"This should serve as eye opener for countries like the United States that we can integrate Islamic education in the mainstream," he said.
Neri said instead of funding more troops to deploy in wars like Iraq, the international community should support children’s education.
Neri was in town recently to join Australian Ambassador Tony Hely, who visited projects of the Australian-funded joint initiative of the Department of Education dubbed Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM).
Hely said majority of Australian aid funds for the Philippines go to Mindanao, and a big portion of it goes to education intervention.
Neri said education is an important intervention and support for peace in Mindanao.
Islamic values and Arabic, taught only in the private madaris before, is now offered as the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (or ALIVE curriculum) in public schools, as one of the interventions in the BEAM program with the Department of Education.
ALIVE is the integration of the Islamic values and Arabic language in the basic education curriculum for Muslims studying in public schools. It is among the key actions provided in DepEd's Muslim Education roadmap.
DepEd Order No. 51 series of 2004 provided for the ALIVE curriculum in public schools, which was developed by a group of Ulama representing Muslim communities.
Classes started in school year 2005-2006 in pilot schools in select areas in Mindanao and in Manila, in areas where there is a Muslim populace. Classes are composed of at least 30 pupils.
ALIVE is taught not only in areas where Muslims are a majority, such as communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In Malayabalay City, almost 200 Maranao pupils are enrolled in ALIVE classes under two asatidz at the Malaybalay Central Elementary School. The teachers receive honorarium from the local government.
Ustadja (female Islamic teacher) Layagan Madayan, one of six madaris teachers at the Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in Davao City, said children of Muslim families now have a chance for easier access to madrasah education in the public schools.
Asatidz like Madayan went through training on language proficiency and teaching strategies.
Neri and Hely observed the classes in the school last Wednesday. Around 32 percent or 600 of the school's 1,900 pupils are Muslims, hence, it became the regional pilot school for the program when it opened in 2005.
In the curriculum, Muslim students in public schools still take RBEC subjects such as English, Math, Science, Filipino, and Makabayan. In addition, he said, they also take four Islamic studies subjects: the Qur'an; Seerah (Life story of the Prophet) and Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet); Aqueeda (Conduct) and Fiqh (Jurisprudence) and Arabic.
A "Standard or unified Madrasah Curriculum" has also been crafted for private madaris seeking government recognition.