Masa Depan Pendidikan Agama di Belanda dan Indonesia

Edisi kedelapan Forum Jumat Sore CRCS akan dilaksanakan hari Jumat, tanggal 14 Desember 2007, Jam 15:00-16:30. Diskusi akan dilaksanakan di Gedung Sekolah Pascasarjana UGM, lantai 3, ruang 306. Pembicara dalam diskusi ini adalah Dr. Carl Sterkens dan Mohamad Yusuf, M.A. Tema yang akan diangkat dalam diskusi adalah Masa Depan Pendidikan Agama di Belanda dan Indonesia. Dibawah ini merupakan biografi singkat pembicara serta abstrak dari tema yang akan dipresentasikan.

Abstract of The future of Religious Education in the Netherlands (by; Carl Sterkens)

One could discuss the future of religious education in the Netherlands from several perspectives. For instance from the perspective of the relation with religious communities (churches, mosques); the relation with the state in all its different aspects; the juridical context; the content of the education; the definition of religion itself and how to approach it; etc. Todays focus is limited to the future of religious education in the Netherlands within publicly financed schools (i.c. almost all schools in the Netherlands) from the perspective of religious plurality.

1.Criteria for and distinction of three models of religious education in a plural context

Contemporary literature offers three models for dealing with plurality in religious education: a monoreligious, a multireligious and an interreligious model. These ideal types give different answers to the question of what kind of interaction is most suitable for relating to other cultures and religions in education. The models answer differently to the following question: How to speak in religious education from a position of involvement with ones own religious tradition while fully recognising the reality of religious plurality?

This question (posed in the first place from the perspective of the pupil) yields implicitly three criteria: (a) involvement with ones own religious tradition; (b) recognition of religious plurality; and (c) reflection on the polarity arising from the first two criteria. This polarity needs to be worked out, because it is insoluble and structurally intractable. Thus the third criterion focuses on the need to arrive at insight and indicators in religious education which will help to clarify, albeit not resolve, the cognitive, affective and attitudinal aspects of the polarity between involvement and engagement with a particular religion on the one hand, and genuine recognition of religious plurality on the other.

On the basis of the three criteria, we can both distinguish nd evaluate the monoreligious, the multireligious and the interreligious model for dealing with religious plurality in an educational context. A detailed description of each model would include (a) the socio-cultural context in which the concerning model occurs; (b) its religious pedagogic aim; and (c) its normative (theological) basis.

2. Actual situation in the Netherlands

It would be too general a statement to say that is a clear preference for one specific model. The choice would depend on the institutional context of the school (public or private); the specific school climate; the teacher in question; and the school population.

With regard to the institutional context, in 2002, 33% of the children in the Netherlands attended Catholic schools or their primary education, 32% attended public schools, 27% went to Protestant Christian schools and 8% to other private schools. There is no information available (anymore) about the religious self-definition of the pupils, but there is about ethnicity. Nearly half of all pupils belonging to ethnic minorities attend public schools, the other half private schools. The apparently proportional representation of pupils from ethnic minorities in other private schools is attributable to the fact that some of these are Muslim and Hindu schools catering almost exclusively for pupils from ethnic minorities.

With regard to the school teachers, more and more teachers show a preference for the interreligious model. But increasingly also the multireligious model. Primary education in the Netherlands has a specific term that refers to the multireligious approach: religious and ideological movements [geestelijke stromingen]. Since the revision of the Basic Education Act [Wet op het Basisonderwijs] on 22 December 1983, it has been a compulsory subject at primary schools in the Netherlands (cf Primary Education Act 1998, art 9), although the act allows considerable latitude regarding how it is taught. Notice the contrast with the governmental religious education policy in Indonesia!

With regard to the students in relation to the interreligious model, one could question whether (all) primary school pupils and secondary school students want and are able to take a religious auto-perspectives (and this apart from their willingness and ability to take allo-perspectives). Increasingly it is the case that young people tend to perceive religion as an interesting social phenomenon, but one that does not (yet) affect their personal lives. In other words: does the lack of involvement compromise the whole idea of interreligious learning? Let me explain this with a reference to another research at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

3. Future of religious education in the Netherlands?

Nowadays, empirical research proves that students among the age of 16-18 years old value a multireligious most positively, while they are ambiguous about an interreligious orientation and clearly disagree with a monoreligious orientation that is underpinned by exclusivistic or inclusivistic truth claims. This poses a dilemma for educators: on the one hand, should an educational programme reflect the needs and interests of students? On the other hand, does a multireligious model fall short of contemporary religious-pedagogical demands?

It might be questionable whether Dutch classrooms will indeed become important places for intercultural and interreligious dialogue […] since, as it turns out, young people today are not particularly interested in dialogue. But why? Commitment is the keyword in answering this question. The absence of religious commitment in a religious sense could cause students to reject a monoreligious model, since this model presupposes a strong religious commitment. But lack of commitment could also cause the ambivalence toward an interreligious model, because this model does not only entail a positive valuation of religious plurality, but also calls for religious commitment. If this thesis is correct, then the success of an interreligious curriculum is dependent upon the population of the class, both with regard to the commitment of individual pupils toward a specific religious tradition and with regard to the willingness to realise a dialogue. For that reason, I am less optimistic about the possible outcomes for interreligious curricula then some years ago (2001). But this does not mean that the interreligious model is not worth striving for.


