INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Major Overhaul of Singapore's Madrasah System

Published: Fri 30 Nov 2007 08:28 AM
VZCZCXRO0136
RR RUEHBC RUEHCHI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDT RUEHGI RUEHHM RUEHJS
RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHNH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHGP #2133 3340828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300828Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4520
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2062
UNCLAS SINGAPORE 002133
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL SOCI SCUL SN
SUBJECT: MAJOR OVERHAUL OF SINGAPORE'S MADRASAH SYSTEM
REF: A. A. SINGAPORE 785
B. B. 06 SINGAPORE 1467
C. C. 05 SINGAPORE 1835
1. (U) Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr. Yaacob
Ibrahim announced last month a major restructuring of
Singapore's full-time madrasah system -- which serves roughly
five percent of Singapore's Malay/Muslim students (Ref A).
The reorganization is prompted by a requirement that
full-time madrasah students pass primary-level standardized
tests by 2008 and funding shortfalls that all six madrasahs
face. According to the announcement, starting in 2009, three
of the six schools will pool their resources to enhance
specialization and cut costs, while maintaining separate
campuses. One madrasah will provide primary instruction.
Another will provide secondary education to students
interested in pursuing religious studies at the tertiary
level. The third madrasah will provide secondary education
with a secular focus, to prepare students to become part of
the Singaporean workforce. The three madrasahs not involved
have adopted a "wait-and-see" approach.
2. (SBU) Previously, GOS and madrasah officials were
optimistic that madrasah students would pass the standardized
tests (Ref A). However, one madrasah official told us that
the madrasahs now worry that too many students might fail the
exams, a factor that helped motivate the reorganization plan.
She also predicted that the changes would encourage
implementation of a new integrated curriculum developed by
the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), the
government statutory board for Muslim affairs, which most
other madrasahs apart from her own have resisted.
3. (U) Press reaction to the changes has been mixed. One
editorial in the Malay language daily newspaper lauded the
changes, but letters to the editor have questioned MUIS'
educational expertise and questioned the decision to have one
madrasah focus on secular studies. Subsequently, MUIS
announced additional funding for the madrasahs.
4. (SBU) Comment: The changes come too late to help madrasah
students pass their exams in 2008. However, the announcement
indicates that madrasah officials are finally ready to make
the tough decisions necessary to maintain the viability of
Islamic religious education in Singapore. End comment.
Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
HERBOLD
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