Friday, March 9, 2018

S’pore’s first Islamic college could have broad-based curriculum to equip students with employable skills

By Faris Mokhtar

The Republic’s first Islamic college could have a broad-based curriculum which teaches Islamic sciences as well as equips students with skills so that they can also be employed in the general workforce, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s first Islamic college could have a broad-based curriculum which teaches Islamic sciences as well as equips students with skills so that they can also be employed in the general workforce, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim on Thursday (Mar 8).

The Government, which is still exploring the idea first mooted in 2016, has gone on study trips – conducted between November 2017 and January this year – to Islamic colleges in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the United States and Canada.

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Communications and Information Minister, had previously spoken about the possibility of establishing an Islamic college in Singapore in order to train a new generation of religious teachers who understand the country’s multi-racial and multi-religious context.

The curricula vary to a great extent among the Islamic colleges abroad.

For example, while Al-Azhar University in Egypt and the University of Jordan traditionally produce religious teachers, the latter also equips its students with broad-based skills “for employability in the non-religious sector for the wider economy”, Dr Yaacob said.

The Turkish universities focus on teaching classical Islamic sciences and humanities, he noted. Meanwhile, Zaytuna College and Notre Dame University in the United States as well as McGill University in Canada “take a rigorous, academic approach to produce scholars”, he added.

“The different learning approaches provide useful learning points and each is suited to its own society and context,” Dr Yaacob said. “An Islamic college in Singapore would adapt appropriate features from overseas institutions, so that we will, in time, produce Islamic teachers and scholars who balance a deep learning of the Islamic sciences with broad-based skills and knowledge, and more importantly are rooted in the belief and practice of Islam in Singapore’s multi-religious and multi-racial context.”

Dr Yaacob said that it “would not be easy” to develop Singapore’s own Islamic college. Nevertheless, he expressed confidence that such an institution will nurture future Muslim religious teachers “whom our community looks up to”.

[SG is not an "Islamic Centre" and so it would lack the traditional credibility of a Middle-Eastern Islamic College. Or even Malaysia or Indonesia. Of course nothing succeeds like success, and if our Islamic Scholars are employable, held in esteem, respected, and their opinions have gravitas and the weight of facts, history, scholarly study, and inspired interpretation, then the Islamic college will succeed.]

While the Government is “taking the time to carefully study this undertaking”, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will engage the Muslim community over the next few months to get their views, he said.

Speaking during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Dr Yaacob also touched on the topic of radicalism.

He stressed the need to “inoculate our young from extremist and segregationist views”. He said: “We must not allow such ideologies to take root in Singapore. We must start early and focus on upstream work.”

To that end, he said that Muis will grow the membership of the Asatizah Youth Network, under which asatizahs or religious teachers will be trained to counter radicalisation, through digital media and counselling techniques.

Muis will train up 30 religious teachers as part of the network by the end of this year.

Currently, 11 asatizahs – who are in their 20s and 30s – have been roped in for the effort. They hail from youth groups, mosques and madrasahs, and have gone through various programmes including those organised by public security agencies. These programmes provided them with insights into the radicalisation process and certain Islamic teachings which are commonly misconstrued by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to suit their agendas.

Reiterating the threat of radicalism, Dr Yaacob said the “spread of extremist ideologies abetted by social media and the acts of terror by ISIS have set Muslims against non-Muslims in many societies”.

“Misguided religious preachers have spread insidious ideologies preaching segregation and a rejection of a modern life and the secular state,” said Dr Yaacob. “This is surely the road to alienation, marginalisation and ruin. In Singapore, we must stand united against such ideologues and ideologies, and against Islamophobia.”


The Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS) scheme — introduced in 1991 — will be revised to allow more Malay students to qualify for financial assistance when they enter tertiary institutions, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim. This will take effect starting from this year’s academic intake.

The changes will benefit an estimated 4,000 more students, said a spokesperson from Malay-Muslim self-help group Yayasan Mendaki which administers the scheme on behalf of the Government. “This comprises those who were previously not eligible, as well as those who would be eligible for a higher subsidy based on the revised criteria,” the spokesperson said.

Currently, students from households with a per capita monthly income of S$1,000 and below qualify for full subsidies. Those with a per capita monthly income of S$1,001 to S$1,200 receive 75 per cent subsidies, while families with a per capita monthly income of S$1,201 to S$1,500 get 50 per cent subsidies.

The income thresholds will be increased to take into account rising household incomes over the last few years: They will go up to S$1,400 and below, between S$1,401 and S$1,700, and S$1,701 to S$2,000, respectively.

The Yayasan Mendaki spokesperson said the scheme was last revised in 2012. Since then, it has helped an average of 11,000 students per year.

No comments: