Madrasahs in Singapore

Madrasahs in Singapore are full-time, religious institutions that offer a pedagogical mix of Islamic religious education and secular education in their curricula. While the Arabic term 'madrasah' literally translates to 'school', whether religious or secular, the term 'madrasah' is legally and colloquially defined in Singapore today as a 'religious school'. There are currently six madrasahs in Singapore offering primary to tertiary education, namely, Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Irsyad Zuhri Al-Islamiah, Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah, Alsagoff Al-Arabiah, Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah, and Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah. Four of them are co-educational, while the other two offer madrasah education exclusively to girls.

Madrasah students take a range of Islamic religious subjects in addition to mainstream curriculum subjects and sit for the national examinations like their peers. They can often be easily identified by their distinctive traditional Malay uniform, including the songkok for boys and tudung for girls, in stark contrast to national schools that prohibit such religious headgear. Madrasahs are deeply rooted in Singapore's history, and prior to Singapore's independence, had enjoyed a "golden period" in becoming the centre of Islamic education in the region by producing and attracting many of the prominent Islamic religious scholars. But by the turn of the 21st century, reports emerged of the declining academic standards of madrasahs, which subjected the madrasahs to numerous discussions on the national platform as to their purpose and relevance in contemporary society. There was also a new expectation from the Malay-Muslim community that madrasahs should provide not only religious education, but also academic skills like mathematics, science and English. Madrasahs were forced to adapt and implement sweeping reforms, especially in response to government policies such as the Compulsory Education Act. Today, madrasahs have largely improved and excelled. However, challenges that pertain to their funding, curricula and teaching methodologies remain largely unsolved till today.