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Islamicisation of the Philippine Public Basic Education Sector:

Mainstreaming Madrasah Education

Wendell Glenn P. Cagape

PhD Student in Educational Management
La Salle University, Burgos Street, Ozamis City, Republic of the Philippines


In order to mainstream Islamic education in the Philippine educational sector, the

Philippine government through the Department of Education, issued Department Order 51 in
2004 to purposely integrate Arabic language and Islamic Values (ALIVE) in many public schools
within the country. Since 2004, many public schools are offering Arabic language and Islamic
values after conducting a comprehensive mapping of public schools with substantial number of
Muslim students.

This policy is in consonance with the national objectives to provide quality, accessibility
and affordability of Islamic education in the public sector considering that for sometime, many
Madaris are operating in the country without government regulation and monitoring. This paper
aims to undertake constructive critiquing of the Department Order 51 in view of the operations
of private madaris and mainstreaming Arabic language and Islamic values in many public

As the Department Order is implemented since 2004, many public school teachers are
trained and equipped to be able to teach Arabic language education in their classrooms. Many
Arabic teachers who passed the Licensure Examinations for Teachers have begun working with
the Department of Education and the formal educational sector. However, there are policy gaps
that have to be fully addressed to make positive impact on both the desire of the state to integrate
Islamic education and the expectations of many Muslim students.

Since 2004, mainstreaming of Islamic Values and Arabic Language needs to be fully
implemented in the true spirit of the Order and necessitates a legislative action to make it
workable in all stages of the public educational sector.


Since 9/11, the Philippines has dramatically addressed the vital needs of Filipino Muslims
to purposely assuage their growing vulnerability on the seeming radicalism that is sweeping
Southeast Asia. One of the vital areas of development geared towards mainstreaming the human
capital investment in Filipino Muslims is the intent of the Philippine government to focus its
attention and perhaps, resources on the provision of basic education in Mindanao that truly
represents the aspirations, identity and interests of the Filipino Muslims. Madrasah education has
resulted to the integration of Islamic education into the thrusts and programs of the Department
of Education. Like any other institution of learning, madaris are to be gauge on its curriculum,
administration (which include manpower), instructional supervision, facilities and finances.
These core tenets are the center of this paper.

One of the major thrusts of the government today is the integration of all educational
institutions in the country. Accordingly, the state is mandated to give priority to education among
others to foster patriotism as well as nationalism (Leon, 1987). Decrees have been promulgated
and laws passed to implement this particular provision of the constitution (Rodriquez, 1993).
Much more, (Rabasio, 1979) recommended in his dissertation entitled, “The Muslim Madrasa of
Zamboanga del Sur, their Philosophy, Administration and Curriculum, 1974-1978” that a study
be made in “the possibilities of integrating the Muslim madrazas and the School System”. The
researcher embarks on the task of looking at his recommendations as reflective of the national
policy framework of the Arroyo Administration vis-à-vis mainstreaming Islamic education in the

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has announced that the integration of the madrasah
system into the mainstream education curriculum will be a major avenue in providing the overall
educational requirements of Filipino Muslims, particularly in the armed conflict affected areas in
Mindanao with special focus in the Special Zone of Peace and Development areas (Macapagal-
Arroyo, 2002).

The primary consideration why this topic was chosen is the existing necessity for the
Philippine government to seriously look into the needs of the madaris and focus on the
educational reforms that suitably places the interests of the Muslim community at the forefront.
It is still being desired by many Muslim parents that their children get an Islamic education that
is both reflective of their culture and tradition, replete with the necessary skills that will ensure
that Islamic traditions and identity is maintained and enhanced.

The state of Islamic education in the Philippines in terms of its institutionalization as well
as national public policy is still in its infancy stage considering that Her Excellency Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo is yet the first president to be credited with concrete national policies that
ensures full integration of the madrasah curriculum into the mainstream national education
sector. However, it needs refinement. It needs support in government accreditation as well as
evaluation and Islamic scholars, much more, needs to be recognized and accredited by the
Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to make an impact in the
drive of the government to seriously look into the educational welfare of the Filipino Muslims.

The Department of Education Order 51 which was issued by then Secretary Edilberto C.
De Jesus on August 28, 2004 which addresses the need for the integration of madrasah education
in the national education policy however much needs to be done. Madaris and Islamic Education
needs to be understood for what it is and what it will be in the future. How it will shape our
community will be dependent on how our government adequately responds to the needs of every
madrasah and asatidz.

