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Pohl, Florian . "Indonesia, Islamic Education in." In Oxford Islamic Studies Online.
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/article/opr/t343/e0029>.
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Pohl, Florian . "Indonesia, Islamic Education in." In Oxford Islamic Studies Online.
Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t343
/e0029 (accessed May 13, 2014).

Indonesia, Islamic Education in


Indonesia, currently the largest Muslim-majority nation in the
world, boasts one of the worlds most diverse Islamic education
systems of both public and private institutions and a vibrant
publishing industry for Islamic educational literature. Although
Indonesia is not an Islamic state and Islam is not the countrys
official religion, the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of
National Education jointly supervise the teaching of Islam in
both public and private institutions in the national education
system. In its non-sectarian public schools (sekolah) the state
requires the study of religion. Students typically receive two
hours per week of confessional instruction in their own religion.
Beyond requiring Muslim students to receive basic instruction
in Islam in the sekolah-type schools, the state also runs Islamic
schools or madrasahs and maintains a nationwide network of
Islamic colleges and universities. The largest number of
religious schools, however, is located in the private educational
sector. The two most common types of Islamic schools are the
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traditionalist boarding schools, or pesantrens, and their


modernist counterpart, the Islamic day schools, or madrasahs.
In addition to the private Islamic schools on the primary and
secondary levels, numerous private networks of Islamic
colleges and universities exist that offer Muslim students
opportunities for higher learning.Exact numbers for these
institutions are debatable, but government statistics give the
number of madrasahs at roughly 36,000, with about 90 percent
of these located in the private sector. The number of the
traditionally independent pesantrens is more difficult to assess.
Estimates range between 10,000 and 14,000 throughout the
archipelago. Official statistics for the most recent school years
indicate that the public educational sector enrolls the
overwhelming majority of Indonesias students. Nonetheless,
the share of the private Islamic sector remains significant.
Depending on the school level, between 10 and 15 percent of
Indonesias youth receive their education in Islamic schools,
colleges, and universities. Not unlike in other countries of the
formerly colonized world, the dualistic structure of state-run and
private Islamic education is the result of historical
developments connected to Dutch colonial rule and the states
attempts to bring the two systems of education together in the
post-independence period.

Educational Politics in the Colonial Period.


One of the chief obstacles identified early on by Dutch colonial administrators was
indigenous resistance associated with Islam. Along with missionary efforts at
Christianization, schools modeled on the European system were the principal means
through which the success of the colonial project was to be ensured. Among the
targets of colonial policies were traditionalist institutions of Islamic learning devoted
to the study and transmission of classical Islamic disciplines of knowledge and the
education of Islamic scholars. Among the different types of indigenous institutions of
learning that predated the colonial intrusion, the Javanese pesantrens were the most
prominent and influential.
Traditionalist education: The pesantren tradition.
In contrast to the European-style school created by the Dutch, education at a
pesantren was religious in nature and secular subjects were generally not taught.

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The pesantren was an Islamic boarding school in which students lived and studied
with an Islamic scholar or kiai. The curriculum consisted mainly of the Islamic
sciences, chief among which were the study of the Quran and hadth as well as
Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh. Teaching was based the study of classical texts known
as kitab kuning (yellow books) because of the yellow-tinted paper on which they
were traditionally printed. These texts formed a canon of Islamic scholarship
connected to the works of prominent Muslim scholars in the Middle East from the
tenth to the fifteenth centuries. Maintaining this corpus of classical Islamic traditions
of knowledge, as well as training new generations of Islamic scholars, were the
primary goals of pesantren education that characterized its traditionalist orientation.
Instruction was informal and lacked a tiered class structure or centrally controlled
curriculum. In the study of the classical texts students were generally free to study
any topic, with the learning progress determined individually.
Through a number of direct ordinances in the early decades of the twentieth century,
the colonial government sought to control the activities of the schools in the private
sector such as the pesantrens. The greater challenge to the pesantrens role as
providers of education, however, was the availability and economic appeal of
general, non-religious education in the Dutch schools that challenged the
pesantrens educational monopoly. Education in western schools was perceived by
many Indonesians as the best chance to obtain profitable employment and thus
advance socially and economically. The situation was further aggravated by another
development within the Indonesian Muslim community: the success of the Muslim
modernist movement and the creation of the madrasah.
Islamic modernism and the madrasah.
Contact with the Middle East increased in the second half of the eighteenth century
and introduced a larger number of Indonesian Muslims to the intellectual work and
reformist thought of Muslim modernist thinkers such as Jaml al-Dn al-Afghn
(18381897) and Muhammad Abduh (18491905). The modernist sentiment found
its institutional expression in the establishment of the Muhammadiyah in 1912 as the
worlds largest modernist Muslim mass organization. From its inception, a critical
area of concern was the modernization of Muslim education. Inspired by Muhammad
Abduhs educational reform in Egypt, the Muhammadiyah sought to bring Islamic
education in line with modern science and technology. Most importantly, the
Muhammadiyah championed a new educational institution, the madrasah, which
operated as a religious day school based on the European model. It combined
religious and secular education and offered students a graded class system,
formalized exams, and often state-recognized degrees. With the Muhammadiyahs
support the madrasah rapidly proliferated.

