SPEECH BY MR ESA MASOOD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MUIS, AT MADRASAH TEACHERS SYMPOSIUM ON THURSDAY, 31st JANUARY AT SUNTEC CONVENTION CENTRE
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, Mr. Masagos Zulkifli bin Masagos Mohamad,
Dr Albakri Ahmad, Deputy Chief Executive, Muis
Respective LBKM representatives
Madrasah leaders and principals
Asatizah, teachers, colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen,
Assalamu’alaikum wr.wb and a warm welcome to all.
1 It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the 2019 Madrasah Teachers Symposium. I am pleased to see our Madrasah teachers and leaders come together to share and learn from each other which, will support the continuous improvement in all our madrasahs, which will ultimately benefit our students.
IMPORTANT ROLE OF MADRASAHS
2 Madrasahs in Singapore have always played an important role in our community. Since the early days when our pioneers set forth the foundation for our Madrasahs, the teachers, Asatizah and leaders worked tirelessly and selflessly to cultivate and develop the minds and hearts of their pupils.
3 In the context of a more volatile and complex environment, madrasahs today playing an even more important role in shaping the community’s religious life. By nurturing our future corps of Asatizah, they will in turn shoulder the responsibility of passing on positive Islamic education and values to the next generation.
4 In the first few years when the Compulsory Education act was introduced, we were worried about clearing the PSLE benchmark. But, in the last few years, all four madrasahs offering primary education have successfully scored above the PSLE benchmark.
5 Another testament that madrasahs have progressed, is the fact that we have produced religious elites and luminaries not just for Singapore but also for the region.
6 Clearly, quality learning is made possible by a good system, strong leadership and dedicated teachers.
7 In particular, over the years we have improved the resourcing support for our madrasahs. Beyond tapping on Dana Madrasah and Zakat funds to support our madrasahs, Muis has in 2012, introduced Wakaf Ilmu to generate a steady stream of income for both full-time and part-time madrasahs. In addition, in 2016, the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF) was reviewed to allow for the community’s contributions to be channelled towards madrasah development. In addition, last year, $1.9m was disbursed as part of the Government-Muis assistance scheme which included the students’ awards, teachers’ financial incentives and training grants. I am pleased to hear that many teachers have expressed appreciation for these schemes.
8 In all, these funding streams have enabled our madrasahs to receive more sustainable support.
CONTEMPORARY MADRASAH LEADERS AWARDS
9 Indeed our Madrasahs have made significant strides in the past few decades. Thus, it is certainly fitting that in conjunction with today’s symposium, we will also be having the Muis50 Contemporary Madrasah Leader awards ceremony.
10 These Awards serve to recognise the contributions of Madrasah chairmen, committee members and principals who had served in their Madrasah management committee for a continuous period of at least 15 years, and contributed significantly towards the progress and achievements of the Madrasahs.
11 Motivated by the sincere dedication to improve Islamic education in Singapore, their contributions have had a deep impact. They drove initiatives in the early years and some continue to contribute in different capacities to the madrasah sector today. The efforts and sacrifices of these outstanding individuals to improve the Islamic education in Singapore indeed deserve special commendation. We hope that this award will continue to inspire the rest of us to strive and give our very best to the Madrasah sector.
12 Ladies and gentlemen, we are indeed blessed to have these outstanding individuals to grace our symposium today. May they inspire others in the community help strengthen our Madrasahs and other community institutions.
PREPARING OUR MADRASAHS FOR THE FUTURE
13 During the Muis50 Conversations sessions last year, we were indeed humbled and heartened to capture some of the observations and aspirations shared by the community on Islamic Education for the future.
14 The demands for Islamic education are shifting and getting more complex. Many of the participants expressed the need to reaching out to underserved segments. Others gave suggestions to enhance the depth and variety of our Islamic education topics to address various complex issues that have risen and will continue to emerge.
15 With these in mind, the role of the Madrasah teachers, Asatizah and leaders have never been more crucial in producing Asatizah of tomorrow who are well-versed and trained to provide religious guidance in new and unchartered areas, and our youth who are much more exposed and digitally connected than before.
IMPORTANCE OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
16 In this regard, professional development for our Madrasah teachers has been a key area of focus. Muis has enabled this by supporting the professional development of Madrasah teachers through the provision of annual grants for Madrasah-based training programmes. Muis also provides sponsorships for basic teaching certifications and leadership programmes.
17 To date, a total of 209 teachers have successfully completed teaching diplomas sponsored by Muis, as compared to 170 in the year 2016.
