Islamization of Education in the Philippines

Every society, whether it is simple or complex, has a distinctive pattern of transmitting cultural values and norms to its young and potential members. Some people have used the instrumentality of education as the central nerve of a community’s existence not only for the preservation of their cultural values but also to impose such on others. The imposition of alien cultures and values and its impact are still apparent in most Muslim societies. It has directly or indirectly influenced the writings of Muslim intellectuals particularly in the field of education. This is quite obvious in their emphasis on the development and importance of society, politics and law rather than individual, mind or the soul. The characteristics of an ideal society and the foundation of education as envisaged by Islam were challenged by Western theories and philosophies. Not to exaggerate the social realities that Muslim communities are now experiencing, some writers observed that Muslims have enslaved their body and soul to their respective colonial masters. Prior to the emergence of Islamic revivalism in the Muslim world, the basic structures of Islamic education are constantly revised and changed following the popular trends and changes coming from the west.

We have witnessed the plight of the Muslims in the Philippines who have been struggling on how could the flame of faith, the light of spiritual life and faithfulness to the teaching of Islam can be preserved in environments which are grounded with secular philosophy of life. Muslim intellectuals in the Philippines have shown their unwavering aspirations and concerns towards transforming Islamic education as an instrument to the save the Muslim Filipino communities from the malady of Western education. The ongoing process of globalization and its manifestations in the Philippine educational system have been regarded by most Muslim Filipinos as a new form of colonialism. Its impact in the society marks the beginning of a new episode of intellectual “tag of war” between Muslim and Christian in the Philippines. Muslim Filipinos, particularly those who lived in non-Muslim areas are gradually assimilated to secular education which challenges the foundation of Moro identity.

It has always been the aspiration of every Muslim educator to witness the revival of Islam in the Philippines through Islamization of Islamic institutions which were instrumental in the past in uniting people despite of their socio-cultural and historical diversity. A part of this unrelenting optimism of the Muslim Filipinos have come into reality when the government reconsider its policy by developing the Muslims’ Islamic educational system through the establishment of Islamic institutions of higher learning and the implementation of related laws providing the teaching of Arabic language both in private and public schools and the accreditation and integration of madÉris to the national educational system. The government’s development policy to the Muslims is based on the Constitution of the Philippines which specifically provides that: “The state shall consider the customs, beliefs and interests of national cultural communities in the formulation and implementation of state policies” (Section II, Article XV). The education act of 1982 (Batas Pambansa 232) recognizes the need to promote the right of the cultural communities to relevant education to make them participate increasingly in national development.(1)  Section 3, paragraph 8 of the Act states: “The State shall promote the right of the national cultural communities in the exercise of their right to develop themselves within the context of their cultures, traditions, interest, beliefs and recognizes education as an instrument for their maximum participation in national development and in ensuring their involvement in achieving national unity.”

As a touchstone for its state policies in recognizing the need to consider the Islamic education of the Muslims and their culture as part of the Filipino culture, the government established the following programs: the Commission on National Integration, the Mindanao State University, the Institute of Islamic Studies under the University of the Philippines, the MSU- SharÊ‘ah Center, the King Faisal Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies, the Code of Muslim Personal Laws (P.D. 1083) and the creation of SharÊ‘ah courts as part of the national judiciary system. In line with the implementation of this law, the government recognized the institution of six units of SharÊ‘ah Law in the Bachelor of Laws degree offered by the MSU, College of Law and the Islamic Jurisprudence course offered in other state universities. The establishments of these institutions are based on the philosophy and aims of the Philippine education as mentioned in the Constitution that all educational institutions shall be under the supervision of, and subject to regulation by the state (Sec. 8 of article XV). 

Among other steps taken by the government to promote the Islamic education of the Muslims are the issuance of Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 71-A which allow and authorize the use of Arabic as a medium of instruction in schools and or areas in the Philippines where the use thereof so permits and the LOI-1221 which allow the accreditation and integration of the madrasah in the Philippine Educational system. 
The most notable development issued by the government for Muslim education in the South is the power vested on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as stipulated in section 1 of Article XIV of R.A. 9054, otherwise, known as the Expanded ARMM law that, “the regional government shall establish, maintain, and support as a top priority a complete and integrated system of quality education and adopt an educational framework that is meaningful, relevant and responsive to the needs, ideals and aspirations of the people in the region.” With this, the Muslim Mindanao Act No. 14 provides for the accreditation of madÉris in the regional system of education in a manner that such schools be supported to make them part of national educational standards. In addition to this, other regional laws were implemented, seminars and conferences have been called and taskforce and councils have been created to accommodate and to strengthen the madÉris in recognition of its contribution to the Muslim youths, the Muslim Ummah and the nation.

