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The Sustainability of Islamic Boarding Schools in the Era of Modernization and Globalization

Written By

Muthoifin and Surawan

Submitted: January 19th, 2022 Reviewed: February 24th, 2022 Published: May 11th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.103912

Sustainability, Ecology, and Religions of the World Edited by Levente Hufnagel

From the Edited Volume

Sustainability, Ecology, and Religions of the World [Working Title]

Dr. Levente Hufnagel

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The objective of this study is to determine the strategy of the classical Islamic boarding school in maintaining its existence amid the rapid development of the globalization era and also to find out the curriculum formulations used to equip students to face the modernization era. This research is qualitative, using the deductive-interpretive analysis method, with a sociological-phenomenological approach. The research was conducted at the classic Islamic boarding school Tremas, Pacitan, East Java. The research was conducted at the Tremas classical Islamic boarding school, Pacitan, East Java, which is an open institution for modernization and globalization. The results of the study indicate that the pesantren’s strategy to maintain its existence and sustainability in the modernization era is as follows. (1) Optimizing the management function of Islamic boarding schools by distributing authority in five aspects, namely ma’hadiyah, ma’arif majlis, anasyathoth, finance, and secretariat. (2) Organizing formal education starting from Kindergarten, Madrasah Tsanawiyah (middle-level school), Madrasah Aliyah (high school), Vocational High School, and Ma’had Aly. (3) Carrying out various non-formal and informal educational activities as a characteristic of salafiyah education. (4) Establishing vocational institutions to equip students with skills. (5) Founding Ma’had Aly as an effort to produce a cadre of scholars. As for the curriculum, this Islamic boarding school assembled its curriculum independently based on the vision and mission of Pondok Tremas, absorbed the aspirations of the community, and adopted some curriculum content from the Ministry of Religion and the Education Office. This curriculum contained several characteristics: (1) implanting faith, morality and enriching Islamic scholarship through the study of kitab kuning. (2) Arabic strengthening. (3) Pesantren adaptation by adding general science lessons. (4) equipping students with skills education. (5) enriching the repertoire of Islamic thought by studying the works of ulama ‘Nusantara.


  • Islamic boarding schools
  • traditional
  • existence
  • Islamic education
  • globalization

1. Introduction

Modernization that is sweeping the world today brings various influences in various fields of human life. Modernization is both a challenge and an opportunity in the field of education. Educational institutions that can renovate themselves and adapt to the current demands of modernization will be able to survive and develop amid the onslaught of modernization. On the other hand, institutions that are unable to respond to the challenges of modernization will be crushed [1].

The impact of modernization in the field of education includes a shift in the substance of education to teaching. The meaning of education with moral values shifts to teaching as a transfer of knowledge. Another impact is the occurrence of pragmatism in the world of education. Education as a process of hominization and humanization has been pushed aside by pragmatic values to achieve material goals. In addition, modernization also has an impact on the weakening of the important roles of education actors (teachers, parents, leaders) and three education centers (schools, families, and communities) [2].

In terms of educational institutions, modernization has also given rise to various forms of education. The emergence of homeschooling, vocational education, and others are considered capable of responding to current needs [3].

Traditional Islamic boarding schools (hereafter called pondok pesantren) (salafiyah) as classical Islamic educational institutions inherited from the nation which still exists today are also exposed to modernization. Pondok pesantren have inherent characteristics as their trademark, namely the existence of a boarding school (dormitory), kyai (teachers), santri (students), mosque, and kitab kuning (one of Islamic scripture). In its learning aspect, pondok pesantren also have their learning activity models such as bandongan, sorogan, syawir, mudzakarah and others [4].

Pondok pesantren Tremas in Pacitan, East Java or Pondok Tremas Islamic College or also known as Pondok Tremas, since 1820 has been consistent with its identity as a boarding school that maintains and preserves cultural values as traditional Islamic boarding schools (salafiyah). This cottage is also part of a classical Islamic educational institution that is in the current of modernization which is always open to modernization and globalization. Modernization is a challenge in education that must be lived because this challenge can have both positive and negative impacts. It is positive if you can take advantage of the potential that exists in technological progress and globalization, negative impact if you cannot take advantage and even get trapped in the freedom that deviates from the rules of religion, state, and society.


2. Research method

This study aims to determine the strategy of the Tremas Pacitan Islamic Boarding School in East Java in maintaining its existence in 2020 and at the same time knowing the formulation of their curriculum to equip students to face modernization [5].