The issue about the purposeful integration of the madrasah curriculum into many public
schools is hanging on the balance because many operators in privately-run madaris are not open
to support the government’s thrusts to mainstream Islamic education via the Department of
Education due to lack of open communication and misunderstanding. There is a growing
uneasiness and uncomfortable feeling among Asatidz in many madaris because their expertise is
not being duly recognized by the government. An Azatidz who obtained Islamic education in the
Middle East is not guaranteed to be duly recognized by the Department of Education or the
Commission on Higher Education thereby limiting their expertise and influence in the confines
of the madaris, their expertise not being duly attributed to the success of education in the formal
educational sectors.

With the Department of Education Order 51, it seems that the public schools are the ones
ready to comply without necessarily compelling the operators of privately-run madaris to
observe the order. The irony of this policy is that in most cases, teachers in the public schools are
not ready to adopt DepEd Order 51 and Asatidz in the madaris are ready to embrace the new
policy which they believed will restrict their teaching and curriculum. For the record, several
areas in Mindanao have been piloting the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education
(ALIVE) program which endeavors to established a madrasah school under the supervision of
the Department of Education, complete with textbooks, instructional materials and measurement
and evaluation mechanism to help assess students in these madaris.

The mainstreaming of Madrasah education in the Philippine Public education sector is

very relevant considering that there are many assessments made after 9/11 of the threats of
Islamic extremism that is hampering progress and development in Mindanao and of the
Philippines. On February 22, 2007, a new madaris building was inaugurated in Cotabato City in
the presence of Australian Envoy Tony Hely and some ARMM officials (cotabato, 2007). This
highlights the ever increasing inclination of the Arroyo Administration to better serve the
educational needs of the Filipino Muslims.


The research uses qualitative approach to ascertain the facts contained herein. The
researcher conducted informal interviews Head Asatidz, distributes questionnaires as well as
conducted campus visitations. Although campus visitations were allowed, the taking of video file
for archival or record purposes was not permitted by the administrators of the madaris.
Translation has been generously supplied by Ms. Mila Samin, Instructor I of the JH Cerilles State
College. The study focuses more on the operations of madaris in the City of Pagadian. It involves
87 Asatidz being studied in six different madaris. It uses questionnaires that are pre-tested for
viable application and translations are made in effect for better understanding among the

Muslim Filipinos and Madrasah Education

Filipino Muslim communities around the country vitally needed an educational system
that truly reflects their own traditions, customs, culture and identity. Why is it so when all of us
are Filipino regardless of our religious affiliation? It is because, like most secular religions that
maintains its own schools that lived up to its own standard, the Ulamas and Imams of this
country are far more convinced that educating the youths in the Islamic ways of life, culture and
religion is the very way towards sustaining their commitment towards being deeply committed,
responsible and dependable Muslims.
Republic Act 9054 otherwise known as the Organic Act on the Autonomous Muslim
Mindanao has been a by-product of the 1996 Peace Agreement between the Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. This act has
among others, salient features that guarantees for the establishment of a mechanism that will
mainstream Islamic education in Mindanao. Thus, the Department of Education is tasked with
disseminating the cultural integration programs by including Islamic values and basic Arabic
grammar into the curriculum in areas where Muslims students and pupils are a majority. This has
driven the impetus for the berthing of a new policy towards Islamic education that is a tool that
serves as the response to the RA 9054.

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. Sec. 3, para. 8 of the Act states that, “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, customs, traditions, interests, beliefs and recognizes education as an
instrument for their maximum participation in national development and in ensuring their
involvement in achieving national unity”. This provision serves as a legal basis for the
integration of the madrasah into the Philippine educational system to involve the Filipino
Muslims increasingly in the concerted effort to attain the national development goals (Samin,

The Philippines, like Malaysia, southern Thailand and China has a meager percentage of
its citizens who adheres to the tenets of Islamic tradition and religion. To date, there are only
around 5 % of Filipino Muslims of the total 91,077,287 population based on the July 2007
estimate on population (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007) which means there are only around
4.5 Million Muslim Filipinos. Of these young people in Mindanao, an estimated 92,000 are
enrolled in some 1,100 madaris, or Muslim community schools, where the curriculum focuses
exclusively on the study of the Qur’an, related Islamic subjects, and the Arabic language (Linga,
2004). Considering the numbers of young Muslim Filipinos who are in the madaris, more are not
studying in Islamic schools apparently because they are not inclined to. Most of those who are
not studying in the madaris are found in the drug trade or in illicit activities. Filipino Muslims
differed in their level of religiosity, and it is believed that there are those who are highly
Islamized and professionally know the tenets of Islam, but some only have the rudiments of
Islamization (Samin, 1999). Since 1990s Filipino Muslims remained outside the mainstream of
national life, set apart by their religion and way of life and now, education.

