Quo vadis madrasah education? This appears to be the main question with regards to the “Roudtable Discussion on Trends and Prospects of Madrasah Mainstreaming with Dr. Jeffrey Ayala Milligan,” UP IIS Visiting Professor and Fulbright Specialist for 2018, held last December 5, 2018 at the Bulwagang Salam, Romulo Hall at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
The roundtable discussion was attended by National Commission for Muslim Filipinos officials, educators and researchers on madrasah education. To start the conversation rolling. Dr. Jeffrey Ayala Milligan shared his ethnohistorical research on Islamic education in the Philippines which was published as a book way back 2005. The title of the book is “Islamic Identity, Postcoloniality, and Educational Policy: Schooling and Ethno-religious Conflict in the Southern Philippines.” Dr. Milligan reminisces, “My book… was a product of 20 years of research in the Philippines… I owe a tremendous depth of gratitude to many Muslim Filipino friends who have shared their ideas with me, who have extended me their hospitality that have really enabled me to do the work that I have done over the years…”
Dr. Milligan’s presentation emphasized the consistency of some secular concepts on education with the principles taught in the Holy Qur’an. In fact, he even proposed a possible “philosophy of education” for Muslim Filipinos he referred to as “Bangsamoro Philosophy of Education.” In his own words, he said:
“I want to propose a possible philosophy of education… a ‘Bangsamoro Philosophy of Education’ since that’s what your region is going to be called… I call it ‘prophetic pragmatism’… This is not simply my idea. I’m borrowing the idea… from an African-American philosopher and intellectual named Cornell West… a very passionate advocate of social justice… There are three dimensions to prophetic pragmatism… [-] prophetic religion… pragmatic experimentalism… [and] social justice… If it’s just… [prophetic religion] there is the possibility that it could generate to fundamentalism. If it’s just pragmatic experimentalism without this dimension [of prophetic religion] then there is a danger that it will just become merely practicality for expediency, for corruption… [If it’s just] social justice… [there is the tendency to be] engaging in similar kinds of violence.”
After Dr. Milligan’s presentation, participants responded by sharing substantive information on madrasah education from their respective contexts. Notable responses included an update on madaris (singular, madrasah) program in the country by Ustadz Basher Tomilang of the NCMF; brief sharing by Ustadz Solaiman Tanog, a madrasah educator of DepEd ALIVE (Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education) Program, on the government-supported madaris education in Australia and the condition of madrasah education in the country; and comment on the current salary of asatidz (singular, ustadz) in DepEd ALIVE Program by Ustadz Farouk Mangigin of Alabang Elementary School. This was seconded by Director Laman Piang, also of NCMF, by adding that asatidz compensation is only an allowance, not a salary. It was also mentioned that issues on compensation must be given considerable attention to boost madrasah educators’ morale. Other participants likewise shared their sentiments on the condition of madrasah education in the country, especially on the issue of compensation.
Dr. Arlyne Marasigan, a professor from the Philippine Normal University and senior researcher of UP CIDS Islamic Studies Program, presented her research on Islamic Education entitled “Addressing the Teachers’ Shortage and Quality of Madrasah Education in the Philippines: An Analysis of Madaris Teachers’ Support System and Qualifications.” Her study emphasized the importance of addressing the needs of madaris teachers. Dr. Marasigan notes, “[There are] overwhelming issues and problems that cannot be resolved overnight… It would take a series of dialogues, open forum, and some other programs that would help us [find a]… solution. But it’s not just a solution, it must be sustainable that’s why I focus first on teachers… as frontliners in delivering instructions for students.”
As response, Dr. Jamel Cayamodin, college secretary of UP IIS, commented that with the abolition of Bureau of Madrasah Education in DepEd, madrasah education in the country appears to have been demoted rather than promoted.
Closing the program, Dean Macrina Morados was thankful for the turn out of the event. She was also thankful to Dr. Milligan for the latter’s research on Islamic education in the Philippines as it reflects the real perspective of Muslim Filipinos as well as the nuances of Islamic education in the country.