Following the success of the August 22 launch in Manila of the “Research on Traditional Madars in ARMM and Adjacent Regions”, IAG also launched the report in Cotabato City on August 28, highlighting the need of traditional Muslim schools in Mindanao for government recognition.

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.

 

IAG has identified the issues and challenges confronting traditional Muslim schools in Mindanao in the Australian Government-supported research that aims to provide baseline information to promote the use of data and evidence in crafting public policies on traditional madaris in the Philippines and in the evolving education system of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

 

The third and last leg of launching activities will be on September 11 in Zamboanga City.

 

At the launch in Cotabato City, IAG Executive Director Benedicto Bacani explained the reason why IAG took on the challenge of conducting the study. The following are excerpts of his remarks.

 

“There are two significant events that prompted the conduct of this research.

 

First is the anticipated establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at the time when this was conceptualized. We know that under the BARMM, there will be greater autonomy, there will be more resources that the Bangsamoro people themselves can budget and allocate through what we call the block grant mechanism under the BOL. There is a great opportunity to really shape and reshape the sub-educational system in the Bangsamoro, which remains to be under the national education system. One of the key sectors there is the madaris, particularly the traditional madaris that are outside the PH education system. For the longest time, they’ve been outside this world of Philippine education. Most of the time, they are just there doing their own thing—they are nameless, they are faceless.

 

This brings me to the second reason or event why we conducted the research. In 2017, before the Marawi Siege, IAG did a research on youth vulnerability to violent extremism in the ARMM. One of the findings in that research, according to the youth respondents, they observed and they experienced instances of attempted recruitment or consummated recruitment in the madaris especially those in the rural areas.

 

Let me make a very important distinction: the youth respondents in that study did not say that madaris are source of violent extremism—what they were saying was they were targets of recruitment. I am making this important distinction because the media – local and international – have reported that madaris have become hubs or sources of violent extremist ideas, violent extremist tactics and violent extremist groups, particularly the traditional madaris that are outside regulation of the national educational system. Source is different from target.

 

The conclusion of the study is since the traditional madaris—that is where young Muslim leaders are formed, logically that will be a target just as communities, just as even mainstream educational institutions are targets. But you see, because of the lens of bias and prejudice, if you look at the issue of madaris from that lens, the majority, especially the media, look at that because they really don’t know. We actually didn’t know also because we don’t have hard data and evidence – who, what, where and how these traditional madaris are operating. That’s the second reason why we conducted this research – as a follow-through to that research on youth vulnerability to violent extremism.

 

At the end of the day, whether it is policy to be made by our BTA who has a great responsibility, who also has a great responsibility to allocate funds for the traditional madaris, or whether it is policy against or addressing the rise of violent extremism, you need to take on a lens that is backed by data and evidence, not by pride and prejudice and biases. It’s good to understand this from a very scientific data and evidence-based perspectives. This is what this research is all about. The research team ensured that the data is credible enough to drive the policies that the BTA will promulgate, credible enough to educate us and the majority Filipinos of the true role of the madaris in promoting peace, development and prosperity in the southern Philippines and in the whole country.”