Islamic education through Pesantren in Indonesia has undergone progressive changes and major developments as was revealed by Professor of Islam State University (UIN), Syarif Hidayatullah Azyumardi Azra, at the Jakarta workshop on Promoting Cross Cultural Educational Exchanges in ASEAN. He said that pesantren have also undergone changes and left behind the old image that was mostly related to underdevelopment.
He added that whereas previously, pesantren buildings were identical with small chambers, today the buildings are large and modern. This is something to be proud of because the institution of Islamic education is not obsolete and low class. Today, pesantren are no longer associated with underdevelopment but 24-hour education with various science subjects because pesantren are under the supervision of the government through the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
From a substantive educational viewpoint, pesantren have also undergone major development. Azyurmadi said that this achievement was largely due to the support from many Islamic Universities, both private and state. Many undergraduates from Islam universities who teach in pesantren have brought many changes in the paradigm and approach to education in pesantren.
He explained that today’s pesantren not only provide religious education similar to that of madrasah but also general education similar to other schools. Some pesantren are even have vocational schools and some others also have economic and health institutions. He added that pesantren have become “Holding Institutions”, whether purely religious in nature or those with a more general character, all under the supervision of the Ministry of National Education.