This study uses a qualitative research paradigm with deductive, comparative, and interpretative analysis methods. Based on its scope, this research is categorized as educational research, where the researcher focuses on educational problems in the pondok pesantren Tremas Pacitan, East Java about the phenomenon of modernization. Meanwhile, based on the location, this research is categorized as field research where the researcher digs up data from the field, in this case, pondok pesantren Tremas Pacitan, East Java. Judging from the type of research, this research is categorized as a descriptive study [6].

Respondents in this study were the leaders and administrators of the boarding school, the board of the Maarif council, and the ustadz of pondok pesantren Tremas Pacitan, East Java. Meanwhile, the data sources used were in the form of documents, namely curriculum documents, santri documents, facilities, and infrastructure documents. Data collection techniques were carried out by observation, interview/interview, and documentation methods [7].


3. Result and discussion

In maintaining its existence in 2020, pondok pesantren Tremas Pacitan in East Java took several strategic steps, namely: First; Optimizing the implementation of pondok Tremas management through the distribution of authority to all sectors, so that there was no accumulation of authority on the Kyai as the head of the pondok. The distribution of authority in pondok Tremas was divided into five functions, namely Ma’hadiyah, Majlis Ma’arif, Annasyathoth, finance, and secretarial [8]. The implementation of the distribution of authority in the management of pondok Tremas can be visualized as follows:

Second; Carrying out formal education as a response to modernization. Pesantren Tremas currently managed formal educational institutions at the kindergarten level for pre-school children in Tremas village and its surroundings, MTs (Madrasah Tsanawiyah) pondok Tremas which was a formal madrasah under the Ministry of Religion, MTs Salafiyah (Madrasah Tsanawiyah Salafiyah) pondok Tremas which was a typical secondary education institution of pondok Tremas, MA (Madrasah Aliyah) Mu’adalah which was an educational institution that had received recognition and was equivalent to formal SMA (Sekolah Menengah Atas) / MA (Madrasah Aliyah) although it did not fully follow the curriculum of the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Religion, a Vocational institution which was the result of collaboration with ITI (Institut Teknologi Indonesia) Tangerang and Ma’had Aly [9].

In this modernization era, education generally faces several challenges. First, namely modernization in the fields of culture, ethics, and morals as a result of technological advances in information and transportation. The second is globalization in the economic sector, namely the imposition of free trade, which means that competition for alumni in the field of work is getting tighter. Third, the results of international surveys showed that the quality of national education was still low. The fourth problem is the low level of social capital and the essence of social capital is amanah or trust [10].

To face the demands of modernization, educational institutions including pesantren Tremas must carry out various innovations and alternative educational models. According to A. Malik Fajar, currently, Islamic education institutions must design an alternative education model that suits their needs and is expected to be able to answer the challenges of changes that occur in people’s lives both socially and culturally towards a new Indonesian society. Islamic education is education that is idealistic, namely education that is integralist, pragmatic, and rooted in a strong culture [11].

The formal education in pondok Tremas had advantages and uniqueness, namely: first, the depth of religious education and the values of good morals that were attached, as well as being deeply instilled in the spirit of the students in their daily life; secondly all the values of general knowledge were always associated with divine philosophy, especially Islamic philosophy; the third students could apply their knowledge directly accompanied by a teacher (ustadz) in the daily life of the pesantren; fourth, the realization of the processes of learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together to form the character of the students. Fifth, there were moral exemplary figures from kyai figures who became role models for students, so morality lessons at formal educational institutions at pondok Tremas did not stop at the literacy level [12].

Third; Carrying out non-formal and informal education as consistency of pondok Tremas in the Salafiyah education model. To maintain its characteristics as a salafiyah Islamic boarding school, pondok Tremas consistently carried out non-formal education including Madrasah Diniyah and Tahfidzul Qur’an and informal learning including bandongan/wetonan recitation, sorogan, Bahtsul Masail, and others, all of which were a manifestation of pondok Tremas’ consistency as a classical Islamic education institution that was able to survive amid modernization [13].

Fourth; Carrying out vocational education as an effort to answer the challenges of modernization. Pondok Tremas carried out vocational education to equip students with skills in four fields, namely information technology, culinary, automotive, and precious stone crafts so that students were able to answer the challenges of modernization mainly related to the skills sector in the world of work [14].

