a study conducted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) said they are interested in government recognition, eight percent said they are unsure, while only two percent shunned the idea altogether.
Madaris (singular: madrasah) generally refers to Muslim private schools with core emphasis on Islamic studies and Arabic literacy.
Currently, there are four types of programs offered by madaris: the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) for Filipino Muslim learners enrolled in the public schools nationwide; private madaris recognized by the Department of Education; Tahderriyah or kindergarten schools established in MILF communities with the UNICEF-BEAM Program for 3-5 years old children, and the traditional madaris that are operating outside the Philippine educational system.
Traditional madaris, the study contends, are the most important educational institutions in Muslim Mindanao since they are looked up to not only as schools of learning but also as symbols of Islam. For the Moro people, they are the proper place to learn Islamic teachings and study Arabic language.
However, many of them have no permit to operate and lack recognition of the government or any accrediting body in the Philippines. They depend primarily on the spirit of volunteerism, sustaining their existence through contributions by parents of their students and donations from the community.
The interest for government recognition is expected from the traditional madaris because of the technical or financial support they can get from it. This is for the purpose of sustainability and for the improvement of the quality of education comparable to other secular schools in the Philippines.
Government recognition, according to the study, is also seen as a necessary measure to correct misperceptions that madaris have become hubs of recruitment for terrorists or are producing graduates joining violent extremist groups.
Respondents of the study believed that most of the traditional madaris are vulnerable to extremism because of the absence of government system regulations and their dependence on third-party funding from Islamic countries. The latter has led to the perception that madrasah education is a breeding ground of extremism, an issue that developed as a consequence of the Marawi siege in 2017.
Madrasah leaders also reiterated the need for government recognition as the only way to reduce vulnerability to security threats as they will be accorded protection by government forces similar to public schools.
There are different bodies that may provide recognition for traditional madaris in the Philippines. These are the National Council for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF); Bureau of Muslim Education (BME) in ARMM and DepEd, as integrated madrasah; BME; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the vocational and technical courses; and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for collegiate courses.
Government recognition, the study asserts, is an issue that needs to be addressed by reviewing existing relevant policies or creating a new law that will help the traditional madrasah grow and develop as an educational system suited to the needs of the Moro and Muslims in the Philippines.
The study entitled “Research on Traditional Madaris in ARMM and Adjacent Regions” is an Australian aid initiative implemented by IAG from June 2018 until the second quarter of 2019 on behalf of the Australian Government.