The Muslims in the Philippines consist of thirteen ethno-linguistic groups: Iranun,

Magindanao, Maranao, Tao-Sug, Sama, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Ka’agan, Kalibugan, Sangil,
Molbog, Palawani and Badjao. There are other Muslims among other indigenous peoples of
Mindanao like the Teduray, Manobo, Bla-an, Higaonon, Subanen, T’boli, and others. In recent
years, significant number of people from Luzon and Visayas and migrant communities in
Mindanao converted to Islam (Linga, 2004). However, even with this thirteen ethno-linguistic
groups, there is no definite are in Mindanao that the Filipino Muslims claimed to be a solid
majority save for a very few established Muslim communities in Maguidanao and the provinces
of Lanao. It is because until today, majority of the Filipino Muslims are widely dispersed all
across the country and no definite area where they can make their presence felt exclusively.
Making matters worse, many Filipino Muslims are clannish by nature. This is true among the
Tausugs, Maguindanaos and the Maranaos. Many among them are successful in politics,
medicine, military, academe and fisheries or agriculture but both ethno-linguistic tribes are wary
of each other’s successes. They despised the members of other groups and family feuds (rido)
ensued as a result of this behavior.

In the context of Islamization in the Philippines, the madrasah plays a vital instrument.
Madrasah is a Muslim school that teaches Arabic and Islamic studies, especially Qur’anic
reading and Arabic language. It is looked up to not only as an institution of learning but also a
symbol of Islam. It is regarded as a proper place to acquire knowledge in Arabic language and
Islamic religious teachings (Rodriguez, 1993).

This desire of the Muslim leaders around the country is the driving force behind the
issuance of Department of Education order 51 series of 2004 by former secretary Edilberto De
Jesus in which it states that “for the Muslims of Mindanao and other parts of the country, the
rightful and legitimate aspiration is to have an Islamic education that is authentic and appropriate
for the Bangsa Moro population. They aim to establish Islamic schools that would prepare
generations of learned and intellectual Muslims imbued with Islamic values and spiritually
prepared to serve the people and the country as a whole” (Department Orders, 2004). This was
also announced by the president on February 22, 2002 after considering that madrasah education
in the Philippines will help lessen the radicalism among Muslims around the country (Press
Release, 2002). As part of the implementation of the mainstreaming of madrasah education in the
country, Department of Education issued Department Order 46 Series of 2005 which governs the
implementation of the enriched curricula for private madaris and public schools in Muslim
communities. The said document also covers the hiring as well as training and the source of
salaries for the hired Asatidz.

Prior to the issuance of Department of Education Order 51, the Office of the President
issued Executive Order 283 creating the Madrasah Development Coordinating Committee which
is being headed the Executive Director of the Office of Muslim Affairs and co-chaired by the
Presidential Assistant for Education (Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Orders, 2004). Among the
functions of the committee is to identify possible source of and receive financial assistance for
madrasah development; to promulgate standard procedures for the judicious
management/use/distribution/disposition of these assistance opportunities; to endorse noteworthy
proposals for funding to relevant local/bilateral/multilateral institutions; to coordinate madrasah-
related researches, studies and program/projects undertaken by government, or private
individuals/institutions; and to fast track and monitor the implementation of government
education programs in Mindanao vis-à-vis the Comprehensive Mindanao Education Program
and/or the Edukasyon para sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa Mindanao Program.

Executive Order 283 is being repealed by Executive Order 368 on October 05, 2004
which transfers the functions of the Madrasah Development Coordinating Committee to the
Department of Education purportedly due to economic austerity measures that the government is
promoting throughout the country (Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Orders, 2004). From then on,
Department of Education has taken the lead in determination of the incorporation of the
Madrasah education into the national educational system. What is trivial yet very much
important in the transfer to the DepEd of the functions of Madrasah Development Coordinating
Committee is the seeming detachment of the previous heads of the committee. Under the
Department of Education Order 51, the designing and planning as well as visioning functions for
the madrasah education rest exclusively with the top honchos of the Department of Education
discarding the previous role of the Executive Director of the Office of Muslim Affairs. However,
President Arroyo announced in Malacanang that her administration will “ensure that the
Madrasah education will become a part of the country’s national education system" (Press
Release, 2002).

