RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN INDONESIA An empirical study of religious education models in Islamic, Christian and Hindu affiliated schools


Mohamad Yusuf

PhD defended at: 

Department of Empirical Religious Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen



What model of religious education is preferred in Indonesia? We distinguish between mono-religious, multi-religious and inter-religious models of religious education, based on the differences in pedagogical aspects (goal; cognitive, effective, and attitudinal aspects; and teaching methods), the normative basis and the societal context in these models of religious education. The preference for the different types of religious education is studied from three points of view: the laws and regulations of the State, the policies of religiously-affiliated schools, and the preferences of students at religiously-affiliated schools.
On the macro-level, we analyse the State’s laws regarding types of religious education, by evaluating Law No. 20/2003, concerning the national system of education (sistem pendidikan nasional). This law is crucial to understanding the State’s preference for a certain type of religious education. The enactment of Law No. 20/2003 has been publicly criticised, primarily regarding the inclusion of religious values in the national system of education, and the State’s intervention regarding the practice of religious education in private schools. Some secular and Christian groups consider this law to be primarily in the interest of the Islamic majority group. Discussions prior to the approval of the law also shed light on the power relations between so-called Islamic groups and secular groups (together with non-Muslim groups). Does the Indonesian government (indirectly) favour Islamic religious communities, as is often assumed? And if they do, in what sense? To what extent are secular and non-Muslim groups’ aspirations accommodated in State laws?
On the meso-level, we discuss the policies of religiously-affiliated schools regarding types of religious education. We study the implementation of religious education in religiously-affiliated secondary schools in three different areas of Indonesia. Each area may be said to be dominantly Muslim, Christian or Hindu, according to the size of the majority religious group in that area.
Religious education is a major factor in religious identity formation. Next to family and peers, religious and educational communities are generally acknowledged to be the principal agents of religious socialisation. Religious education policy consequently influences religious identity formation. What kind of religious identity is enhanced by religious education at religiously-affiliated schools? Are there differences between Muslim, Christian and Hindu schools? Do Islamic schools foster religious identity more than Christian or Hindu schools, as is generally supposed?
There are two actors who influence the policy of a religiously-affiliated school: the State, and the religious community connected with the school. How do these agents exercise their power? Which agent has more influence on school religious education policy? How do school managers and teachers deal with tensions when the expectations of State and religious community conflict? Schools supposedly have the freedom to conduct education independently, and to decide the ‘right thing’ for their students. However, as part of the national system of education, a school should represent the State’s concerns as to how education processes should be carried out, and what materials, curricula and methods are implemented. On the other hand, a school that belongs to a certain religious denomination implies the potential intervention of the religious community in the practice of religious education.
On the micro-level, we analyse student preferences for different types of religious education, based on the students’ personal characteristics and their inter-group attitudes. We compare the understanding of students of different religions regarding different types of religious education. How do Muslim, Christian and Hindu students perceive religious education? If students belong to different religions and live in religious majority or minority situations, does it affect their preference for a certain model of religious education? We then analyse the students’ personal characteristics and inter-group attitudes. Do these differences contribute to student preferences for types of religious educa-tion? Different inter-group attitudes are often shaped by differing responses to religious diversity. On the one hand, religious diversity might give students the opportunity to interact with others. They have more people of different religious backgrounds in their neighbourhood to interact with. But religious diversity may also encourage competition between groups, and induce conflict. These different responses to religious diversity are considered to influence student preference for different types of religious education.