Wednesday, 30 May 2007

on Islamic Schools

would you send/are you sending your children to an Islamic School, and if so why?
and do you think that qualified Muslim teachers have a duty to work in said Schools, or is better for them to integrate into a mixed environment?

these are just two of the questions i have been thinking about recently, and actually right from the start of my teaching career. it would be interesting to see the range of responses i may receive and i'd rather open this up as a dialogue then go into detail about my views, but i will explain why a)i don't teach in an Islamic School at the moment and b)why i would seriously consider sending my children to an Islamic School.

a) i actually did consider teaching in an Islamic School at one point, but knew i wouldn't be able to do it. from what i know (and i have very limited knowledge of Islamic schools so feel free to correct me if i'm wrong) there are limited resources and training opportunities. of course, the reason for this is poor funding, but as a teacher it would have frustrated me knowing i couldn't teach my kids properly because i didn't have access to a projector, for example. and it would have been frustrating if the teachers i worked with didn't believe in the things i have come to associate with a good lesson- objective led learning, the four part lesson plan, assessment for learning and incorporating different learning styles to name a few (maybe i've just been brainwashed by my teacher training!).

also, i like working with the non Muslim kids and just interacting with them on a daily basis i can see i am making a difference, you know? they ask me things they would feel reluctant to ask Muslims ("if a woman is covering her face, does that mean she doesn't want me to chat her up?").

of course, i can understand why teachers do teach in Islamic Schools in terms of wanting to work in a segregated environment and this is very noble and i admire that, but at the end of the day if you've not been trained properly, maybe you are doing more damage that way, if the children are not getting the education they deserve?
the only way around this is for Muslim teachers to train in the secular environment (which in the UK means at least one year in a state School) so if you don't believe in working in a mixed environment, you wouldn't be able to do that anyway.

and actually, in the UK, i've noticed that some Schools are making it compulsory for all teachers to be qualified, which is a good thing for the children and for the Schools, but i'm thinking once people have gone to the effort to be qualified, would they go back to working in a Muslim Schools, when the pay and the conditions of service are better in state schools? i know that may sound selfish, but training to be a teacher is hard! the PGCE is just a year of intense scrutiny, rigorous observations and stressful research. i don't think money and promotions are everything, but the difference between a qualified and unqualified teacher should be recognised.

things are changing though, especially in the UK (maybe not so much in other countries?) and there are already a handful of good Islamic Schools around,. i can think of one in Manchester, for example. so maybe i will inshAllah get to work in a good Islamic school one day. at the moment though, it would be the fastest way to limit my career prospects. i know that's not everything, though. for one thing, i feel guilty as i know Muslim parents are spending their hard earned money on sending their children to these Schools, and i may have a duty i'm neglecting to ensure these parents are getting what they paid for. a solution to this would be if i opted to work in an Islamic School one day a week, perhaps. i looked into it this year and then didn't pursue it, but maybe next year.

b) i'll try to keep this short, like i promised, as i no doubt will elaborate in the comments section anyway, but i don't want to send MY children to a state School.

actually a lot of the reasons for this have nothing to do with religion. for one thing, i think children are tested so much in Schools today it's disheartening. and it's especially sad when the testing is not for the benefit of the children. the year 9 SATS for example are sole designed to test the School, there is no other function of them whatsoever. a private School can opt out of doing them.

another big big thing for me is the peer pressure. i know it is important that children interact with different cultures, but they can do that in their own time. and i know i said dialogue is important, at the end of the day every parent will do the right thing by their child and it is a personal choice i would make.

if i was to send my child to an Islamic School, however, i would do my research, and i'm hoping things will have improved by the time i actually have children inshAllah. if not, there are other avenues i'm thinking about, grammar Schools, home schooling and Schools abroad to name a few.