There are queries raised on the sincerity of the government in establishing these programs considering their long delayed implementation. Some of these programs had been issued and technically in effect for many years without any administrative machinery to enforce them.  Various researches have been done about the Muslim education in Mindanao and studies revealed that only minimal improvement had been done in a span of almost two decades despite the concerted efforts of the government by introducing educational programs in Muslim Mindanao.

A Glimpse on the Historical Development of Islamic Education in the Philippines

The Muslims in the Philippines, just like many Muslim minorities in non-Islamic states has had a long history in asserting rights for recognition of Islamic education and cultural values. Problems on Islamic education started when the Spaniards used the schools “as instruments for colonization and subjugation as well as to proselytize.”  With an advance civilization brought to them by Islam, the Muslims did not fall under the hands of the Spaniards. During Spanish rule, not a single Western type of school was established in the Muslim communities by the Spaniards. The pandita schools which later became the madÉris became the dominant educational institution in the Muslim areas. Because of Spanish hatred to Islam(2) and their failure to subjugate the Muslims, they destroyed the Qur’an and other Arabic manuscripts they had found in the Philippines. They used the Christian Filipinos to spread terror in Muslim areas and described the Moros as barbarous born of violence. The Spaniards also succeeded in poisoning the minds of the Christian Filipinos against the Muslim Filipinos. As a result of this, a wall of misunderstanding and hatred had been created between the two groups and continue to exist anywhere even in places they have lived together for a long time.

The Moro problem is nothing new. It is a problem that receives an adequate attention in the local and international press for almost two decades. There were many authors who have written in detail the Moro struggles and defined the problem in various ways. The Philippine government and Christian Filipinos in general, defined it as the Muslims’ backwardness in all aspects of life, economic, political, social and education. This view can hardly be considered as historical evidence shows that even before the coming of the Spaniards the Muslims had already developed their own civilization, whose laws, social organization, government, alphabet, system of education, navigational skills, trade, industry, and commerce setting them apart from the rest of the Philippines.(3) It sounds unfair to consider that the failure of the Muslims to excel in Western or secular education can be backwardness in all those aspects.

Aside from robbing the Muslim lands and making them an oppressed minority in their own community, the programs and development given by the government to the Christian settlers were not extended to the Muslims. The government faithfully provided the educational, health and agricultural programs to Christian squatter and did nothing to the Muslims.  A Christian Filipino author emphasized the insincerity or lack of foresight of the government on the Muslim education in the past as follows:

“Another area of neglect committed by Philippine government is failure to provide the Moros the educational opportunities and structures consistent with their Islamic culture and tradition. While in the case of (Christian) settlers (in Cotabato) provision for their educational needs was amply given, the children of the Moros were not given as much attention. The curriculum of the schools established were patterned, understandably, upon the needs and concerns of the Christian settlers. Yet the government expected these schools to be the primary vehicle for the integration of the Moros for the mainstream of Philippine culture.”(4)  
This observation confirmed not only the irrelevant curriculum made by the government experts but the government intention of producing an educated Christian and not an educated Muslim Filipino. That the former government Christian administrators never had sympathy and often hostile to the Muslims’ aspirations to have their own Islamic values they cherished to be passed on to their children. Aside from an irrelevant curriculum, the government had neglected the number of schools, the educational facilities and the educational quality of Muslim people. It is not surprising that the Muslim parents refused to send their children to public schools and then, perceived by the Christian Filipinos as “backwardness.” It is not a wonder, then, that in the past some Muslims refused to be identified as Filipinos and they considered the Philippine government as goberno a sarwang a tao (foreign government).