Modernization is marked by several indicators, one of which is the emergence of free trade; goods that are free to enter and exit do not recognize the territorial boundaries of a country. Even today, the service sector (labor) from abroad is getting easier to enter Indonesia. This indication shows that a workforce with professional qualifications is highly demanded in the world of work in this modernization era [15].

Pondok pesantren Tremas also faced a similar condition. Salafiyah pesantren graduates, who are of productive age, are often considered less prepared to face this competition because they do not have sufficient provisions in the world of work. Indeed, pondok pesantren Tremas was not an educational institution that aimed to produce prospective workers [16].

However, because currently every individual is required to be ready to face competition in the world of work, pondok pesantren Tremas must renovate itself to respond to these conditions. After going through a fairly intense study, finally, pondok pesantren Tremas launched a vocational institution which was a pilot project from the Ministry of Religion [17].

The facts above, seem to answer what was conveyed by Nurcholish Madjid that Islamic boarding schools were obliged by the demands of the life of their students in the future concerning the times to equip them with real abilities that were obtained through adequate education or teaching of general knowledge. In this case too, as is happening now, there must be a choice of majors for students according to their potential. So, the purpose of Islamic boarding school education is the formation of people who have the highest awareness of Islamic religious guidance, comprehensive weltanschauung, and are equipped with the highest ability to respond to the challenges and demands of life in the context of space and time that exists: Indonesia and the world today [18].

Fifth; Carrying out Ma’had Aly’s starting point as an effort to produce a cadre of future scholars who were able to provide solutions to various social problems in the era of modernization, Pondok Tremas founded Ma’had Aly with a concentration of fiqh and ushul fiqh.

Mahasantri (advanced students) in Ma’had Aly at Tarmasi had a superior character that was formed through life patterns, teaching patterns, education patterns, and culture in pondok pesantren Tremas. These superior characteristics were sincerity, simplicity, and high dedication. This is as stated by Prof. Dr. Musa Asy’ari mentioning that Tremas had character, this character then gave birth to real alumni, namely those who had a high dedication, had a simple life, and was not ambitious in this country. One of the characteristics of Tremas alumni was simplicity and sincere dedication to religion and humanity [19].

3.1 Curriculum of Pondok Tremas Pacitan, East Java

The Pondok Tremas curriculum was prepared by the Pondok Tremas Curriculum Development Team. The preparation of the curriculum regained from the vision and mission of Pondok Tremas and accommodated the needs and aspirations of the community and adopted a part of the curriculum from the Ministry of Religion and National Education for formal educational institutions [8] So with the combination of these two institutions, it is hoped that from the point of view of the existence and sustainability of the Islamic boarding school, especially from the point of view of a sustainable society, globalization, and issues related to the Islamic boarding school environment, this pesantren continues to advance, develop, and process to provide benefits to the wider community, both for now and in the future. The following is the process of preparing the Tremas Islamic boarding school curriculum which can be visualized in the following chart:

To analyze the content of the pondok pesantren Tremas curriculum, several aspects can be seen, including:

3.2 Cultivating faith and morality and enriching Islamic scholarship through the study of kitab

One of the characteristics of religious learning in Tremas was using kitab kuning as its reference. Every student was required to be able to master these books. The mastery of the santri towards these classical books was carried out by various methods such as the study of wetonan/bandongan, sorogan, syawir (book discussion), and others.

Learning with the kitab kuning at Pondok Tremas had several advantages. First, students learned Arabic indirectly by adding new vocabularies (mufradat) and Arabic grammar. Second, is the strong culture of literacy. With a focus on the kitab kuning, students had a strong literacy foundation [20].

3.3 Strengthening the Arabic language

Arabic as the language of instruction in the Islamic world was very much paid attention to in Pondok Tremas. This could be seen in the curriculum structure of Pondok Tremas, where Arabic subjects were delivered since grade I at Madrasah Diniyah Ula.

Arabic lessons at this pondok not only emphasize the ability to speak Arabic for daily communication but also on Arabic grammar skills. Apart from learning during class hours, Arabic was automatically learned as long as students took the kitab kuning lessons. All the kitab kuning taught at Pondok Tremas were written in Arabic and the students interpreted each syllable in the book. By studying the kitab kuning in all subjects, students would automatically learn Arabic [21].

3.4 Adaptation of Pondok Tremas by adding general science lessons

General subjects got a portion in pondok Tremas curriculum structure. The pragmatic objective of the inclusion of general subjects in the Pondok Tremas curriculum structure was to equip students to take the National Examination so that they can get a diploma from the state and at the same time be able to pursue education at the next level. Meanwhile, the ideal goal was to open the discourse of the students with useful knowledge in the current era of global competition [22].

