Thursday, 17 January 2013

Madrasahs' new teaching model

More exam pathways and IB option among changes
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2013

TWO Islamic schools are introducing a new model of secondary and pre-university teaching that aims to deliver a first-rate education that is on a par with the mainstream Singapore system.

Students at Madrasah Aljunied and Madrasah Al-Arabiah currently sit the O-level examinations after four years, while those aiming to take up religious studies at higher levels do a two-year pre-university course before heading to Islamic institutions such as Egypt's Al-Azhar.

But from 2015, youngsters at Al-Arabiah - which provides an Islamic environment for those pursuing national curriculum subjects - will be able to choose between the four-year route leading to the O levels or the five-year one leading to the N levels and then the O levels.

Madrasah Aljunied - which provides a pathway for students who want to pursue a career in religious instruction - will keep the O-level and pre-university track. However, one class of 15 will be allowed to skip the O levels and prepare for the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Having this diploma plus the pre-university certificate is expected to give students more options for their tertiary education, not only at Al-Azhar University but also other Islamic universities in the Middle East and countries in other regions.

Aljunied will also adopt a new model of teaching and learning called the Azhar 2.0 curriculum. This will involve the current 18 subjects being integrated into six groupings to strengthen inter-disciplinary learning and encourage students to delve more deeply into their topics.

There will also be a focus on new and emerging issues. For example, a module called "Islam and society" will expose students to contemporary subjects such as gender, poverty, the environment and human rights.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim announced the changes yesterday at Madrasah Aljunied. He described the revamped curriculum as a bold attempt to develop a world-class madrasah education that is connected with the Singapore education landscape.

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, was at the madrasah in Victoria Lane to hand out letters of participation to 16 religious teachers who were heading to Egypt on an attachment programme.

He said the IB route was chosen as it allowed the Azhar curriculum to be integrated with the academic one. Later, he told reporters that the improvements will enable the institutions to nurture religious teachers and scholars who will be deeply rooted in Islamic teachings but also comfortable with the modern world and aware of the challenges it poses to the Muslim community.

Executive Abdul Rahman, 32, said he had been trying to decide whether to send his two kindergarten-going daughters to a madrasah or mainstream school. "Now that madrasah education is being brought up to date and offers different tracks including the IB, I am seriously considering it."

The revamped madrasah education system
By Maryam Mokhtar, The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2013

THE revamp of the madrasah education system began in 2009, when three out of six full-time Islamic schools were brought together under one system.

Al-Irsyad became the feeder primary school to madrasahs Aljunied and Al-Arabiah, which would offer secondary and pre-university education.

The other three full-time madrasahs - Al-Maarif, Alsagoff and Wak Tanjong - are not in the joint madrasah system but continue to offer classes at the primary, secondary and pre-university levels.

Under the new curriculum, Aljunied and Al-Arabiah offer educational pathways for students with varying interests and abilities. Madrasah Aljunied offers a religious track

based on the curriculum designed by Egypt's Al-Azhar University, the leading institution for studying Islam.

It targets students who are stronger in Arabic and Islamic studies.

Madrasah Al-Arabiah has an academic track with students gearing up to take their O or N level exams in an Islamic environment before moving on to national post-secondary institutions.

Each year, up to 400 children enrol in Primary 1 at madrasahs. About half of them attend Al-Irsyad.

The first batch of students under the new system will enter Secondary 1 in 2015.

They will take their O-level exams in 2018, while the pilot group testing the International Baccalaureate diploma course will start in 2019.

Facilities at the three schools under the joint madrasah system have been upgraded to support the revamped curriculum. In 2009, Al-Irsyad moved to a $16 million eight-storey building at the Singapore Islamic Hub on Braddell Road.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said that taken together, the six madrasahs provide choices for students who may want different pathways.

He added that Al-Maarif, Alsagoff and Wak Tanjong, which are not in the joint madrasah system, are also doing well.

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