The need for the presence of the Office of the Muslim Affairs in the committee drafting
initial plans for the madrasah education in the country is overrated primarily because it wields
considerable influence or clout over several Ulamas and Imams or Asatidz who are privately
running madrasahs around the country. The Department of Education is obviously handicapped
by the provisions contained in its released order because it seemed to be out of touch. No
consultations done to ascertain the necessity of madrasah education among public schools.

Because of this, many Ulamas, ustadz and Islamic cleric are detaching themselves from
the proposed mainstreaming of Islamic education and remain uncommitted to the goals specified
by the Department of Education Order 51. It became an issue for misinformation and
misunderstanding. It may be deduced that the DepEd Order 51 is a result of the many studies
made in the area of Islamic education which has been in existence long ago in many Muslim
communities around the country.

According to (Samin, 1999), the madrasah system of education is believed to have started
in 1380 in Tubig-Indanan, about two centuries prior to the Spanish system of education in the
Philippines. Tubig-Indanan is a village in the Municipality of Simunul, Tawi-Tawi Province,
where the first mosque was believed to be established, however, this argument is opposed by
several sectors of scholars like Pandapatan. He argued that “it was claimed that the first
madrasah started as a small household concern, termed maktab where a guru, usually a Muslim
leader, taught a small group of children” (Pandapatan, 1986). Subsequently, this was replaced by
a much organized pandita school by the turn of the century during the American occupation.
Samin believed that in the past, the mosque and the madrasah had functions rolled into one.
“Filipino Moslems in the South, earlier Islamized in the 14th century, learned Arabic to read the
Qur’an, and resisted Spanish colonization, including the use of new script” (Socorro C. Espiritu,
2000). However, after the Philippines got its independence in 1946 from the United States of
America and Mindanao and Sulu were made part of the new nation-state, “links with the Muslim
world gradually shifted to the Middle East. This started with admission of students from
Mindanao to Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. The petrodollars provided scholarships to
many students studying in Middle East universities, who after finishing their studies came home
as paid missionaries of religious institutions, and established madaris and Qur’anic schools that
teach what they learned of Islam” (Linga, 2004). Further, Lingga stressed that the curricula of
these madaris are usually patterned after the curricula of the institutions where the founder

With this, the context of other interpretations of Islam is an imminent danger of being
overstated because curricula are based on the founder’s alma mater. A graduate of Al Azhar
University in Cairo, Egypt may interpret Islam differently from the graduate of another
university in Tripoli, Libya, Damascus, Syria, Baghdad, Iraq, Kabul, Afghanistan or in
Islamabad, Pakistan. Their curricula may be espousing either moderate Islam or radical
interpretations of what is believed to Islamic in both context and practice. In Mindanao, the
majority of these madaris serve poor communities where they may be the only schools available
for children and youth (Linga, 2004).
Madrasah education is a term referring to privately-owned but community-based school
that teaches Arabic and the teachings of Islam. Madrasah is used not in its literal Arabic meaning
but as a system of education with core emphasis on Arabic literacy, Islamic values and Islamic
religion (Boransing, 2004). It represents the opportunity that is otherwise absent in many
government-run public schools. Prior to the educational reform policy of the Arroyo
administration, madrasah education is not being considered as one of the hallmark of education
for Filipino Muslims around the country, therefore, parents need to turn for help to local Imams
and community religious leaders for the proper Islamic schooling for their children to ensure
their untainted culture, traditions and identity in spite of the presence of western pop-culture that
is fast eating away at the perspectives of the young Filipino Muslims. The president even issued
Executive Order 283 on February 17, 2004, creating the Madrasah Development Coordinating
Committee whose primary functions are to identify possible sources of and receive financial
assistance for madrasah development; to promulgate standard procedures for the judicious
management/use/distribution/disposition of these assistance opportunities; to endorse noteworthy
proposals for funding to relevant local/bilateral/multilateral institutions; to coordinate madrasah-
related researches, studies and program/projects undertaken by government, or private
individuals/institutions; Fast track and monitor the implementation of government education
programs in Mindanao vis-à-vis the Comprehensive Mindanao Education Program and/or the
edukasyon para sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa Mindanao Program. This order however was
amended by Executive Order 368 abolishing the said committee and transferring its functions to
the Department of Education.