Dr Carl Sterkens (1971) studied philosophy (BA) and religious studies (BA, MA) at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) and has a doctorate in theology from Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands). Currently he is associate professor of pastoral theology (Faculty of Theology) and empirical religious studies (Faculty of Religious Studies) of Radboud University Nijmegen. He has published on religious education, religion and institutions. Currently, his research focus is on cross-religious comparison of the relation between religiosity, conflict and social cohesion in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines; and on the aims of academic education in theology and religious studies in the European Union.


Sterkens C. (2001). Interreligious Learning. The Problem of Interreligious Dialogue in Primary Education (Empirical Studies in Theology 8). Leiden: Brill.

Sterkens C., van der Ven J.A. (2003). From Intercultural to Interreligious Dialogue? In: Borsboom A., Jespers F. (ed.). Identity and Religion: A multidisciplinary Approach (Nijmegen Studies in Development and Cultural Change 42). Saarbrcken: Verlag fr Entwicklungspolitik. p. 215-246:

Sterkens C. (2007). Changes in Commitment and Religiocentrism through Interreligious Learning. Empirical Results from a Social Constructionist Perspective. In: Pollefeyt D. (ed.) Interreligious Learning (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 201). Louvain: Peeters Press. p. 129-161.

Abstract of Religious Education in Indonesia:Implications for Inter-religious Relations in a Plural Society (by; Mohamad Yusuf)

Indonesia is the worlds fourth largest nation struggling to become theworlds third largest democracy. With eighty five percent of its 230million people professing Islam, there are more Muslims living inIndonesia than in the entire Middle East. Besides Muslims, there is aminority of Christians (significant because of its economic power) and ofHindus and Buddhists. Historically, Indonesia has displayed not simplyreligious tolerance but a robust religious syncretism, especially at thevillage level. However, more recently, and coinciding ironically with therise of a more democratic and decentralized rule, inter-ethnic violencehas made a sometimes vigorous appearance. This has been variouslytheorized but seems intimately connected to a proliferation of competinglocal elites suddenly set free from the centralized control of Jakarta.Local differences in religion become a tool of mobilizing identity for thepurposes of political influence.

In Indonesia, it is widely assumed that religion and especially religiouseducation is a potent source of identity formation. The reason is thatever since the 1960s, the study of religion has been required by law ofall students from elementary through the post-secondary level. Newlegislation passed in June of 2003 (supported by a majority of Muslimsand opposed by a majority of Christians) mandates that each elementaryand secondary school must offer every student regular instruction inhis/her own religion and taught by teachers professing that religion.This means that each year there are millions and millions of studentsstudying religion and hundreds of thousands of teachers teaching themreligion. The impact of this phenomenon upon the construction ofidentity is considerable. There are varieties of institutional settingswhere all of this takes place. They range from state (secular) elementaryand secondary schools to the privately funded, traditional Islamicschools or pesantren, to Protestant and Catholic private schools. Thispattern persists at the post-secondary level.

The fact that the study of religion is required of all students for somany years, and 60 millions people enroll in the subject, and the factthat the study takes place in a variety of highly diverse ideologicalsettings makes Indonesia a promising site for researching the question ofthe influence of religious education upon inter-ethnic cooperation. Thecurrent debate of religious education in Indonesia emerged when thegovernment enacted the National Educational System (NES) in 2003. The NES, which requires schools to provide religious education to each differentreligious belief of their students, has been elucidated to re-questioningthe rights of government to involve itself too far in religious life ofcitizens. This not only results in distrust among religious believers, buthas also insulted religious freedom, namely the freedom of choosingreligious education.

For those of us disposed to be friendly towards religion, it is soberingto observe that historically there has been a close association ofreligion and inter-ethnic hostility and violence. The reason for thisseems to be that religion has powerfully to do with belonging, andbelonging implies not belonging. Furthermore, it is along these lines ofbordering activity that threat and suspicion so often take hold. Perhapsreligion is fatally flawed, destined to create both difference andhostility in relationship to the difference it has created. Yet, it isimportant also to note that world religions, in order to become world,had to expand the construction of identity beyond previous and more narrowborders. The major prophets of world religions all engaged successfullyin this activity. One thinks of Mohammad in Mecca or the followers ofJesus whose invitation spread beyond Jerusalem to include the Greco-Romanworld. These pastoral practices were then embedded in sacred scripturesthat modeled a new and more inclusive belonging, now embracing the formerdangerous other.

This dual face of religionone moving towards intolerance, the othertoward toleranceis likely to be displayed in the differing practices ofreligious education in contemporary Indonesia. This research,furthermore, aims (1) to discover how religion is taught in differentschools. We differentiate schools into four types namely: State schools,Islamic schools, Christian schools, and nationalist schools. Thesedifferent methods of teaching religions are expected to have a result asto whether (2) to find out whether teaching religions in different schoolshas any correlation to students perception, attitudes and behaviortowards other religious traditions.


Mohamad Yusuf is the research coordinator and the coordinator of student affairs at Center for religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS). He received his M.A. at CRCS. His research interest are mainly in Anthropological Studies of Religion, Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation and Islamic Movement in Indonesia.

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