IN JUNE, Madrasah Al-Arabiah moved from its cramped premises in Lorong 13, Geylang to a bigger site in Toa Payoh.
Its bigger, air-conditioned classrooms and badminton and football facilities are a delight to Secondary 5 student Khairil Bahri Kamal.
But it is its location near at least three national schools that appears most appealing to the 16-year-old.
'We can have regular games as our schools are almost next door,' he said yesterday, after his Islamic school hosted a ceremony to mark National Day, which is on Sunday.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters after the ceremony that he welcomed the madrasah's efforts to forge greater interaction between its students and their peers of other races and religions in the neighbourhood.
'These are developments we should encourage as much as possible,' said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
The madrasah's principal, Mr Juraimi Ali, is planning to hold exchange programmes and joint excursions with the other schools, which include Pei Chun Public School and First Toa Payoh Primary and Secondary schools.
Yesterday's event was organised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and Al-Arabiah.
Al-Arabiah is one of six full-time Islamic schools in Singapore.
The students are taught Arabic and religious subjects, on top of others such as English, maths and science, to give them the foundation to be religious teachers for their community.
But the heavy workload had led to a dip in academic standards.
To help lift standards, Al-Arabiah and two others have banded to form the Joint Madrasah System, to focus on their strengths and get more funding from the community.
Al-Arabiah has 300 students, some in primary classes. From this year, it will concentrate on secondary students who want a strong grounding in mainstream academic subjects.
Giving an update on its progress, Dr Yaacob praised the madrasah's teachers: 'Speaking to the students, I'm very impressed that they're very confident, able to stand on their own and speak their mind.'
Source: Straits Times, 7 Aug 2009