Muslims’ backwardness in secular education became the central source of the conflict. The Congressional Committee of 1954 reported that “more than any other factor involved which had given rise to the so-called Moro problem is the educational phase, for if the Muslims had been prepared and their ignorance which is the root cause of their problem had been wiped out by education and an educational policy calculated to erase and do away with all barriers between the Christian and the Muslims of the country, little, if any at all, would be such problems as economic, social, and political which now face the government.”(5) The problem with the government was the fact that the Christian officers assumed that whatever educational policy implemented by them will be sound and acceptable to the Muslims without considering their Islamic culture and values. The Muslims leaders had been demanding for a change of educational policy by having a relevant curriculum in Muslim areas, but the government continued to ignore it without making any change at all. A long standing demand for the institutionalization of the madÉris as an autonomous component of the Philippine educational system was continued to ignore by the government. In fact it was only in 1973 that the government seriously considers finding a solution to the Mindanao problem through the development of Islamic education. The government realized that used of forced can be a failure, while education may succeed in pacifying the Muslims.

Government Recognition on the Importance of Islamic Education

The government’s development policy towards Muslims in the Philippines is concentrated on integrating them through education.  Despite the changeable politics in the Philippines, the Islamic education of the Muslim minority continues to improve.  Its change and growth can be seen in the educational programs implemented by the government in Muslim Mindanao since early 1970.  With these developments, Islamic consciousness has grown up as Islamic institutes of high learning had been established, some madÉris have been accredited by the government, SharÊ‘ah law has been offered in other government universities and Islamic studies and Arabic language have been taught in public and private schools in certain regions. For the government, the success of the Islamic educational projects would forge national solidarity and heightened the Islamic sophistication of the Muslims, as some scholars believed that Islam could be used as an instrument for modernizing its followers.

The development of the Islamic education in the Philippines became an important instrument in solving the so-called Muslim Problem in the Philippines. It helps to ease the tensions that mark the nagging Muslim government relation which has already accounted for the loss of thousands of lives and property, millions of money and psychological chasm among the people. The government was aware of the situation and in order to face the problem, the state embarked on the following programs as a touchtone of its policy of integration:

1.) Commission on National Integration

The first educational program created by the government was through the Commission on National Integration (CNI). This Commission was created under Republic Act No. 1888 (amended by R.A. No. 3858) on June 22, 1957, purposely “to accelerate the progress of Muslims politically, economically and to promote their incorporation into the nation’s government and social systems.”(6) Ironically, young Muslims from different tribes who were educated through this government scholarship became politically conscious of the positions of Muslim communities and also gave them a chance to form an organization to set aside ethnic and linguistic differences in order to attain a common Islamic identity.

The CNI was abolished in 1975 for failure to achieve its main objective, “the Moro integration into mainstream of national body-politic.” To mention some of the reasons for its failure are: First, the government’s paternalistic approach toward the cultural minorities reaffirmed rather than alleviated the cultural minorities from their disadvantage position.(7) Second, the authorities failed to follow an effective strategy to solve the critical problem of inter-group between the Muslims and Christian Filipinos. Third, the policy of integration caused genocidal effects to the Muslims. According to Peter G. Gowing and Robert D McAmis, “The policy of the Philippine Government toward Muslim Filipinos is integration not genocide, but certain features of the integration policy are genocidal in their effects...they (Muslims) fear the philosophy behind the integration policy because it is really a philosophy of assimilation…(which was) resisted by the Muslim Filipinos precisely because it threatens psychological genocide, which in many ways is more difficult to contemplate than physical genocide.”(8)

2.) Mindanao State University (MSU)

The Mindanao State University was the first state school established by the government to provide high education for Mindanao residents in a Muslim area. MSU has been established with the following goals: 1) To perform the traditional functions of a University such as instruction, research and extension services; 2) To help accelerate the program of integration among the peoples of Southern Philippines, particularly the Muslims and other cultural minorities; and 3) To provide trained manpower skills and technical knowledge for the economic development of the Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan (MINSUPALA) regions.(9)

