The government will increase tuition on Islamic studies in public schools in the southern border provinces under a project to attract more Muslim students to state-run schools. The number of hours for Islamic studies will increase from two to 10 a week in state-run primary schools, and to 12 hours a week in high schools in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and Satun.


The schools, supervised by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) in the South, introduced Islamic studies two years ago in a pilot project which helped increase enrolments to those schools.


OBEC deputy secretary-general Somkiat Chobpol said students studied material about the historical and religious affairs of Islam. Students expressed a keen interest in the subject, judging by the low levels of absenteeism.


But spending only two hours a week on the studies was not enough to make the students eligible to receive a religious certificate.


That could encourage students to go back to studying at ponoh or tadika schools, which offer longer hours, Mr Somkiat said.


He said expanding Islamic studies hours would not compromise their education in other subjects.


”In fact, the students will be more enthusiastic about coming to school,” he said.


In 2006, 142 public schools in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Satun, and Songkhla adopted Islamic studies as a subject. Up to 132 schools have joined the project this year.


Yesterday in Narathiwat, authorities took a group of journalists from 14 countries in the Middle East and Africa on a tour of the province


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