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The establishment of Western-style schools by the Dutch, as well as the efforts at


education reform within the Islamic modernist movement, did not fail to influence the
traditionalists and their schools. In 1926, largely in response to the challenges of the
modernist movement, the traditionalists established their own mass organization, the
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which was centered on the kiais and their pesantrens.
Although the NUs organizational beginnings lay in a reactionary response to the
modernism of the Muhammadiyah, the traditionalists began to introduce changes
into pesantren education that gradually led to the adoption of new educational
models and methods of teaching. Some schools limited change to the adoption of
new teaching methods and the graded class system while retaining the essentially
religious nature of instruction. Others expanded their curricula to incorporate general
subjects such as mathematics, history, and foreign languages, including Dutch or
English, next to the Islamic sciences.

Islamic Education in Independent Indonesia.


The development of state education after national independence in 1945 relied for
the most part on the existing Dutch schooling system, thereby perpetuating the
dualistic structure in which state-sponsored schools were paralleled by private, often
religiously affiliated institutions. Private institutions were tolerated by the state but,
especially during the first two decades under President Sukarno, no attempts were
made to bring the state and the private sectors together. Although schooling was not
mandatory, the right to education had been enshrined in the constitution of 1945.
Institutions in the private sector benefited from the states difficulties in satisfying the
increasing demand for schooling, leading to a steady growth of Islamic schools in
the decade following independence. Many madrasahs and pesantrens continued to
incorporate general subjects into their curricula because of the growing public
demand for marketable skills, but they received little to no state subsidies or
recognition for their work.
Under the New Order government (19651998), the state sought increasingly to
bring together private and public education. This was accomplished, on the one
hand, through an increase of religious instruction in the state schools and, on the
other hand, by promoting general subjects in religious schools. The government also
began to expand its own network of religious schools under the direction of the
Ministry of Religion. These developments had a normalizing effect on the privatesector Islamic schools. Many private madrasahs began to align their curricula with
those of the state and started to use government-accredited textbooks in order to
qualify for financial support from the state. These measures effectively raised the
content of general education in the madrasahs to 70 percent and made their
graduates eligible to sit for the college-level entrance exams.

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Similar reforms initiated by the state helped integrate the pesantrens into the
national education system and ensured that their students received a general
education alongside their traditional religious studies. Although it remained possible
in most pesantrens for a student to focus solely on religious learning, many
pesantrens continued to incorporate general subjects into their curricula, while
others began to offer vocational instruction for their students. Still others, mostly
smaller pesantrens, modified their daily educational schedule to allow their students
to attend general schools outside the pesantren during the day. Still other schools,
especially larger pesantrens, integrated madrasah-type or general schools into their
educational programs. The granting of degree equivalency in the 1970s to private
religious schools that complied with government curricula and regulations
accelerated the incorporation of many madrasahs and pesantrens into Indonesias
national education system and allowed their students a more seamless transition
into the public sector upon graduation. On the tertiary educational level, this
integration has been facilitated by the expansion of the state system of Islamic
higher education.

Islamic Higher Education.


Similar to the primary and secondary levels of education, there exist a number of
private networks of higher education alongside the state system. These institutions
are mostly affiliated with religious organizations such as the Muhammadiyah and
Nahdlatul Ulama. The Muhammadiyah maintains its own network of private colleges
and universities throughout the country. The number of colleges and universities
affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama is smaller, but some pesantrens within its network
have developed programs on the tertiary level. In most cases the programs offered
on the post-secondary level are in the field of religious studies and parallel those
found in the state-run Islamic institutions of higher learning.
The state system of Islamic higher education consists of a nationwide network of
State Islamic Colleges (Sekolah Tinggi Agama Islam Negeri [STAIN]), State
Institutes for Islamic Studies (Institut Agama Islam Negeri [IAIN]), and State Islamic
Universities (Universitas Islam Negeri [UIN]). In the 1960s the government began to
expand this system, and specific efforts at faculty training and institutional
development were undertaken in the subsequent decades, some in cooperation with
institutions in North America and Europe, such as McGill University in Montreal,
Canada. These resulted in the upgrading of instructional methodologies in the field
of Islamic studies and the introduction of non-dogmatic contextual approaches to the
study of Islam, as well as the incorporation of general sciences into the educational
programs. Over time, a large number of State Islamic Colleges have been updated
and transformed into full research universities and been turned into State Islamic

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Universities, with faculties not only in the Islamic sciences but also in general
sciences and technology as well as social sciences.