18 Middle level leaders function not just as administrative leaders but as instructional leaders. In recognition of this, Muis funds current and potential leaders annually to attend the Management and Leadership in Schools programme offered by the National Institute of Education (NIE). To date, 24 madrasah teachers have benefitted from this programme. Early this month we had one Vice-Principal and three HODs embark on this programme.
19 Muis also sponsors Madrasah leaders to attend NIE’s Leaders in Education Programme. In July last year, Madrasah Principals, Mdm Nafisah from Madrasah Al-Maarif and Mdm Khairiana from Madrasah Aljunied attended this programme. I wish them and all Madrasah leaders the best in steering their Madrasahs towards success in the years to come.
20 In the past few years, we have also seen the growth in Madrasahs’ participation in local and international conferences. It is heartening to note that our teachers and leaders have increasingly stepped forward to present at conferences or facilitate workshops to an international audience. At the biennial redesigning pedagogy conference in 2017 for example, Ustaz Syed Mustafa, Principal of Madrasah Alsagoff presented the Alsagoff’s ICT experience and attracted the interest and awe of Singaporean teachers and leaders.
21 On a similar note, Mr Isham Saniff, Principal of Madrasah Irsyad conducted interactive workshops on STEM education at conferences in Singapore and Japan. The workshops were very well received by participants from various countries. Indeed, learning from, and contributing to the teaching fraternity both locally and globally is something that we would like to continue to support.
22 The average training hours for Madrasah teachers has been increasing and doubled compared to 10 years ago. This was made possible through the additional funds from the Government-Muis training funds scheme, together with support from Madrasah leaders to create the supportive environment, as well as teachers for taking ownership of your own development.
SUPPORTING THE HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT OF MADRASAH STUDENTS
23 Apart from the investment in teachers’ PD, Muis also places great importance in broadening students learning experiences and supporting their socio-emotional development.
24 Focus and resources have been devoted towards regular reviews of the Islamic and Arabic Language curriculum to ensure that it remains up-to-date and more effective and engaging. We are also looking into providing resources to support students’ civic literacy, physical health, leadership skills and socio-emotional well-being. Muis has also supported the provision of counselling services, and provided grants for madrasahs to develop themselves in niche areas.
25 Last year, Muis and Mendaki jointly organised the inaugural career seminar, to get Madrasah students to better understand their strengths and interests, and start thinking about future education and career pathways. These are just some examples of Muis’ commitment towards students’ holistic development.
MUIS SOCIAL WORK STUDY AWARD
26 One profession that some madrasah graduates have embarked on, and is extremely meaningful is that of Social Work. In conjunction with Muis’ 50th anniversary celebrations, Muis announced last year that we have set aside $150,000 over the next three years, and will partner Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulid (LBKM) to administer the Muis Social Work Study Award. This Award supports the development of students pursuing studies in social work and social service, who upon graduation, would contribute to the development of the Muslim community. This afternoon, we are glad that the first batch of seven recipients will be receiving this award.
27 The Madrasah sector indeed has a special place in our hearts and the community. The network between the Madrasahs is based on strong ukhuwah and the shared vision of giving the very best to raise generation after generation of Asatizah for our community. We must continue to cherish this bond and work together to share our knowledge and expertise with each other. We must strive to find new and improved platforms that will allow us to share our ideas and best practices so that we can move forward collectively as one community. I hope, today’s symposium will serve to meet this mission.
28 The symposium’s concurrent sessions include teacher-led sharing on professional leadership, pedagogy, curriculum and professional development (PD). Some of these sessions are led by teachers who were sponsored to attend the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) conferences in 2017 and 2018 in Japan and Beijing respectively. I sincerely hope that these sharing sessions will lead to further discussions, networking and collaborations between our part-time and full-time Madrasahs.
29 Allow me to conclude by thanking all the six Madrasahs for their commitment in making this symposium possible and all the workshop presenters for their hard work and tireless dedication in preparing the workshop materials. May Allah reward you bountifully with all that is good.
30 Thank you to all teachers and guests for joining us today. I wish you all a meaningful and productive learning today and may 2019 be filled with success for all of us.
31 Finally, and once again, our congratulations to our distinguished recipients of the Contemporary Madrasah Leaders Award as well as recipients of the Muis Social Work Study Awards. May your continued invaluable dedication and services to the Madrasah sector and the community be rewarded and be a source of inspiration to all, to always contribute back to the betterment of the community.