A Malaysian father was shocked to find out that his daughter's school has allocated more hours for religious studies and other related classes than Mathematics and Science classes combined
Writing in a Twitter thread on the first day of school on Monday, 10 January, Rejaie Arbee posted a photo of his daughter's school timetable and said there are 5.5 hours of Pendidikan Agama Islam (PAI) and other related classes in a week.
In contrast, the father of two said, "That's the same as English, and more than Math and Science — at 2.5 hours and 1.5 hours respectively."
"This is not [a] religious school ya. This is [a] Sekolah Kebangsaan (public school)."
Rejaie said he lumped Jawi and Bahasa Arab classes together with religious studies because non-Muslim students do not take these subjects
According to a photo he uploaded in the thread to show the legend of the timetable, "BA" stands for Bahasa Arab, "T" is Tasmik (Quran recitation class), "AQ" is Al-Quran, "J" is Jawi, "U" is Ulum (knowledge).
The latter three subjects use the PAI textbook, while Bahasa Arab and Tasmik have their own textbooks.
There are 11 such periods in total, while Bahasa Melayu has 10 periods, and English has eight periods.
Mathematics and Science have five and three classes, respectively.
Speaking to SAYS, Rejaie said his daughter is eight years old and is currently in Standard One due to the "rearranged schedule" by the Ministry of Education.
The father lamented that PAI should not be separated into so many subjects, especially when non-Muslim students only have one subject — Pendidikan Moral — during those periods
He also questioned why Bahasa Arab is necessary, before asking whether the students are Malays or Arabs.
He concluded the post by saying it is okay to have PAI subjects, but not at the expense of Mathematics and Science subjects.
"Bahasa Arab is fine, but let the kids choose for themselves," he wrote.
At the time of writing, Rejaie's Twitter thread has garnered over 2,695 quote tweets and retweets combined.
Some people were upset by Rejaie's remarks, which led to one netizen managing to find out the name of his daughter
Meanwhile, Rejaie's viral posts have since sparked a conversation about whether religious studies should be taught in school.
Some people also spoke about alternatives to SK schools, such as Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools.
A Twitter user concurred with the view of Rejaie as he thinks school should not be a place to teach religion.
"PAI and related subjects should be reserved for outside school hours, such as [at] home or religious schools," he said in a post with over 3,300 quote tweets.
"Keep schools limited to the necessary and important. In the educational context, PAI is not."
He told SAYS that he is not asking the authorities to abolish PAI but keep it outside official school hours.
On the other side of the spectrum, a lot of netizens were against the view of reducing the number of hours of religious studies in school
Netizen @erinshaiful said she learnt solat and history of her religion in school, which she said she would not have learnt anywhere else as her parents were busy.
She said she disagrees with the view to abolish PAI in school.
Her tweet went viral with 9,700 retweets and 17,700 likes.
However, one Twitter user noted that nobody mentioned abolishing PAI subjects in school as Rejaie's original tweet merely mentioned the misplaced priority in religious studies as compared to other core subjects.
Today, 13 January, "SJKC" trended on Twitter, with many Malay netizens vouching for Chinese vernacular schools.
A majority of them noted that both Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools have PAI subjects whenever there are Muslim students.