SINGAPORE – No single drop of water thinks it is responsible for the flood. Can the same thing be said about the Singaporean government?
The delegates representing the National Heritage Board (NHB) gathered together to discuss the growing financial issue of Madrasahs and its uncertain future.
Madrasahs in Singapore are full-time, religious institutions that offer a pedagogical mix of Islamic religious education and secular education in their curricula. They are vital in the fundamental establishment of religious values and even mainstream subjects. They are of great importance indeed, but, as always, there is a catch – these Madrasahs are private schools.
You can almost hear the sound of raised alarms in the distance.
The cold walls of Lecture Theatre 3 were no match to the fiery debate on the supposed responsibility of the government over funding for the Madrasahs, as well as the extent of how much funding they should provide.
Some argued that funding is essential as Madrasahs play a significant role in inculcating Islamic culture. With funding, means will be provided for these students to be integrated into society. If a school falls due to the lack of funds, the responsibility will lie in the hands of the NHB. Recently, even the government has stated their desire to strengthen Madrasahs. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Madrasahs play a role in shaping the Muslim community through the production of leaders and the fundamental foundation of mainstream subjects.
However, some argued that Madrasahs are private institutions so they should not be held responsible for the issue. Funding of Madrasahs may also arouse suspicion among other mono-cultural schools, and, with the assumed bias, go against the social fabric of the country. The unrealistic mechanism of the provision of funds was also discussed, with the conclusion being that it was unrealistic due to the possibility of asking for donations from individuals of other religions.
Then there are the ones that aim for the middle ground – stating that funding should not be the main focus, but rather stressing upon the ensuring that Madrasahs are not underfunded. A collaboration among the Ministry of Education as well as any other possible ministries was recommended as the NHB is incapable of providing the funds alone.
But regardless of where the delegates stood, they were all united in a single stance one way or another – the value of the Madrasah is almost unparalleled. Should the preservation of the Madrasah fail, the preservation of authentic Islamic heritage also fails. These factors, however, still do not affect the fact that the Madrasahs are classified under private schools.
It all boils down to this: Is the government responsible for the funding?