MSU is truly an academic institution of higher learning which provides a special opportunity for young Muslims to pursue their secular education, side-by-side with their Arabic and Islamic studies. To meet the educational needs of the Muslims, the MSU was officially transformed into university system based on Executive order No. 3. This Order reorganized the entire MSU system by extending its colleges and established six external units in all four political regions in Southern Philippines, namely:  MSU- Iligan, MSU-General Santos, MSU-Maguindanao, MSU-Tawi-Tawi, MSU-Jolo and MSU-Naawan. All the external units, except Iligan and Naawan are offering the baccalaureate program in Islamic Studies major in Islamic law and jurisprudence and Islamic History. To ensure the University’s commitment in the preservation of the Muslim Filipino culture, the University created the Research Center to conduct research to preserve the rich culture of the Muslims. The rapid development of the University includes the establishment of the King Faisal Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies, the College of Law with a permit to offer a SharÊ‘ah course, and the SharÊ‘ah Center. The MSU College of Law successfully produced a numbers of civil and SharÊ‘ah lawyers and judges to the SharÊ‘ah courts.

3.) King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies

King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies (KFCIAS), formerly known as the Institute of Asian and Islamic (Arabic) Studies was established in 1973, as a separate academic unit of the Mindanao State University.  This Center was established primarily for the purpose of promoting Arabic, Islamic and Asian studies in the Muslim areas of Southern Philippines so as to hasten the social, cultural and economic upliftment of the Muslims and other cultural minorities and to facilitate their integration into the mainstream of the national body politic.

As such the Center seeks to emphasize Islam not only as part of the rich Philippine culture but also as a complete way of life which is consistent with all important scientific endeavor and technical competence. 
At present, the KFCIAS is offering the master in Islamic Studies, major in Muslim Law for postgraduate studies. This program is open to graduates of bachelors degree in Islamic studies and to holders of any baccalaureate degree who finished at least a secondary (Thanawiyah) diploma from any reputable madrasah in the Philippines or abroad, provided, however that an applicant must satisfy the requirements prescribed by the MSU graduate school and that he is able to speak and write English. This program is designed to produce skillful graduates in Muslim law who can serve not only as judges of the Sharʑah courts but also as practitioners therein and as future scholars and researchers in the field of Islamic law and jurisprudence to help mould a just and progressive Muslim society in Muslim Mindanao.

For baccalaureate, the Center is offering the following courses: 1)Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studied, major in Islamic History and Islamic Law and Jurisprudence; 2)Bachelor of Science in Teaching Arabic; and 3) Bachelor of Science in International Relations. Aside from these courses, there are extension projects conducted by the KFCIAS in promoting its goals and objectives as an Islamic educational institution of higher learning. Some of them are: 1)Special Course on Islam for Professional and Students; 2) Pre-School Program; 3) Special Course for Imams; 4) Special  Course in Bahasa Malaysia; and 5) Special Qur’an Reading class for beginners and advanced Reading for students.

4.) MSU-SharÊÑah Center

The Mindanao State University established the SharÊ‘ah Center through the Board of Regents (BOR) Resolution No. 210, series of 1982, in recognition of the on-going and growing interest and concern for Islamic Law in the Philippines. With the signing into law in 1977 of Presidential Degree No. 1083, otherwise known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines, the subsequent opening of the College of Law at the Mindanao State University in 1981 which offers SharÊ‘ah subjects, and the offering of  a bachelor’s degree in SharÊ‘ah and a masteral program in Muslim Personal Laws by the MSU-King Faisal Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies, the SharÊ‘ah center is conceived to help in intensifying knowledge and understanding of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. The center is also tasked to assist the College of Law and the King Faisal Center in the research, preparation and development of teaching and reading materials for SharÊ‘ah subjects. In the same manner, the center is envisioned to serve as a support institution to the SharÊ‘ah Courts in the better understanding and smooth implementation of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The major program conducted by the Center is the SharÊ‘ah education and the legal outreach program. Under this program, the SharÊ‘ah Center will sponsor the following activities: trainings, long and short-term courses, lecture series, seminars and conferences. It also serves to offer counseling and consultation services on SharÊ‘ah legal matters. To achieve its goals and make it as the leading SharÊ‘ah research institution in the country, it created the SharÊ‘ah research program to study the branches of the Shari‘ah law, the ‘adat laws and their relevance to the Philippine laws and to annotate the cases decided by the Philippine SharÊ‘ah courts. The publication program of the Center is designed for the publication of researches, studies and proceedings conducted under the continuing SharÊ‘ah Education and Legal Outreach Program and the SharÊ‘ah Research Program.

