“Open Distance and E-Learning (ODEL) for Islamic Transformation through Pesantren Community” Program Completion

Having conducted ODeL program for pesantren communities from 2007-2010, the International Center for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP) has signed a cooperative agreement with the Ford Foundation concerning the granted extension program, starting from July to December 2010. As has been known, the (ODeL) program based on information communication technology (ICT) is addressed to eight partnered pesantrens namely Pondok Pesantren An Nizhomiyah Pandeglang, Pondok Pesantren Al Kenaniyah Jakarta Timur, Pondok Pesantren Al Musri Cianjur, Pondok Pesantren Al Mizan Majalengka, Pondok Pesantren Hasyim Asy’ari Jepara, Pondok Pesantren Raudhatul Falah Rembang, Pondok Pesantren Nurul Islam Jember and Pondok Pesantren Nurul Jadid Jepara. Due to different characters, ethos, cultures and nature of each pesantren, the results of the implemented program are not similar and even varied. In general, there are two types of the development and progress of the partnered pesantrens: First, the pesantren that shows a very significant progress, change and attitude which has been resulted from the ODeL system. Second, the pesantren that shows a moderate progress, change and attitude. However, there is a general result in all eight pesantrens towards the awareness on the importance of using ODeL and ICT, particularly related to improving  the quality of teaching, learning and administration in the pesantrens. In this regard, ICIP uses general and specific approaches  to all pesantrens in order to make sure that all pesantren have similar outcomes and gradually reach ultimate goals in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In addition, ICIP also convinces and supports the eight pesantren to create a networking among them and use it to help and share one to each other. Due to  the six months extended OdeL’s program, ICIP and the pesantrens carried out the best efforts for improving teaching capacity and increasing access to basic education using ICT that has been implemented in the pesantrens for the last three years as well as reforming educational policy and system in the pesantrens. In fact, many pesantrens are mostly private institutions.  Consequently, level of government funding and technical assistance are very low. Meanwhile, pesantren generally provides basic and low level of education for the students. As a result, some of pesantrens have  difficulties to meet with new national education standards, particularly  for teachers’ quality, learning materials, and other education facilities. However, with the implemented program in the eight partnered pesantrens, the difficulties in meeting with the national education standard are relatively resolved. In fact, the program has created self confident in the pesantren and they are not considered as ‘backward’. Moreover, they are able to keeping up with public schools, particularly favorite public schools.

In addition, there is a great desire and expectation from the pesantrens to improve their living conditions and standard by implementing the program. Due to the economic crisis, particularly globalization and free trade, the eight pesantrens are encouraged to providing their students with livelihood skills based on the competency and local resources. By implementing the program,  pesantren as a social institution is able to engage with creative activities offering alternative education, combining education, learning process, and community development in an integrated and  comprehensive manner. ICIP strongly urged the pesantrens to enhance opportunities for creating employment/self employment using the information and facilities of the programs. In this regard, some pesantrens already have vision and concept on how the ICT would help them to improve the economy and standard of living, while other pesantrens are still figure out whether the ICT can be utilized in improving their living condition. Through the program ICIP also conducts awareness towards soci0-political issues such as pluralism, religious freedom and tolerance, democracy, gender equality, good governance and environment. For instance, ICIP invited delegation from the eight pesantrens to attend and involve in a discussion on Prof. Hans Kung’s ideas concerning interfaith dialogue and pluralism in Jakarta on July 2010. As has been widely reported, Prof. Hans Kung is President of Global Ethics Foundation and a noted expert of interfaith dialogue and pluralism who visited Indonesia in April 2010. It is hoped that through this discussion, they would be having inclusive mindset, broad minded perspectives, and a better attitude toward religious others.  ICIP also included Pondok Pesantren Al Musri and Pondok Pesantren Al Mizan to engage with another project called as “Strengthening Constitutionalism and Pluralism in the West Java Pesantren Community” funded by HIVOS for a year (2010). Meanwhile, other pesantrens such as Al Kenaniyah Jakarta, An Nizhomiyyah Pandeglang, and Al Mizan involved in gender training. ICIP also sends regularly Al Wasathiyyah magazine to the eight partnered pesantrens. This magazine contains issues  concerning pluralism, religious freedom, democracy, and gender equality. In fact, the implication of the program and the dissemination of this magazine is far reaching, particularly in changing gradually the mindset and attitude of pesantren communities.  Pesantren Al Musri, for instance, has a  traditional Salafi background. After having implemented ODeL program,  this pesantren shows a changing attitude on gender issues by applying and practicing equality for their female students to be involved in the board of the student’s leadership at the pesantren.

Despite the program ODeL is officially ended by December 2010, it is clear that this program has resulted very positive outcomes.  However, ICIP and the partnered pesantrens consider that the journey to reach ultimate goals of the program is still in a long way. In fact, the program is now also entering the new highly level of development and challenges. The eight partnered pesantrens face mutual internal and external challenges in continuing the program in the near future. On one hand, the internal challenges of the program are due to the limited financial and resources.  On the other hand, the external challenges of the eight pesantrens are related to education bureaucracy and regulation set by the local government. Based on these concerns and challenges, the eight pesantrens have the initiative to establish a networking among them and possibly to widen the networking to other pesantrens,   while ICIP will assist and supervise it. The networking, Consortium Eight, is to develop agenda and next action plans focusing on resolving both internal and external challenges that focuses on community development and empowerment through education.