In privately-run madaris which is not regulated and supervised by the Department of

Education, education takes 16 years to finish with 11 months of study and learning for one
academic year. This are four (4) years in Ibtidai (primary), four (4) years in Idade (intermediate),
four (4) years in Thanawi (high school) and four (4) years Coliya (college) otherwise known as
the 4-4-4-4 educational system which is imported from most Islamic schools in Europe and the
Middle East. Accordingly, the opening and closing months of classes in this madaris are not
synchronized with the usual practice of the Department of Education. According to Babano,
Alvarez and Sangid in one of the training workshop modules of the Department of Education
that, “the madaris vary widely in size and quality, from several dozen full-time learning
institutions where the basic course of study up to secondary level takes 12 years, to many
hundreds of information schools where students are taught for a few hours on weekends in
makeshift classrooms”.

As it is observed, the curriculum of the private madaris varies from operators or the
agency that governs its operations. As a matter of fact, curriculum is defined as “a body of
subjects offered to finish a course of study” (Calderon, 2004). He continued to opined that
curriculum in elementary schools are the list of subjects to be taken and studied by pupils in a
given educational system. Because there is no standard curriculum for madaris Asatidz, every
pupil may be taught sufficiently in one area but is poorly educated in other areas. Comparably,
other madrasah are performing better because they have better curriculum against other
privately-run madrasah. Curriculum design is very important in academic pursuits of every pupil
and student in a given institution of learning. It simplifies the rater complex methodologies that
are required for the school system. Modern educational trends nowadays establish greater
emphasis on curriculum supervision to make it more responsive to present times. An author cited
Cogan in her definition of curriculum supervision by which she construed that, “general
supervision denotes activities like the writing and revisions of curriculums, the preparation of
units and materials of instructions, the development of processes and instruments for reporting to
parents, and such broad concerns as evaluation of the total educational program.” (Bago, 2005)

According to (Boransing, 2004), that there are two types of teachers needed for
mainstreaming of Madrasah education in the Philippines and they are teachers in Arabic
Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) in the public schools, and teachers in Islamic
Studies for private madaris as well as teachers in Secular Subjects (RBEC) such as English,
Science, Mathematics, Filipino, Makabayan in Private Madaris. The professionalization of
Asatidz in the public schools through the Accelerated Teacher Education Program is also sought
under the so-called The Road Map for Upgrading Muslim Basic Education: A Comprehensive
Program for the Educational Devleopment of Filipino Muslims which was crafted by DepEd
Undersecretary Menaros Boransing in 2004.
Further, the program components of the Road Map highlight the following:

• Development and Institutionalization of Madrasah Education;

• Upgrading quality Secular Basic Education in the formal elementary and secondary
schools serving Muslim children;
• Developing and Implementing an Alternative Learning system for Filipino Muslims’
Out-of-School Youth (OSY);
• Developing and Implementing Appropriate Livelihood Skills Education and Training
for Present-Day Students of private madaris and out of school youths;
• Supporting Government efforts to provide quality early childhood care and
development (ECCD) programs for Filipino Muslim’s pre-school children;
• Creation of a Special Fund for Assistance to Muslim Education (FAME) by an Act of
Congress; and
• Empowerment of the health and nutritional status of Filipino Muslim learners
particularly in public elementary schools
In response to the road map, Senate Bill 2383 was filed by Senator Manuel Villar on June
7, 2006 purposely to support the road map being prepared by the Department of Education under
the under the behest of the president who trumpeted that “one of the keys to the future of
Mindanao, especially among the youths, is their education” (Senate Bills, 2007). The salient
feature of Senate Bill 2383 is the establishment of the permanent trust fund to be known as the
Fund for Madrasah Education (FAME) and proposed that the amount of Php 100 Million be
appropriated as a seed capital for the trust fund. In addition to this, it is believed that Php 500
Million is needed for ensuring that quality madrasah education is being mainstreamed among
public schools under the Department of Education (Esplanada, 2007). With this however, the
beneficiary of this road map are those who are willing to be mainstreamed into the Philippine
educational system. Privately-run madaris and madrasah run by the community who refuses
government regulation and monitoring loses the chance for development under this road map.

It is believed that the road map will undeniably strengthens the desire of the government
to adequately respond to the educational needs of its citizens, whether Christians or Muslims
however, the gray area that merits contention among madaris operators lies in the fact that for so
long as they refuse government recognition and standards as well as monitoring, they will not be
able to mainstream their education and students who graduate from their institutions are barred
from enteringeither the Department of Education or the Commission on Higher Education. The
loophole of the Department of Education Order 51 is its seeming competition with the existing
and long-entrenched madaris in most of the Muslim areas of the country with its own version of
madrasah education in many public schools. While cognizant of the dichotomy that is inherent
in the education of Filipino Muslims, the Department of Education has failed to address the basic
question, what else is there for the Filipino Muslims to learn outside the purview of secular
education when almost all of the students in a private madaris are at one time or most of the time,
students under the secular education handled by the Department of Education. They have not
harnessed the complimentary benefit of having to strengthen madaris in the community level and
the secular classes in the DepEd, instead they espoused students to either transfer from madaris
to DepEd or DepEd to Madaris.