The Sharʑah Center has established a link with various governments and private institutions and agencies, more particularly with the Law Center of the University of the Philippines, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Supreme Court, the Philippine Sharʑah Courts and the Office of Muslim Affairs, with the principal aim of starting the gigantic task of collating, shifting and reconciling Sharʑah principles and the Philippine legal system. Likewise, the Center will keep on developing its link with other Islamic international Institutions, organizations and foundations in Southeast Asia and Middle East.

5.) Institute of Islamic Studies – University of the Philippines

 The Institute of Islamic Studies was created as an integral part of the Philippine Center for Advanced Studies (PCAS), through, Presidential Degree 342 on Nov. 22, 1973. With the abolition of the Center by Executive order No. 543 issued by the President of the Philippines, on July 9, 1979, the Institute was re-established as a separate unit of the University of the Philippine.

The Institute was established with the aim of providing the university students, both Muslims and non-Muslims, an opportunity to participate more fully in nation life and development. More specifically, it intends to create deeper understanding and more rapport between the Muslims of the Philippines and the rest of the University of the Philippines national community. Moreover, it aims to shed light on certain portions of Philippine history and to place in proper perspective the role of the Islamic cultural heritage in shaping the Philippines and neighboring Southeast Asian countries. It is envisioned that the Institute will serve as a meeting place for scholars interested in Islamic history and culture from Asia and other parts of the world.(10)

The Institute of Islamic Studies provides both graduate and undergraduate courses on Islamic studies. In accordance with its regulations an applicant for admission should have at least a bachelor’s degree and it is preferable if he is competent in Arabic. Students who have no background in Arabic and Islamic studies shall take the Elementary and Intermediary Arabic as well as of undergraduate courses in Islamic studies. 
To meet the Institute’s objectives and to realize the government’s desire to see its Muslim constituents integrated with the national body-politic through education, the Institute renders the following services:

  1. Conduct of lecture series whenever necessary on Islamic history, law and religion including contemporary events affecting the lives of Muslim Filipinos;
    2. Undertaking of commissioned researches regarding Muslim communities, Islamic heritage and compilation of said data;
    3. Translation of documents from English or Tagalog to a local ethnic language, viz., Tausug, Maranao, Maguindanao, Sama and Yakan;
    4. Publication of IIS Newsletter (Sahiyfah), journal and occasional papers/monographs; and
    5. Extension services on areas of Faculty competence.

The Policy of Integration and its Implications to Islamic Education

The Integration policy assumed that a unified curriculum, common textbooks and unified policies, combined to efforts to increase Muslim Filipinos’ access to secular education, would gradually resolve Muslim- Christian Tensions. The secular approach adopted by the government in dealing with the educational needs of the Muslim Filipinos such as the establishment of CNI, MSU, Institute of Islamic Studies-UP had failed to resolve the conflict between Muslim and Christians in the Philippines.

It has been observed by few authors that integration has long been rejected by the Moros because they suspect it as the euphemistic equivalent of assimilation, a subtle form of ‘de-Muslimization or [de-Islamization’] of the younger generation of Muslims, or worse, a veneer for a round–about route towards Christianization of malleable youth the conception and understanding of the Philippine government the national culture is defined as the Christian culture and therefore integration really means assimilation of the Muslims into the Christian culture.  But despite the determination of the Muslims to resist the government policy on integration, Muslim educators worked hard enough in pushing the Muslim youths to take advantage of the new educational opportunities offered by the government.

Among other reasons for the Philippine government to change its policy in the South can be attributed to the concern of the ASEAN members and the close attention from other Muslim states. It is a fact that religious sentiment from the Muslim world gave a strong strength to the Muslim Filipinos’ struggle. Despite the Philippines’ propaganda that the Mindanao problem was in no sense a religious conflict, the “Islamic Conference Organization has never wavered in its moral support for the justice of the Muslim Filipinos cause and has sought to use its influence for a just solution to the Mindanao problem.”(11)

