Education is a key factor in strategies to restore peace in the Muslim-dominated far South. Prasert Kaewphet, an Education Ministry inspector who supervises education services for the region, elaborated on the strategy in an interview with Sirikul Bunnag.
How much progress has been made in preparing an education plan for the far South?
The plan is almost finished. It will be submitted to the Southern Education Board chaired by Education Minister Wijit Srisa-arn on July 23 during a meeting in Narathiwat.
What are the main points of the plan?
The main point is a new approach to revamp Islamic education for the first time. This will affect education from primary to higher education levels. It includes a standard curriculum for Islamic studies, screening of executives and teachers of private Islamic schools, and systems to evaluate their performance and the quality of their schools.
How can it be implemented?
An agency will specifically govern Islamic education in the region. It will be headed by a board of directors that will include well-known Islamic academics, representatives of the regional branch of the Education Ministry and representatives of the community.
The agency will supervise the development of a standard Islamic curriculum, specify the correct content of Islamic teaching, and meet local people`s professional demands by adding vocational teaching to the curriculums that feature Islamic studies.
The agency will have the power to issue and revoke the professional licences of executives of Islamic schools and Islamic teachers, and train them.
This will be the first time executives of Islamic schools and Islamic teachers have needed licences. How will you manage the plan?
Islamic education in the region rests mainly with private schools. There are about 10,000 executives and teachers at these schools.
Most executives do not have educational management certificates and most teachers do not have teaching certificates. Most of them graduated in the Middle East, and at least 300 of them did not graduate at all. They copy what former teachers did, so the teaching is substandard, does not reflect professionalism and rarely adheres to professional protocols.
Within five years, they must have professional licences. To acquire licences, the executives and the teachers must graduate and have certificates from professional teaching institutions recognised by the government.
They must undergo training in teaching etiquette and the application of Islam for the peace and security of the region.
There are as many as 10,000 executives and teachers of Islamic studies. How can you convince all of them to apply for the licences?
We have been working with these people. For two years, we have encouraged owners, executives and teachers of private Islamic schools to take one-year courses in school management and teaching at local universities.
About 800 of them have obtained certificates. For the other 300 executives and teachers who did not graduate, we are providing them with higher education and then the professional courses.
What will be the consequences of the licensing scheme?
The government can screen out those who intend to abuse Islamic education to create national disorder, and in the meantime can keep and promote the people who devote themselves to good educational services.
From now on, people cannot just begin Islamic teaching at will any more. We base the revamp of Islamic education on the standard and systematic Islamic education of Malaysia.
State schools are blamed for failing to meet the demands and lifestyles of local people. How will you deal with them?
State schools in Muslim-dominated areas will teach Malay from kindergarten to the high school levels. The teaching is being piloted at 12 schools. This will expand to 100 schools this year and eventually to all schools. State schools will also teach Islam. This has begun at 142 schools. It will bring local young people to educational services of the government sector instead of being lured into doing wrong.
Source: www.bangkokpost.com (12 Juli 2007)