SINGAPORE: All Islamic religious teachers, or asatizah, will be required to be recognised under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) with effect from January 2017, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said on Tuesday (Sep 13).
The decade-old scheme recognises teachers and scholars who meet the minimum standards of qualification to preach and teach Islamic religious knowledge.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Dr Yaacob said the ARS currently recognises about 80 per cent of those providing Islamic education in Singapore. MUIS and PERGAS, which is the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association, will continue to reach out to those who do not yet qualify to facilitate their registration, he added. They will have up to one year to qualify.
“It is an inclusive system that recognizes asatizah from various schools of thought, so long as they meet the standards and training requirements set by the Asatizah Recognition Board (ARB), which comprises senior asatizah,” said Dr Yaacob.
He added that the idea of making the scheme mandatory is not new, and was in fact proposed by senior asatizah more than a decade ago. But he said the government’s focus at the time was on developing a suite of quality ARS programmes to benefit asatizah. “It is important that our asatizah have recognised these benefits for themselves and see the value of the ARS. Now, with the asatizah fraternity’s strong support and the calls from community leaders for mandatory ARS, the time is right to strengthen the ARS further,” he said.
“While other countries may have their own recognition systems, the ARB has been mindful to adapt and implement only what is relevant and compatible with our local context,” he added.
In response to a supplementary question by MP Zainal Sapari, Dr Yaacob added that there will be regulations in place to ensure that Islamic education providers engage only teachers registered under the scheme. “So we hope that parents who wish to run home classes will engage those who are already on the list. Centres that flout the regulations will face some regulatory measures,” he said.