Some people believed and viewed the development programs as a way “to heal the wounds” caused by the injustices of the national government and the Christian populace to the Muslims in the Philippines South. The national policy makers know how much the Muslims have been aggrieved by the failure of the government to provide them an education in accordance with their Islamic culture and tradition. A Muslim educator pointed out, “it is in this field where there is a consensus among Muslims that they were treated indifference, if not outright neglect by their government. They believe that there exist inequities in educational resources and opportunities, particularly in terms of the availability of schools from the lowest to the highest levels.” (12) Perhaps, the resolutions made by Muslim leaders before the Philippines’ Senate to develop the neglected education of the Muslims also helped to convince the government to change its educational policy in the Muslim autonomous regions, particularly in the establishment of those institutions where Islamic and Arabic studies can be offered. It is a fair move on the government, since in most of its neighboring countries like Singapore and Thailand; their respective government allowed and authorized the teaching of Islamic and Arabic studies in certain schools and universities in areas predominantly occupied by the Muslim minorities. 

The government’s decision in creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) can be identified as a sign of good response to satisfy the Muslim aspiration within the spirit of religious freedom as well as cultural diversity in a unitary state. In fact, the autonomy was a part of the seductive package of promises mentioned in the 1976 Tripoli agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine Government. However, the long promised implementation was only granted on November 1990. 
The government offered a highly captivating and appealing model of development to the Muslims only at the time when confronted and pressured by the following events: First,  when the OIC became seriously concerned with the Moro problem, particularly in “recognizing the right of the Muslims in Southern Philippines to present their problem to the concerned international fora and to avail them all possible political support in this respect, if the government of the Philippines does not respect its commitment to resume negotiations with a view to draw up protocols for the implementation of the Tripoli agreement; (13) Second, to win over the trust of the Muslim masses and their traditional leaders;(14) Third, the government was striving to have a better image to the Muslim world and ASEAN members in order to leave the MNLF  and other Muslim movements to be crippled by losing its foreign aid; and fourth, integration of Muslim Filipinos to the Philippines’ national political life resting on the principle of “one nation, one ideology.” 

There are other people who still believed that the Philippine government developed the Islamic education through the establishment of a few institutions and the implementation of some related laws, necessarily, not for the realization of the aspiration of the Muslim Filipinos to develop and enhance their education in Islamic and Arabic studies but as a grudging concession and may be an expedient measure of secularizing the Muslim youths. 
Some Moves towards Revitalizing Islamic Education in the ARMM

The Philippine government allowed and authorized the development, accreditation and integration of madrasah as an institution of learning through Letter of Instruction (LOI, No. 1221). It was the first law issued by the Philippine government for gradual integration of the madrasah to the national educational system. This law was issued on March 31, 1982, directing the Prime Minister, members of the cabinet, Minister of Education, Culture and Sports to formulate and adopt program to develop the madrasah and facilitate its integration as a sector of the national educational system. The implementation of LOI 1221 is based on Article XV, Section 8 (1) of the Philippine Constitution which provides that the government shall establish and maintain a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the goals of national development. In line with this, the government allowed and authorized the accreditation and integration of Islamic religious schools into the national educational system as an instrument for Muslims maximum participation in nation building to achieve the national development goals and unity.

The LOI 1221 has three salient features (15) First, it is the intention of the LOI that the madrasah should retain its Islamic identity. This means that Arabic language and Islam as religion should be retained in the madrasah curriculum. Second, it is the intention of the LOI that the teaching staff of madrasah be improved. Third, the madrasah will be part of the national educational system and as such, it should align itself with the system. The realignment should be initially centered on curricular revision so that maximum educational goals could be attained by the madrasah.

Another notable step taken by the government that helps to improve the status of the Islamic education in the Philippines was the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  It was created by virtue of Republic Act 6734, otherwise known as the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao and signed into law on November 19, 1990. Autonomy for Muslim Mindanao has been defined as “the constitutional arrangements granting a degree of freedom to (the Muslim Filipinos) a racial, religious, linguistics, ethnic, tribal or cultural group to order its own affairs… closely aligned with the principles of self-rule and self-determination.(16)   The powers vested to the Regional Assembly fulfill the Muslims’ aspirations, demands and expectations, particularly in shaping the educational policies of all schools in the Autonomous Region.  By all indications, the Organic Act is the best legal mandate that can provide for an integrated system of education where divine knowledge and human knowledge can be integrated.

The Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 14 had been enacted as the Educational Act of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. It states: “An act providing for a system education for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, creating a Regional Department of Education, Culture and Sports, Appropriating funds therefore, and for other purposes.” Section 3 of this Act, clearly provides that the Regional Government shall accredit the madÉris and shall ensure their integration together with the private schools into the regional system of education which should be at par with national standard.  One of the aims and purposes of the regional integrated education system is to promote and strengthen the madÉris as an integral part of the regional education program. It means the integration of Arabic language and Islamic studies in the regional public schools to improve student proficiency and understanding on Islamic values and culture.  With this, the Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 14- created the Bureau of MadÉris Education to formulate, adopt and evaluate plans, programs, educational standards and curricular designs related to Islamic philosophy, sociology, economics, culture, moral values and political science, and other related Islamic instructional materials.(17)

In truth, the accreditation of madÉris is just a grudging concession on the part of the government because it was not only mentioned in the Tripoli Agreement but also enunciated in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF. During the First Policy conference for madÉris, the government promised to do about the proposals to improve the madÉris based on the identified critical issues mentioned in the said conference. However, it is sad to say that what had been promised never comes true.  Some of the proposed problems unfulfilled by the governments are: 1) To create an office for the madÉris in the Department of Education, Culture and Sports central office to look into the welfare of the madÉris in the national level; and 2) Provision of a government loan fund to finance the physical facilities of the madrasah. Other problems that still hampered the full implementation of LOI 1221 are:  1) Difficulty in adding Arabic and Islamic studies in the curriculum; 2) There is no model for accredited madÉris; 3) There were few madÉris that sought for accreditation; 4) Lack of coordination among madrasah operators; and 5) There are only few qualified teachers with sufficient trainings to teach in madrasah.(18)

It is hoped that the recent Executive Order 283, issued by President Macapagal Arroyo on the 15th of February 2004, creating a Madrasah Development Coordinating Committee which shall be responsible for the effective management of available financial assistance to the madrasah system from local, bilateral and multilateral institutions will be implemented immediately. It would be premature to pronounce that this Order will successfully improve the financial status of the madÉris. However, there are signs that the present government is striving to implement more educational projects in Muslim Mindanao.


The current developments of Islamic in the Philippines have undergone a radical change in the last few decades. It was subjected to a pattern of developments unique on its own as a society which is not isolated by the global trend of Islamic thought and other external influences in the Muslim world. The integration of the Muslims into the Philippine colonial state had heavily shaped their socio-economic and political development as well as the direction and the quality of Islamic education and its implications for the cultural renewal in the Muslim communities. The agenda of reform of Islamic education became a terrain of contention between the Philippine government and the Muslim intellectuals in particular. As part of the Philippine educational policy of integration, the government grants no two systems under a unitary state. It is the sovereign rights of the government to regulate educational system affecting the majority as well as the cultural minority. On the part of the Muslims, the formation of Islamic education must be dictated by set principles that are deeply grounded with the cultural values of Islam. And thus, the preservation, promotion and control of Islamic education should be regarded as the responsibility of the Muslim intellectuals who can bring comprehensive transformation to the field of education. It is the fear of the Muslim communities that if the reform of Islamic education is patterned from the socio-political and ideological foundations of secularism, they might experience loss of identity as Muslims, and their aspiration and version of progress and development will remain unrealized.

Prior to the establishment of the Department of Education in ARMM (DepEd ARMM), the Ministry of Education in the Philippines had advocated a reform in education which is in accordance with the framework of secularism, i.e the dichotomy of sacred and secular education common to every civil society in the West. The secular approach to education has been mobilized by the government as an instrument to integrate the Muslims into the mainstream socio-political and educational system of the Philippines. Meanwhile, the pages of educational journals and books related to the result of integration as experienced by the Muslims in the Philippines through education would suggest that those mechanism and methodologies adopted by the government had remarkably failed to resolve the fundamental grounds of the decades of conflict between the Muslims and the Christians particularly in addressing the issue on how to unify the two systems: Islamic and Secular system.