Back in 1999, Prof. Lolita Rodriguez proposed the curriculum for the madrasah which
she called Madrasah Reconciliatory Curriculum (MRC). She formulated the correct curriculum
called the MRC to correct deficiencies of the extant madrasah curriculum to meet one of the
requirements for granting of government permit to operate as an institution of learning in the
Philippines. Her focus however was on the elementary madrasah education and the thanawi
madrasah education. The ibtidai madrasah education to be more effective as an integral
component of Philippine educational system, shall aim to develop the spiritual, moral, mental,
and physical capabilities of a child, provide him with experience in a democratic way of life and
inculcate ideas and attitudes necessary for an enlightened, patriotic, upright and useful citizen not
only in a Muslim community but more importantly, of the entire country (Samin, 1999).


Majority of the Asatidz being studied revealed that they are educated in the Middle East
as opposed to those educated within the Philippines. This is understandable because in the
Philippines, there are no Madrasah that offers Islamic degree programs other than the ones being
offered in the University of the Philippines and the Mindanao State University, but all these
baccalaureate and graduate programs requires qualifications that can only be obtained in secular
education being offered by most public and private schools recognized and accredited by the
Department of Education. These programs require equivalency and transfer credentials that are
blatantly absent among madaris because majority of the Madaris operating in the Philippines are
not recognized and accredited by the Department of Education. Graduates of these madaris often
enroll in foreign Islamic universities because they can not be admitted to any university or
college within the Philippines using their diploma and transcript of records from their madrasah
and much more, the curriculum being offered in these madaris are not recognized by the
Department of Education. A grade, say in one Arabic subject that focuses arithmetic does not
earn for the student the same creditable grade in elementary math in most public schools. This
explains why parents of pupils enroll their children in many public schools from Monday to
Friday and at the same time, enroll them to a madrasah from Saturday to Sunday. However, in
terms of hiring qualifications, the Department of Education consistently express it support
towards graduates of foreign colleges and universities when they apply for a teaching job in most
private madaris which are accredited by DepEd as stipulated in Department Order 46 series of
Although these madaris are not recognized and accredited by the Department of
Education, most of these desire government accreditation under the Department of Education of
the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The study revealed that 71% of the
respondents wish to be accredited by the Department of Education and are working for their
accreditation like school site preparation and development, curriculum review and evaluation,
conducting trainings for Asatidz in cooperation with the Department of Education and ultimately,
starts to improve enrolment. These results has been positively identified by the DepEd in which
recently, with the issuance of Department Order 81 series of 2007, the Department of Education
admitted publicly that there are fifty (50) pilot private madaris that have acquired permit to
operate the standard curriculum including those being assisted by BEAM-AUSAid and EQaLLS-
USAID. Admittedly, the department has courageously embarked on social marketing activities to
fully mainstream madrasah education in the Philippine public basic education sector.

Majority of the respondents revealed that the basis for opening a madrasah school in their
community is through the initiative or leadership as well as sponsorship of the local Religious
Islamic Association. These associations have linkages with foreign donors who easily donate
funds for the establishment of madaris in their communities. In most cases too, the madaris are
actually run and operated by these associations themselves. Only very few revealed that the basis
for the opening of madrasah is in consonance or in compliance with the Department of Education
Order 51 S of 2004. The source of authority for the operations of these madaris are from the
Head Asatidz who usually are appointed by the officers of the Religious Islamic Association
primarily in recognition of their brilliance, leadership potentials and religious wisdom as
evidenced in their educational attainment from prestigious universities in the Middle East.

In the Philippines, since madrasah education is community-based, physical plant facilities

are also limited. Usually, a madrasah occupies 2.5 hectare donated property and constructed a
one of two 15-classroom facility with ample amenities to better facilitate instruction and
learning. Learning environment is enhanced by way of traditional instructional medium and not
as much madrasah invests on new educational technologies that foster improved learning
outcomes primarily because in most cases, madrasah lack funds for these investments. A
madrasah in the Philippines typically has a mosque inside its premises and in respect to the
Philippine Government, has one flag pole that flies the Philippine flag during classes. The
presence of the mosque inside the premises of the madrasah best explains the nature by which
these institutions are serving the community, primarily to provide Islamic education and Arabic
language education to the young Muslims in the community.