The addition of general subjects in pondok Tremas curriculum structure was part of the renewal in Tremas pondok education. According to Azyumardi Azra’s analysis, changes that have taken place in pesantren in response to the expansion of the education system include two ways, namely: (1) revising the curriculum by including more general subjects or even general skills, and (2) opening educational institutions and facilities for the benefit of general education [23].

3.5 Equipping students with skills education

The opening of the vocational program at Pondok Tremas was a form of its responsibility to the facts about the importance of vocational education for santri. The four study program options were presented to the students not without reason but with in-depth consideration and analysis [24].

The first study program was Information Technology. This study program was very important considering that almost all fields of work today cannot be separated from Information Technology services. The second study program was culinary. Foodservice expertise is also currently very popular. Apart from consumptive societal patterns, natural and cultural wealth in the form of diverse foods in the country was one of the driving factors for choosing a study program in this culinary field. The third study program was automotive. Until now, the field of automotive expertise is still very popular and in demand. The development of the use of motorbikes which is rapidly increasing has made the automotive sector unending. The last study program was precious stone crafts. The precious stone industry, which once dominated the country’s creative industry several years ago, with the agate phenomenon seems to be a sign that precious stone crafts still exist [25].

The innovation of Pondok Tremas in equipping students with skills and expertise through vocational institutions was a form of transformation in Islamic boarding schools, as Abdurraahman Wahid’s analysis. He stated that from the start, the pesantren curriculum was more dominant concerning religious lessons sourced from the Arabic kitab kuning. Meanwhile, general subjects are hardly studied at all. However, along with the demands of the times, there has been some pesantren that have included general subjects in their curriculum and have tried to equip their students with various life skills as capital to enter the community [26].

3.6 Enriching the repertoire of Islamic thought by studying the works of ulama ‘Nusantara’

In addition to studying books by medieval Middle Eastern scholars, at the Ma’had Aly level, mahasantri was also introduced specifically to the works of Indonesian scholars. The purpose of reviewing archipelago ulama texts for mahasantri at Pondok Tremas was first to refresh the treasures of mahasantri thought with Islamic thought from the archipelago scholars, second so that the contents of the book can be transmitted and known by mahasantri pondok Tremas, third encourage appreciation of religious classical texts. To preserve the national culture, the fourth reveal the old culture that contains noble values to re-knit the national culture, the fifth explores other old traditions and models that are upheld and adhered to by society and reveal relevant values [27].

The modernization steps in this cottage are by integrating all elements in the education system, both the vision and mission, objectives, curriculum, methods, teachers, and students, to evaluation. Including classic systems that are still relevant and well maintained, and modifying new models that are good for use for the sake of the continuity and existence of the cottage (Table 1).

NoPreserved classic modelNew model used
1Instilling faith in studentsAdaptation of Pondok Tremas by adding general science lessons.
2Pondok classic curriculum and enrich Islamic scholarship through book study.Equipping students with skills education and enriching the repertoire of Islamic thought by studying the works of Nusantara scholars.
3Arabic reinforcement.Strengthening English skills.
4Cultivating good moralsThe cultivation of good character and progressive soft skills.

Table 1.

Steps and tools to maintain the existence and sustainability of the cottage environment.


4. Conclusion

The existence of the Tremas Islamic Boarding School as a classical educational institution amid modernization is part of a classical Islamic educational institution that is in the current of modernization which is always open to modernization and globalization. The responsibility of the stakeholders at Pondok Tremas towards the phenomenon of modernization and all its impacts will determine the sustainability of Islamic educational institutions that have survived for 2 centuries. Facing the onslaught of modernization, various strategies have been carried out starting from institutional and management, development of formal education units, consistency of classical Islamic education models, skills education through vocational institutions, and a cadre of ulama through Ma’had Aly. So that the potential way of the existing process, especially from the point of view of a sustainable society, globalization, and issues related to the environment, can be seen from the curriculum aspect, where this pesantren continues to conduct studies and developments that depart from the vision, mission, and goals as well as community input. so that the existence of Pondok Tremas continues to provide benefits to the community both now and in the future.


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Written By

Muthoifin and Surawan

Submitted: January 19th, 2022 Reviewed: February 24th, 2022 Published: May 11th, 2022