Madrasa education in South Asia and Southeast Asia: current issues and debates
AbstractMadaris (plural of madrasa) face a multitude of challenges in preparing students for life in rapidly modernising societies and emerging globalised knowledge economies. The complexity of the role and tasks of madaris, which are caught in the interface of modernity and tradition, the challenges they face, and the strategies they develop to address these challenges, suggest the need for a very cautious approach when attaining a clear picture of madrasa education and making conclusive statements about them. The literature has contributed more to confusion than clarity about the number of madaris, their rationale, purpose, pedagogy, curricula, funding, administration, relations with the state, and global violence. This paper presents an account of current debates of madrasa education and reform focusing on madaris within the diverse Sunni schools of thought and denominations located across South Asia and Southeast Asia. Based on an extensive review and analysis of over 90 articles, an overview of madrasa education and an examination of the issues and challenges facing Islamic schools that struggle to uphold tradition, and those that have begun to embrace modernisation and integration in the global process of change is given. The extent that some Islamic education systems are willing to collaborate with non-Muslims and in the process potentially enrich their circle of interest while engaging with the rest of the world in dialogue offers promising glimpses and a sense of hope for religious-based education in Muslim communities in the 21st century.