As to instructional materials in these madaris, reading books and the Holy Qur’an is
supplied to pupils and students. These are written in Arabic and seldom can anybody find an
instructional material or Qur’an with English or Filipino translation except with the books
handed down by Department of Education which has English instructions on them. This pointed
to the generally Islamic approaches in class in the madaris. In its operations, the primary
consideration for the madaris is to provide Islamic education to the youths as well as enhancing
their learning and understanding of Islamic values and traditions. In most of these madaris,
although they wanted to teach English or Filipino as an added skill to their pupil and students,
but the most pressing concern and paramount considerations are on the Islamic teachings that
enhances Filipino Islamic identity and the preservation of Islamic values that are fast becoming
threatened by cultural invasion and globalization. True to all educational settings, medium of
instruction inside the madaris’ classroom plays a vital role in academic life. In most cases,
Asatidz use Arabic as a sole medium of instruction in all their classes. To clarify language issues
and gaps, sometimes a combination of Arabic-Vernacular is widely used in the classroom. This is
especially true in consideration of the poor facility of most Muslim youths with English as a
medium of instruction and apart from it, most of its books, pamphlets as well as the Qur’an is
written in Arabic which requires that the reader and the ones listening to should have proficient
facility of the language.

Madaris in the Philippines usually offers basic education and not much madrasah are
offering college level education. In Mindanao, there are only a handful of madrasah that offers
college level programs and these are Bangsamoro Islamic Institute in Sta. Barbara, Zamboanga
City; HMIJ Philippine Islamic Institute in Baliwasan, Zamboanga City; Association of Islamic
Development in Pagadian City; Sultan Kudarat Islamic Foundation Cad Academy in Bulao,
Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Province; Maahad Kutanato College in Cotabato City; Jamiatul
Philippine al Islamic in Marawi City and the Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao in Saduc, Marawi City.
These tertiary-level madaris were subjected to a study commissioned by the Commission on
Higher Education entitled, “A Study on the Madaris Education System and How it can be
integrated into the Mainstream Higher Education System”. The research team was headed by Dr.
Sahajim Hassan of the Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College.

In terms of the operational budget for the madaris, mostly, they claimed that they
received “donations and grants” from Religious Islamic Associations that help them established
the school. These responses supported the previous assertions of the respondents that the opening
of their madrasah is due to the support of the Religious Islamic Associations that have linkages
and relationships with Islamic foundations in the Middle East. These foundations easily give
away donations in petro-dollars for purposes of educating Filipino Muslims according to the
Islamic tenets and to preserve Islamic identity. The same is very relevant in which most of the
madaris claimed through the respondents that their operations are basically dependent on
donations from other generous patrons and benefactors. The income of the madrasah goes to
divergent priorities however majority of the respondents said that the income of the school goes
to “Islamic missionaries” serving in the community and elsewhere. Since the very foundation of
the madrasah was created by Religious Islamic Association in the community, it is incumbent
upon the operators of these madaris to support Islamic missionaries to proselyte about Islam.

Parents of pupils and students in these madaris commented that they are high satisfied by
the education provided by these madaris. Majority of the respondents commented that their
pupils and students are now “more inclined towards sustaining Islamic identity”. This is an
obvious logical choice among the respondents considering that the Islamic identity among
Filipino Muslims has slowly been eroded due to the commercialization of cultures. More foreign
cultures are coming in and have influence the ways of life of our Filipino Muslim youths across
the country. If the pupils and students are enrolled in the madrasah, they claimed that Islamic
education to be gained from the madaris are providing for the avenues to reclaim the lost cultural
heritage of ever Filipino Muslim. Most of the respondents said that enrolling at the madaris
makes every Filipino Muslim a responsible citizen in the community. It is believed that pupils
and students of madrasah fare better in terms of attitudes and behavior compared to their
contemporaries in the public schools. A good number of the respondents stressed that their pupils
and students are now more adept with Islam. Being a student in a madaris entails that the student
becomes more familiar with the Islamic beliefs and traditions that has been there for centuries.
They are becoming more aware of their kind of Islam in the community- one that espouses
moderate Islam and which encourages religious tolerance among peoples of different faiths.