to sum up then, although i have said i do not think i would want to teach in an Islamic School at the moment, this does not mean i am opposed to them. parents should have the right to choose. and i don't see what's wrong with state funded Islamic Schools. at the end of the day, it's no different to having state funded Catholic Schools (and noone seems to be contesting these). it is not even that all the children and staff have to be Muslim, just that the rules are on Muslim terms. for example, dressing modestly (which doesn't necessarily have to mean hijaab for non Muslims) more segregation (and separate girl and boys Schools exist anyway and there seems to be no problems with that) and no Christmas Assemblies in state Schools where 99 % of the children are Muslim anyway!

this post was inspired by 'Liya's thought provoking post on Islamic Schooling


Sumera said...

I for one am not too keen on Islamic schools - primarily due to the poor levels of academic results and the lack of opportunity of being able to mix with children of diff faiths, races, creeds etc

Islamic schools do still suffer from the problems rampant in "normal" schools - such as bad language, drug use - not too sure about teenage pregnancy but lets pretend it doesnt happen.

I know some people would love to send thir children to an Islamic school, they b taught in an islamic environment; have breaks for salat etc- but id rather the islamic education was supplementary and done after school.

personal preference!

'liya said...

To answer your questions:

1) I would never send my children to an Islamic school because I wouldn't want my child to have an unqualified "teacher" teaching them - quotation marks around the word teacher because I feel they're more babysitter than teacher. There are too many schools around here that don't hire qualified teachers and that bothers me a lot because I think the Muslim community needs to start setting some standards. If we really cared about our children's education we'd want the best for them, not a random person who has no experience, save for babysitting. Obviously as a teacher myself I really value education and have pretty high standards regarding schooling so just keep in mind that I'm speaking harshly because these are the types of Islamic schools I've seen around here - I don't know about other parts of the world. Once we begin lowering our standards of education, that's when problems begin.

2) I think qualified Muslim teachers should choose where they want to work. Someone once left a comment on my blog saying that I have a "duty" to work in an Islamic school. No, I don't, I choose the school that's best for me and that's a Canadian public school where I can work with students of all races and religions - it's where I feel most comfortable, and it's where I feel students will learn best - in a place where they can all learn from one another.

It's good to hear the Islamic schools in the UK are making it compulsory for all teachers to be qualified. I don't think any kind of religious school should get funding though. I don't want my money paying towards other religions and I'm sure other people would feel the same towards mine. Only when we make the effort to get along together as a community will we ever see a difference in the way our children grow up. I want my children to grow up knowing people of other faiths, not keeping to themselves. If someone is strong in their faith, then they will never question it (and to me that's a parent's role, not a teacher's).

And before this comment gets too long (because you know how passionate I am about this! ), I just want to say that perhaps if Islamic schools (over here) focused more on quality of education and started small, before expanding to the point where they don't have qualified teachers, we'd actually have a good school system. Until then, I don't think anything will be able to change my mind!

'liya said...

Oh, I just read Sumera's comment. She's right, Islamic schools do suffer from those same problems are regular schools, only their problems are more "hidden." I'd rather have the problems out on the surface but that's just my opinion. Teenage pregnancies do happen in Islamic schools, only girls are pulled out of school then, whereas in public schools here, accomodations are made so that these girls can still go to school.

Why not create an Islamic environment in a public high school? The high school I'm working at right now has a large Muslim Student's Association, Eid parties, regular times for salaat (accomodations are made for students who need to miss part of class to pray), and religion is taught as a subject for credit. I guess my thinking is that we can't really run away but need to teach children to get along with everyone - one of the basic things kids should be learning in kindergarten!

P.S This is just my opinion and I hope I haven't offended anyone, if I have, I apologize, it wasn't my intent, I just don't want anyone to attack me for the views I have :)

YMiss said...

Honey Im baaaaaaaaack!

Only half read your post got to the unqualified bit and couldn't take it anymore.

Islamic schools in my opnion are ideas that look absolutly brillant on paper but in practice...not so much.

I defintly wouldn't want my children to go to a segragated islamic primary school or be home schooled. Simply because I feel I would be robbing them of their childhood.

At primary age they don't need to be segragated - they do it anyway. Punishment is having to sit boy, girl but thats a different topic all together.

Hmm now I'm gonna go and finish reading the rest of your post :-)

Lucyp said...

Sumera summed up my feelings on this subject. I prefer to see all faiths etc etc mixing and growing up together and not segregated at all.
The greater the 'cultural soup' we can create, hopefully the less ignorance and misunderstandings there will be about each other.

hema said...

sumera-do Islamic schools have poor academic results? state schools on average achieve about 40% A-C. i know of a lot of Islamic schools that achieve higher than that. the trouble is that these results are often not counted as the schools are seen as too small, eg if there are less than 30 students in the year group.
i've learnt not to judge a school on academic results anyway, as it is too easy to manipulate results to make the school look better. (eg by inclduing GVNQs in the place of 5 GCSEs.
when i do my research on how good a school is i tend to look at which subjects they teach, how much time is spent on each and how many teachers are quailified. academic results don't come into it for me. a lot of schools select on the basis of ability anyway. the problem arises when they do random things like decide not to teach Science, to make room for teaching Arabic, or something, but i think most Schools now are realising that it is is a bad idea to neglect a national curriculum subject.

i appreciate that Islamic schools suffer the same problems as state schools in temrs of behaviour, and it doesn't help that a lot of parents send their children to such Schools as a last resort, if the children are excluded or behaving badly in other types of schools.
but i don't think it's at the same level. in fact i know plenty of non Muslim teachers that teach at faith Schools precisely becasue it is not at the same level.

"i'd rather the islamic education was supplementary and done after school"

i think the argument would be that Islam is part of every day life and not something that is supplemntary and done after School.

but i would defend your right to send your children to whatever type of school you prefer. the question i want to put to you is do you think parents should have the right to choose?

hema said...

liya jaan (ask one of your pakistani friends what that means!) you don't have to aplogise for your views, and noone here is mean, don't worry!

"I think qualified Muslim teachers should choose where they want to work"
of course, it's a persoanl choice. when i said i thiinki have a duty to do it, i meant me persoanlly and i hope you didn't think i meant it as a comment to all teachers. students in state ("public") schools need good role models too.
it just feels to me, that if the qualified Muslims aren't working in these Schools, then that's why the Schools are forced to resort to unqualified teachers.

"If someone is strong in their faith, then they will never question it (and to me that's a parent's role, not a teacher's)"

you've hit on an excellent point i forgot to mention. i think toomany parents send their children to Islamic Schools and think they have done their duty. the role of the parents in this matter can ner be replaced.

ymiss, i'm glad your internet is up and running again.

"I defintly wouldn't want my children to go to a segragated islamic primary school or be home schooled. Simply because I feel I would be robbing them of their childhood"

i'm not sure i understand how sending them to an Islamic school is robbing them of their childhood.

primary education is an area i neglected in my post, to be honest, do thanks for bringing it up. it's interesting, as i know some parents who send their children to an Islamic primary school, because they're at an impressionable age, and then a state high school because their mature and able to make up their own minds.
and some send them to state primary schools and then Islamic high Schools as they are more concerned about gender interaction. interesting.

the problem is, lucy, that not everyone is as tolerent as you, unless of course you are really a spy here to check up on us "radical Muslims!". i'm kidding, any friend of iMuslim's is a friend of mine, but i'd better not mention her name, i might get upset and start writing bad poetry again!
for a lot of people, Muslims are fine as long as we know our place and compromise our faith to fit in with everyone else. the problems seem to arise when people want to start wearing Islamic dress instead of school uniform, or when they don't want to participate in sport because of gym skirts.
i do think it is important to mix though, as we all live in the same country and that's one of the reasons i work where i do. but i can also see why some parents are losing faith in the state School system and opting out.

why am i fighting the battle for Islamic Schools singlehandedly, where has everyone else gone!