The ongoing transformation of Islamic education and its socio-political and religious implications has been viewed in different ways. It is quite obvious in the government’s policy that such reform is a venue to inculcate into Muslim minds that they are Filipinos and they are part and parcel of the Philippine government. Thus, it is a means to enhance better understanding between the Muslims and Christians in the Philippines. However, Muslims intellectuals on the other hand, are scrutinizing its implications whether it is in conformity with the educational traditions of Islam.  It is regarded as a new form of integration in which the Muslims are continuously challenged with new thoughts and philosophy about their genuine understanding of Islam. The Muslim response on the nature and implications of the current transformation of Islamic education in the Philippines indicates a certain level of their understanding about the nature of the crisis in Muslim education in the world today. The dichotomy of secular and religious education permeates their thoughts and activities, and their uncertainty of what constitutes an Islamic system of education perpetuates their continual frustration.  The Muslim Filipinos’ aspirations and quests for cultural renewal through the medium of educational reform have been fading away with the advancement of secularism in the Philippines.  It is their common belief that Muslim in the Philippines can be in better position to restore spiritual and moral dimensions of modern life while continuing to be faithful and co-existing harmoniously with the non-Muslims provided they are granted with a favorable environment that can substantiate the universality of Islam. Transforming Islamic education can be right instrument for the realization of this noble goal. 
There is no doubt that some Islamic institutions which were established under the jurisdiction of ARMM had meagerly contributed to the Islamization of education in the Philippines. The Department of Education in ARMM lays emphasis on the need to reformulate an educational system that can change the cultural image of Muslims in the Philippines. It is projected that the result of this endeavor can create a new cultural paradigm that can transform Muslim societies in accordance with the tradition of Islam as well as to create an impression upon the non-Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace, a comprehensive system that accommodates favorable social change and development.


  1. Lolita Rodriguez, A Madrasah General Education Program for Muslim Mindanao (second printing of 
           published Ph.D thesis), 1993, p. 3.
  2. This hatred was due to a long and bloody struggle against the Arabs and Moors of Spain.
  3. Samuel Tan, Sulu Under the Eagle’s Shadow, 1899-1948, Mindanao Journal, Vol. 8, nos. 1-4, 1981-1982. Cited in Luis Lacar, Neglected Dimensions in the Development of Muslim Mindanao, 298.
  4. Ibid, 304.
  5. Excerpts from a report of the Congressional Committee of 1954 which conducted a study of the Moro Problem, quoted in Abdullah T. Madale, “Educating the the Muslim Child: The Philippine Case,” Nagasura Madale, ed.. The Muslim Filipinos ( Quezon City: Alemar-Phoenix Publishing House, Inc., 1981), 271.
  6. Majul, The Contemporary Muslim Movement in the Philippines (Manila: Saint Mary’s Publication, 1978), 32.
    7. Kenneth E. Bauzon, Liberalism and the Quest for Islamic Identity, 71.
  7. Peter G. Gowing and Robert D. McAmis, “Irresistible Forces, Immovable Objects,” in Gowing and McAmis, eds., The Muslim Filipinos (Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House), vii-viii.
  8. Ahmad M. Hassoubah, An Educational Institution’s Attainment of its Goals: The Case of Mindanao State, Marawi City, School year 1993-94. (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis) p. 47
  9. UP-Institute of Islamic Studies, Information Brochure.
  10. Peter Gowing, Religion and Regional Cooperation: The Mindanao Problem and ASEAN, Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. IV, 1982,  No.1-2 . 19-20.
  11. Batua Macaraya, Solutions to the Mindanao Conflict, 104-105.
  12. Resolution No. 12 of the 10th Islamic Conference  in Fez, Kingdom of Morocco, July 8-12, 1979.
  13. P. Gowing , Religion and Regional Cooperation, 16
  14. Lolita Rodriguez, A Madrasah General Education Program for Muslim Mindanao, 110-111.
  15. Tocod D. Macaraya Sr, ‘Meaningful Autonomy: The Key to Unity, Solidarity and National Progress,’ Apaper delivered  during the First International Islamic Symposium for peace and Solidarity, held on August 7-9, 1989, Philippine Plaza Hotel, Manila-Philippines.
  16. Paper read by Salipada S. Tamano, during the First Mindanao Educators Congress, September 27-29, 1995, Garden Orchid Hotel, Zamboanga City.   

18. Paper read by Salipada Tamano during the First Mindanao Educator Congress, September 27-29, 1995, Garden Orchid Hotel , Zamboanga City.

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