Ms. Karen Bryner, a PhD candidate from Columbia University, presented her field research during the first Wednesday Forum for the semester and of the year which was held on February 3, 2010 at 1:00 PM, while Nina M. Noor, a PhD student, acted as moderator.
In the forum, Ms. Bryner perceived the combination of Islamic revival and the growing middle class in generating a new market for Islamic education which is the elite urban Islamic schools. This combination happened in the 1990s when many middle-class Muslims spend their money in educating their children by sending them to a very expensive elementary school which charged much than that of a state university. These Islamic elementary schools, unlike many of the traditional Islamic education institutions, are not largely directly connected to the long established Islamic organizations such as NU and Muhammadiyah, but rather to independent foundations or franchises. Yet tensions between Islamic organizations are being played out, particularly among NU, Muhammadiyah and PKS, as individuals are fighting for real estate for this new market.
The presentation provided a look at two of these new types of schools in Yogyakarta which are the SD Islam Terpadu and SD Islam Al Azhar. Although both claim to be promoting true Islam, their presentations and practices vary, and the experience are not just through the lessons in the classroom, but in the everyday culture of the schools.
During the panel discussion, some questions, suggestion, critics were thrown to her, for instance, Endy Saputro who gave a very important criticism, expressed that Ms. Bryner did not show the main question of her research, instead she just explained the phenomena of urban elite school, but it did not seem to bother her. The fact of the matter is, raising questions and problems are the most important elements before doing a field research. With a very basic question, Endy asked Ms. Bryner why she was interested on those topics. Furthermore, Pak Berney, the ICRS Director, gave Ms. Bryner several inputs and critical questions, like what is meant by the concept of “Terpadu”? (combination) in Islamic school, whether this is a merger between traditional, modern and fundamental school or what? Other interesting questions were also about whether these elite schools show the revival of Islamic purification movement in the current religious living in Indonesia or not?
The very interesting forum ended with a long applause both for the speaker and the audiences at 3:00 PM.
Ms. Karen Bryner finished her Master in International Education from Harvard University. At present, she is finishing her PhD in International Comparative Education of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. Ms. Bryner has many international presentations, like seminar on Culture and Identity, Urban and Islamic Education and Comparative International Education and some other selected international seminars.
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