Contemporary Trends.
By the early 1980s the state efforts under the New Order had resulted in a reduction,
if not the elimination, of the educational dualism characteristic of the colonial and
early independence periods. Large numbers of privately operated Islamic schools
collaborated with the state and had become integrated into the national system of
education. Among the reasons for the willingness of Muslim educators to go along
with these changes were socioeconomic pressures and increasing parental demand
brought on by shifting employment realities. Equally significant was the experience
of successful educational reform that had taken place in Islamic schools in the
nineteenth century, which had demonstrated the compatibility of religious and
general education.
Enrollment data since the late 1970s show patterns of vitality and growth in Islamic
schools. Such trends have been particularly notable in early secondary education.
Another significant development has been the increase of girls and young women
who receive their education in the Islamic sector of the national education system.
Although some madrasahs and pesantrens had established facilities for girls as
early as the 1910s, both institutions remained predominantly male-oriented until only
a few decades ago. Since then, female enrollment has risen steadily to the point that
currently girls are represented about equally with boys. On some school levels, such
as the upper secondary, their proportion exceeds that of their male counterparts.
Contrary to modernists expectations about the diminishing role of religious
education, Islamic schools have continued to thrive in Indonesia. In addition to the
growing number of Islamic schools with a mixed curriculum, the Islamic revival that
seized Indonesian society in the 1980s and 1990s has brought with it a resurgence
of educational institutions that teach an exclusively religious curriculum. The growing
interest in classical religious studies can be seen as reflecting larger trends toward
normative Islamic piety among the Muslim public, as well as an increase in the
demand for scholars trained in the classical Islamic sciences.
Since the transition to democratic rule that followed the end of President Suhartos
authoritarian New Order in 1998, Indonesias Islamic schools have come to play a
significant political role in the public debate over Islam and nation. A broad spectrum
of positions can be discerned on the place and function of Islamic education in
society and its relationship to the state.

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Politically Radical and Non-cooperative Schools.


Although accommodation with the state has been the rule rather than the exception,
the Islamic educational scene also includes a numerically small but politically vocal
group of non-cooperative and politically radical schools. Several schools have been
linked to radical paramilitary groups and militias involved in the sectarian violence
between Christians and Muslims in Maluku after 1999. Further concerns about the
political convictions of the nations pesantrens were raised when several of the
schools were implicated in violent attacks, such as the 2002 bombing on Bali that
killed more than two hundred civilians. At the center of the national and international
debate has been Pesantren Ngruki, the school run by the radical cleric Abu Bakar
Baasyir, who is considered to have been the spiritual leader of the Southeast Asian
Jemaah Islamiyah. Teaching materials at Ngruki, as well as public statements by
Baasyir, reveal a harshly anti-democratic and anti-pluralist rhetoric and opposition to
Indonesian nationalism in favor of the establishment of a political order based on
Islamic law. Although only a small fraction of schools shares Ngrukis and Baasyirs
politically radical outlook, the past decade has seen the development of educational
networks that reflect essentially non-cooperative political positions. These include
the schools of moderate Islamist groups such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS)
and the Hidayatullah organization, as well as politically more quietist Wahhabi-Salafi
schools that receive ideological and financial support from the Middle East.

Politically Progressive Schools.


On the other end of the political spectrum, a number of Islamic educational
institutions have been at the forefront of advancing and supporting the democratic
political process and have shaped the public discourse on issues such as civil
society, interreligious harmony, and gender equality. Although in some cases
decentralization has given rise to politically more exclusive tendencies, in other
instances it has freed Islamic schools from the limitations imposed by authoritarian
politics and thus enabled them to develop more progressive and forward-looking
educational programs and materials than their non-religious counterparts. On the
level of Islamic higher education, examples include the civic education programs
developed within the state system of Islamic higher education and the
Muhammadiyah system that advance inclusive positions on democratic reform and
multicultural citizenship. Similar energies can be detected among a section of
schools in the pesantren tradition that have earned national reputations for programs
in support of community development, peacebuilding, and good interfaith relations.
Developments on both ends of the educational spectrum need to be kept in
perspective. The Indonesian Islamic educational mainstream, with its more than

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47,000 institutions, has found ways to accommodate Indonesian nationalism.


Moderation and compromise rather than extremism of any kind have been
characteristic of Indonesian Islamic education in both private and public fields.
Despite a diversity of political temperaments, the majority of schools have shown
themselves responsive to the changing socio-educational demands through the
continual updating of their educational programs and have been incorporated into
Indonesias national system of education.

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