The development of services in the field of religion is a factor that has influenced the history of Brunei Darussalam from time to time with various important achievements through its administrative journey, especially in spreading and instilling a love for the Islamic religion in the Sultanate.
In these aspects, Arabic and religious schools in Brunei are under the leadership of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop a suitable curriculum to properly educate the Muslim students of Brunei on Islamic teachings. In 2012, the Compulsory Religious Education Order was implemented, emphasising the importance of Islamic knowledge for young students. Under this order, it is compulsory for Muslim children aged seven to 15 to attend religious schools.
With about 150 religious schools in Brunei Darussalam from pre-school to primary level, religious education is also provided at three private schools: International School Brunei, Jerudong International School and Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah School.
The Islamic Religious Knowledge curriculum is divided into three levels, where the components of the Islamic Religious Knowledge subjects see subjects such as Al-Quran, Amali Ugama, Tawheed, Adab, Ibadat and History for primary level students; Al-Quran, Tafsir Al-Quran, Hadith, Tawheed, Fiqh and Islamic History for the secondary level students; and Muamalat and Faraidh, Munakahat, Islamic Law History, Usul Fiqh, Tawheed, ‘Ulum Al-Quran and Mustalah al-Hadith, and Tafsir Al-Quran and Hadith for students in the Pre-University level.
The recently built Rimba Arabic School can accommodate 2,000 students with classrooms, science and language laboratories, lecture halls, multipurpose hall, teachers’ room, library, hostel, surau, canteen and a field, to accommodate the growing number of students enrolling in religious studies.
Meanwhile, Arabic schools in Brunei offer two core curriculums: the national curriculum for general subjects and the Ma’had Buhuth al- Islamiah curriculum from Egypt for religious subjects and Arabic language. These curriculums are based on the National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21) to produce students equipped with skills in line with the 21st Century.
After 50 years since the first Arabic school – Hassanal Bolkiah Boys Arabic Secondary School (SMALHB) was built in 1964, there are now seven Arabic schools in Brunei: four in Brunei-Muara and one each in Belait, Tutong and Temburong. These Arabic schools are the Temburong Arabic Preparatory School, the Belait Arabic School, the Bandar Seri Begawan Arabic Preparatory School, the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Arabic School (SASHHB), Mahad Islam Brunei in Tutong, the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Girls Arabic Religious Secondary School, and the SMALHB.
Religious schools start from pre-school. Education in Arabic schools begins in Year 5 and is offered until pre-university level for male students and Year 11 for female students.
The recently built SASHHB in Rimba can accommodate 2,000 students with classrooms, science and language laboratories, lecture halls, multi-purpose hall, teachers’ room, library, hostel, surau, canteen and a field, to accommodate the growing number of students enrolling in religious studies.
Meanwhile, the MoRA also offers religious classes for adults with the implementation of the General Rules of the Religious Adult Class 1980 number: 31 JUB108/1980, and the Al-Quran Adult Class established separately, and combined into what is now known as the Religious Adult class teaching subjects such as Tawheed, Fiqh, Tasawuf and Al-Quran.
Religious lessons currently taught are based on the religious syllabus in primary level religious schooling, where the syllabus for Religious Adult Classes at the primary level is according to the syllabus in Primary I to Primary III, while the syllabus for the advanced classes follow that of those in Primary IV to Primary VI.
The ministry also offers further education in special institutions which are divided into four categories such as Uniformed Training Centres, Treatment Centres, Rehabilitation & Guidance Centres and Special Needs Centres.
With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Sultanate, the selection of candidates for Arabic schools was done based on the School Assessed Grades (SAG) assessments. Public examinations under MoRA’s jurisdiction – Religious Primary Schools Education Certificate (SSSRU), Brunei Religious Education Certificate (SPUB), Pre-Brunei Religious Education Higher Certificate (Pre-STPUB) and Brunei Religious Education Higher Certificate (STPUB) – began in January 2022.
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