Integrating Pesantren within The National Educational System

By Fikrul Umam MS

It has constitutionally been stated that the state of Indonesia is based on religion. It means that Indonesia protects and respects religious life of its entire citizens. Based on socio-cultural aspects, it seems that Indonesia is the state which is based on the belief in the one and only God. Indonesian socio-cultural life has strongly been influenced and colored by religious values. At this point the religious life is almost inseparable from Indonesian life. 
As a state basing itself on religion, religious education can not be put aside within the national education implementation. Religious adherents along with various religious institutions in Indonesia constitute a nation potential to address the Indonesian physical and material developments. All this is appropriate with the national development goals, namely achieving total human development and a just and prosperous society based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. That is why, religion is again inseparable from the implementation of the national education.

The success of the national development should importantly be supported with religious education and teaching. As a result, the citizens will have moral and ethical education that will make Indonesia become a moral and responsible state and know its cultural values that must be appreciated.

With a sincere heart and having the fear (taqwa) of God and glorious morality, the national development can both easily and successfully be achieved. What is to say is that the religious education should not be opposed to the national development programs. All forms of education in the country should be based on the nation’s philosophy, namely Pancasila. This system is later called as the national educational system of Indonesia. All of the educational goals in Indonesia should not be in contradiction with the rule and the goal of the national education.

While the national educational goals as formulated with the State Policy Guidelines (GBHN) are as follow: “The national education based on Pancasila is aimed at increasing the devotion to God, having knowledge and skills, creating a forward-looking attitude, strengthening personality, enhancing the nation spirit and strengthening love for the fatherland in order to produce humans of development that can expectedly build themselves and jointly be responsible for the nation’s development”.

The transformation of pesantren within the national educational system

Historically, pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) have documented various national historical events such as the socio-cultural history of Muslims, economy, politics and so on. Since the early times of the spread of Islam in Indonesia, pesantren have been the main witness for the spread of Islam in Indonesia because they are the key elements in the process of islamization in the country. The development and the advancement of Muslims in Nusantara especially in Java could not be separated from the role played by pesantren.

Started from pesantren, the economic and political directions of Islam have successfully been controlled. In the time of the nine saints (walisongo), many of the saints in Java dominated trade networks between Java and outside Java, like Sunan Giri that had trade networks between Java and Kalimantan, Maluku, Lombok, and so on. It is the same as the political journey of Islam in
Java in which pesantren had such a strong influence in discussing and making various policies in palaces. For instance, the establishment of the Demak sultanate was due to the strong support and control from ulema like Sunan Kudus, Sunan Kalijaga, and Sunan Muria.

Thus, it can be concluded that the dynamics of Muslim community in the time could be seen from the strong relationship between pesantren, markets and palaces. Initially, pesantren showed a dynamic and cosmopolite response for showing their development in such urban areas as Surabaya (Ampel Denta), Gresik (Giri), Tuban (Sunan Giri), Demak (Sunan Kalijaga), Cirebon (Syarif hidayatullah), Banten, Aceh (Sumatera), Makassar (Sulawesi) and so on.

The dynamics of pesantren in the time was not only in the field of economy and their close relationships with rulers, but it was also in the field of science and intellectuality. The advancement of pesantren in Islamic sciences is considered by historian Taufik Abdullah as the center for religious thought.

The presence of pesantren in the nation’s journey, especially in Java is very important so that it is reasonable enough if the pesantren are regarded as part of the nation’s history that should be defended. In addition, pesantren have widely been regarded as the original educational institutions strongly rooted from the pre-Islam times, namely boarding schools of Buddhism so-called mandala ata asyrama, which were later transferred to be Islamic educational institutions.

For that reason, pesantren educational system should be appreciated for being such authentic alternative towards colonial system in any fierce debate when the national movement has met its long journey.

When Ki Hajar Dewantara appointed as an education figure and minister of education, he was of the opinion that pesantren were the root and the source of the national education because they are in accordance with the spirit and the nature of Indonesia. The government also admits that pesantren and madrassa are the root and the source of the national education. That is why they should be developed, given guidance and assisted. The authority whose responsibility in dealing with the guidance and development is the Department of Religious Affairs.

The exclusivism of pesantren towards any change around them has been considered as conservative. At this point, pesantren have also been considered having no sensitivity towards change in addition to being considered as no longer so productive. The difficulties of pesantren in reducing the modern education system as planned by the government and the achievement of the national education programs have often made them regarded as ‘isolationist’ and ‘out of mainstreaming’ national education.

According to Azyumardi Azra, the exponents of pesantren tend to be more carefully in responding to any emerging change. In addition, they are also more carefully in transforming the institution of pesantren as modern Islamic educational institutions and only receiving in a very limited scale, in accordance with their capability of adapting what can support the continuation of their pesantren like grading system, thorough curriculum and classical system.

The establishment of madrassa in pesantren has increasingly met its momentum especially since KH Ahmad Wahid Hasyim served as the Minister of Religious Affairs. He made a wide range of innovations in regard with the Islamic education through the decree of the Religious Affairs Minister No.3 1950, instructing the introduction of general subjects in Madrassa and the introduction of religious subjects in general schools either state or private. The competition with modern madrassa and general schools have, admitted or not, encouraged pesantren to adopt madrassa.

Pesantren have opened their educational institutions and facilities for the sake of general education. Pesantren have not only adopted madrassa, but they have also established general schools. Pesantren Tebuiren in Jombang, East Java for instance, is the first pesantren establishing either junior or senior high schools.

This forward step taken by Pesantren Tebuireng has gradually been followed by many other pesantren. Even there have been some competing to establish general schools to address public demands so that santri (students) can study religious subjects in addition to mastering general subjects like those who are studying in general schools. As a result, the access of santri in continuing their study has been in high demand like those general schools outside pesantren. At present, we have most of the time found pesantren which have general educational institutions like kindergartens (TK), elementary schools (SD/MI/MIN), junior high schools (SMP/MTs), senior high schools (SMA/MA/MAN) in addition to having what called as Madrassa Muallimin.

So it can be concluded that pesantren have given a positive response to the national development in the field of education. With the establishment of general schools and madrassa in pesantren, there will expectedly be such efforts to institutionally develop pesantren in regard with the national education.

Pesantren which have started establishing universities are, among others, Pesantren Darul Ulum and Pesantren Tebuireng, Jombang. In September 1965, Pesantren Darul Ulum established the University of Darul Ulum. While Pesantren Tebuireng has established the University of Hasyim Asy’ari which is now well-known as the Institute of Kiai Haji Hasyim Asy’ari.

This purposeful step has also been followed by some big pesantren such as Pesantren Nurul Jadid Paiton Probolinggo, Pesantren Bahrul Ulum Tambak Beras Jombang and so on. Formerly, pesantren have been claimed as typical educational institutions in Java. But now, they are considered as the national religious educational institutions. Some regions in Indonesia have used the term “Pesantren” like Sulawesi and Kalimantan. Even West Sumatera has also used the term to replace religious educational institutions so called as surau.

The writer is education analyst and director of the Study Program of the Suro Al-Mahmudi Foundation Pati Central Java.

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