Pesantren With historical roots dating back at least to the sixteenth century as places of learning for followers of Islam (santri), Islamic boarding schools or pesantren are Indonesia’s oldest form of formal education for children and young people (Vickers 2005, p. 55, Endang 2006).
Parents send their children to pesantren for a variety of reasons. For some families, pesantren provide access to education for their children at a lower cost than is otherwise available through the State education system, while other families who have no financial hardships may choose pesantren for religious or ideological reasons (Lukens-Bull 2005, p. 18). Typically, the pesantren curriculum includes traditional religious education, elements of the government approved educational curriculum, and vocational training. Pesantren teaching focuses on Islam’s principal holy book (the Qur’an), Arabic language and Islamic traditions and law (Lukens-Bull 2005, pp. 18-19).
It is common for boys and girls to enter pesantren at the age of six years and live there until around the age of 18 years. While many pesantren provide full-time residential facilities, there is often ongoing contact between children and their families, in particular, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, when many children return to their family homes.
Children’s institutions of all types in Indonesia often receive charitable gifts from the Islamic faithful during Ramadan in accordance with religious practices such as sadaqah or voluntary charity (Lukens-Bull 2005, pp. 62-65).
While some pesantren teach elements of the Indonesian Government’s secular curriculum, they have a primarily religious aim, that is, to inculcate Islamic values, often through the methods of rote learning and memorisation of the Qur’an (Rabasa 2005, p. 101). Pesantren are led by religious teachers called kyai. Most, but not all, pesantren and kyai are affiliated with the Islamic social welfare organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (Lukens-Bull 2005, p. 17).
Pesantren differ from another major form of Islamic educational institution for children and young people, the madrasa (school), which combines religious subjects taught at pesantren with secular subjects from the government education system (Kuipers 2011, p. 154).
Unlike most pesantren, madrasa do not normally provide residential (pondok) accommodation, but many do so, especially in remote regions. There are over 40,000 madrasa in Indonesia with around six million primary and secondary pupils (Hafidz 2012).
One recent estimate, provided by the Indonesian Directorate General of Islamic Organisations (cited in Save the Children UK et al. 2007, p.31), was that in 2003-4 there were 3,364,180 children receiving Islamic education through 14,655 pesantren.
References Endang, T 2006, Struggling for the Umma: changing leadership roles of kiai in Jombang, East Java, Australian National University, Canberra. Hafidz, Y 2012, ‘Islamic education in Indonesia: making a difference in poor communities’. Kuipers, J 2011, ‘The society and its environment’, in W Frederick & R Worden (eds), Indonesia: a country study, Library of Congress, Washington DC, pp. 156-223. Lukens-Bull, R 2005, A peaceful Jihad: negotiating identity and modernity in Muslim Java, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Rabasa, A 2005, ‘Islamic education in southeast Asia’, Current trends in Islamist ideology, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 97-107. Save the Children UK, UNICEF, and Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs 2007, ‘Someone that matters’. The quality of care in childcare institutions in Indonesia, PT Panji Grafika Jaya, Jakarta. Vickers, A 2005, A history of modern Indonesia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.