Private religious schools have gained popularity in Malaysia over the past few years, but are they a viable alternative to the mainstream school system? Author Atlaf Deviyati analyses whether Islamic private schools have the potential to offer quality education to students using a case study of Sekolah Rendah and Sekolah Menengah Islam (SRI and SMI) Al-Amin, a private Islamic school that is a member of the MUSLEH schools run by Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (IKRAM).
The author begins with an overview of different private schools in Malaysia and highlights different types of Islamic schools specifically. Author Altaf Deviyati, analyses the Sekolah Rendah Islamic (SRI)/Sekolah Menengah Islamic (SMI) Al-Amin Gombak, an Islamic private school under MUSLEH, the education arm of Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM).
Management of the School
The school is independent and is registered as a business entity. It has its own board of directors, who hold legal responsibility over the school, ensure that the school is managed efficiently with special regard to finances and are responsible for fundraising.
The school administration on the other hand is run by the principal, who can make decisions related to school operations like hiring teachers, extracurricular activities, and school curriculum. The principal also has a say in the school budget, but requires the approval of the board of directors.
Funding for SRI/SMI Al-Amin, like other MUSLEH schools, comes from various sources:
- Student fees – collected from students, these are affordable at less than RM 500 a month;
- Member donations – most students are the children of local IKRAM members, who donate to the school
- Zakat (alms) collections – under an agreement with the Perlis Religious Department, SRI/SMIAAG are allowed to both collect and receive zakat money, and can keep 50% of the money collected
- Private donations – the school board conducts yearly events like fundraising dinners, as well as from private donations from parents and during Sports Day.
Why parents chose the school
Parents chose SRI/SMIAAG over mainstream schools due to:
- A lack of trust in government schools – parents felt that government schools did not provide holistic Islamic education
- Identity-building – parents wanted their children to espouse good Islamic values
- Social capital – the close relationship between teachers and students was an added factor
The author concluded that SRI/SMIAAG was able to provide quality education due to its independence and autonomy. The schools was not restricted by regulations imposed on mainstream schools. As such teachers were free from achieving targets set by the government at state and district levels and could instead focus on teaching. They had smaller class sizes. were not burdened by administrative duties.
Other reasons cited include the close relationship between parents and teachers. This meant that parents were more involved in their child’s education and that learning did not stop after school hours. Finally, the extracurricular provided by the school was a crucial element towards building students with strong interpersonal skills.
About the Author
Altaf Deviyati is a member the board of directors of IMAN Research and was previously attached to the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), Prime Minister’s Office.