Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin expressed concerns on Thursday (15/06) over a controversial Ministry of Education directive, which would extend the mandatory amount of time students spend at school each day from five to eight hours.(Antara Photo/Rahmad)

Religious Affairs Minister Raises Concerns Over New Education Ministry Directive to Extend School Days

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

JUNE 15, 2017

Jakarta. Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin expressed concerns on Thursday (15/06) over a controversial Ministry of Education directive, which would extend the mandatory amount of time students spend at school each day from five to eight hours.

The directive, announced last month by Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy, has been criticized by many religious figures in the country for cutting short the amount of time students can spend at non-formal but religious, and in particular Islamic, education institutions.

Many students of all ages across the archipelago attend public school for five hours each day but spend extra curricular time taking on additional subjects or attending religious seminars.

Lukman said on Thursday (15/06) that he did not fully object the directive, though he urged the Education Ministry to guarantee that the proposed extension does not come at the expense of the extra curricular religious seminars.

"There has to be a guarantee that the proposed policy recognizes and affirms the existence of Islamic schools and other, non-formal religious education institutions," the minister said.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, offers students the opportunity to study at formal Islamic schools, whose curriculums' are mandated by the Education Ministry, as well as the ability to study additional religious subjects on top of the national curriculum.

In lieu of taking on additional subjects, students may also enroll at non-formal religious institutions after school.

Conventional public schools, from kindergarten to senior high school, are supervised by the Education Ministry, but Islamic and other religious boarding schools are mandated under the Religious Affairs Ministry.

"If there is no such guarantee, it is better to review the deeper negative impacts the policy might have, because it certainly has created public unease," Lukman added.

If the Education Ministry's directive becomes national law, students will only have to attend public school for five days each week, as opposed to six under current regulations.

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