Secularism and Spirituality Seeking Integrated Knowledge and Success in Madrasah Education in Singapore by Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman and Lai Ah Eng, eds. (Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies & Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2006. 191 pages.)

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Rosnani Hashim



This compilation provides a systematic overview of the development and
challenges of Islamic education in Singapore. After the introduction by Noor
Aishah and Lai Ah Eng, Chee Min Fui focuses on the historical evolution of
madrasah education (chapter 1) and Mukhlis Abu Bakar highlights the tension
between the state’s interest and the citizens’ right to an Islamic education
(chapter 2). In chapter 3, Noor Aishah elaborates on the fundamental problem
of the madrasah’s attempt to lay the educational foundation of both traditional
and rational sciences. Azhar Ibrahim surveys madrasah reforms in
Indonesia, Egypt, India, and Pakistan in chapter 4, while Afiza Hashim and
Lai Ah Eng narrate a case study of Madrasah Ma`arif in chapter 5. Tan Tay
Keong (chapter 6) examines the debate on the national policy of compulsory
education in the context of the madrasah, and Syed Farid Alatas (chapter 7)
clarifies the concept of knowledge and Islam’s philosophy of education,
which can be used to assess contemporary madrasah education.
Formal madrasah education in Singapore began with the establishment
of Madrasah Iqbal in 1908, which drew inspiration from Egypt’s
reformist movement. This madrasah was a departure from traditional
Islamic education, which was informal and focused only on the traditional
sciences and Arabic. The madrasah’s importance and popularity in Singapore
was attested to by the fact that at one point, Madrasah al-Junied was
“the school of choice for students from the Malay states, Indonesia and the
Philippines” (p. 10). After the Second World War, there were about 50-60
such schools, mostly primary, with about 6,000 students using Malay as
the medium of instruction. The number declined with the introduction of
Malay-language secondary schools in the 1960s ...

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