Madrasah so far, plays the role of the ‘educator’ of young Filipino Muslims as well as
provider of Islamic values and religious practices. It is believed among the respondents that the
operationalization of the madrasah has been beneficial to the community because it molds young
Muslims to become educated with Islamic education and values as well as preserve the inherent
rich and dynamic cultural heritage of the Muslim people in Mindanao. And madrasah are also
fast becoming a preparatory and training school for future Islamic missionaries and Islamic
scholars in the community coming from the younger generation.

Just recently, the Philippine Department of Education released Department Order 81 S of

2007 which provide for the mechanism to assist private madaris in the Philippines and providing
for the incentives in relation to its adherence to the original Department Order 51 S of 2004. This
document has been issued by DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus on December 19, 2007. The stipulated
assistance incidentally is also the kind of assistance genuinely represented in this study as desired
by the respondents.


The Islamicisation of the Philippine Public Education Sector has long begun when the
first Madrasah started educating the early Filipino Muslims and in the aspect of mainstreaming
Madrasah education, they have already been in existence in the community however, their
contribution has not been maximally recognized primarily because for years now, these madaris
operates without the regulation and without supervision from the Department of Education.

What DepEd Order 51 S of 2004 envisions has already been in place in most cities and
provinces in Muslim Mindanao and these madaris, unfortunately, were not properly enjoined to
partake in the national educational thrusts and programs of the Philippine government. Similarly,
even in tertiary-level madaris, there are still areas for collaborative and cooperative endeavor that
enhances the role of education in the lives of ordinary Filipino Muslims that after having
graduated from their madrasah, they can easily find work in the employment and labor sectors,
they can actively participate in educational policymaking and most importantly, their
contributions are recognized.

With determined and coordinated efforts of the key personnel in the Department of
Education under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, mainstreaming of
madrasah education is possible and doable. With the subsequent issuances of the Department
orders 46 series of 2005, Department Memorandum 250 series of 2007 and ultimately, the
Department Order 81 series of 2007, the full mainstreaming is underway which is beneficial to
the Filipino Muslim pupils and students in Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines.


Since most of the madaris in the Philippines are offering basic education and since the
proposed mainstreaming is geared towards the institutionalization of madrasah education as part
of the public education sector, it will be best to support existing madaris and give incentives like
scholarships, curriculum design and re-engineering, instructional supervision and school site
improvement programs rather than implement a very diverse madrasah program under the public
education sector. DepEd Order 81 S of 2007 explicitly espouses assistance in the form of
sourcing of financial assistance from countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)
for the following: upgrading of existing facilities of private madaris; capability building as well
as the assistance in augmenting to the private madaris’s recurrent cost of operations. At the onset,
although these madaris are religious by nature and its operations are purely Islamic, the
Philippine government secularizes instruction by training more Asatidz in privately-run madaris
in order to improve academic instruction, provide a stable and secure employment opportunities
within the Department of Education for talented and skillful Asatidz who are teaching in
privately- run madaris.

To institutionalize Islamic education as an active partner of long term sustainable

development of the Filipino human capital, legislative act of the Philippine Congress is needed to
effect the strengthening of madrasah education that promotes respect for human diversity,
religious tolerance, peace and stability in Mindanao. Education, as it is wisely ascribed by
education pundits, ushers peace and envelopes fear and intimidation because the more educated a
person is, the more inclined he will be towards sustaining the hope he has seen after years of war
and distress. The Philippine House of Representative and the Senate of the Philippines needs to
legislate laws that support the strengthening of existing madaris and provide government funds
for the effective administration of these madaris.

The International community through international Islamic universities and stakeholders

in education needs to support the Department of Education to better serve the interests of young
Filipino Muslims through the strengthening of existing madaris and regulate its operations for a
more proactive administration of education. These thrusts have been one of the hallmarks of the
1996 Peace Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro National
Liberation Front and hopefully, become the driving force in the on-going GRP-MILF Peace
Negotiations being favorably hosted by Malaysia.


I gratefully acknowledged the assistance extended by Ms. Mila Amerol-Samin for

providing guidance and the translations of the questionnaires into Arabic. I thanked the students
of the PhD Program in Educational Management and faculty of the Graduate School of the La
Salle University, headed by Dr. Maria Nancy Cadusales as well as Br. Narciso Erquiza, FSC,
President, La Salle University, for their support and inspiration. Atty. Tony Cerilles has been a
stable and faithful benefactor and a believer of education that benefits the poor communities of
Zamboanga del Sur. Also, Ms. Michelle Beracis-Cagape for the support and understanding.


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