One of the most significant ways the Indonesian state plays an active role in the country’s religious life is through education: Muslim students at all levels are required to take Islamic education classes, for which the government writes curricula and employs teachers. Therefore, the state—from the center at the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the periphery at individual teacher at public schools—has considerable power to shape religious perspectives of each new generation. His ongoing research is an ethnographic study of Islamic education in public high schools (Sekolah Menengah Atas Negeri) in the province of Yogyakarta, carried out through classroom observation, teacher interviews, and student focus groups. He will present the characteristics and effects of Islamic education in three fields: (a) perspective of religious diversity within Islam; (b) the valorization of the democratic nation-state as Islamic; and (c) the gender ideologies promoted as normatively Islamic. It is also noted how these phenomena vary in and among schools, noting the influence of socio-economic class, education, gender and religious background.
Sawyer Martin French is research fellow at the Institute for International Studies at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at Universitas Gadjah Mada. He is currently conducting a yearlong research project on Islamic education in public high schools in Yogyakarta with the support of a grant in socio-cultural anthropology from the National Science Foundation.
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