AnonyMouse said...

Hmmmmm, I think it depends on where the school is and what the community there is like.
My dad's dream is to open up an Islamic elementary and high school, and he knows of places where there've been absolutely amazing Islamic schools in terms of both academic stuff and Islamic things overall.

However, the couple Islamic schools in my old city suffered from the same things mentioned by the other commentators: lack of funding and of setting standards has led them to be less than rip-roaringly-successful, and the kids there have the same problems as do kids in the public school system (and sometimes they're worse! :S).

As for Muslim teachers working at Islamic schools, I do think it'd be best if real qualified teachers could go to the Muslim schools and slowly improve what the schools are like; but I have nothing against Muslim teachers working in a 'mixed' environment. Their job is to teach, and as long as they do it right, may Allah grant them success!

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

no, there's no probs with blogger! I was the first one to comment...and extensively I might add...and my comment didn't show up(grrrr). I was just checking back to see how the discussion progressed. Ah well, I guess the world will never know now.

hema said...

mousey, you are being homeschooled right? would you say that you have lost out on your childhood on a social level, or on an academic level?

daisy- i'm sorry to hear blogger ate up your comment. i hope i didn't lose out on any others, espeically people who send their children to Islamic schools or attend one, it would have been nice to hear from an insider's point of view.

i think i could have guessed at your opinion anyway, seen as you opted to send your children to a private school while you were here! would you have done the same thing in America? or is just the British system you were appalled at?!

Sumera said...

Yes, parents should have the choice of where they wish to send their child - so if they want an Islamic school for them; then fair do.

Currently in the UK anyway, schools are judged by their academic performance amongst other markers - and if I have the choice of sending my child to a public state school, an Islamic school and a private school - i'd probably pick private school since up here they usually achieve good results and give a well rounded education.

My issue with Islamic school is that people assume they provide an Islamic environment and that it allows them to apply it throughout the day and not just go to classes after school.

My comment re supplmentary classes isn;t that they apply Islam outside of school hours, but rather their learning of Islam is done outwith because I believe teaching Islam to your children is not something you can just leave up to the school to do. Its the parents responsibility through their home life, and their actions.behaviour to demonstrate that Islam is integral to what they do, and although their Islamic ed is done outside of school hours, it iself is not an afterthought. (Think of it as Sunday school)

Its like when parents expect the school to teach their children about sex - its the parents responsibility and as such they should take charge of it themselves.

Also, going to a state school and knowing that yes its not easy to get breaks for your salat and having to mingle with other people helps when they eventually go to Uni and/or begin work as they know that these things are not standard but are seen as exceptions - may possibly help them learn how to work around it and that life itself isn't neatly tailored to them, it needs to be asked for and done themselves.

hema said...

that was very well argued sumera, i must say. you almost convinced me :)
i have to agree with you about private education, it is looking like an attractive option. for one thing, there is more of a culture of wanting to learn and achieve, there has to be with the amount of money you pay! in a typical comprehensive, there is a huge problem of making learnning look attractive. you don't want to know how may examples i have of two friends coming up to me separately and saying of each other "can you move me away from him/her in class, he distracts me and if i move s/he will think i'm being a swot!

Anonymous said...

In my city in the UK (im not going to name it, but i think you should be able to figure it out)some Islamic schools are quite good, theres one where (as far as i know) all or most teachers are qualified. the GCSE results score an amazing 100 per cent A*-C, as i usually see their results in the local paper. BUT i see two issues that still have to addressed:

1. Most of these kids end up going to state colleges (except those that go to Darul Uloom out of thier OWN choice). And it is generally (not allways)the case that they see this chance as a time to make up for 'being locked up'. So they end up doing what even state school children may dare not to do.

2. these institutions do not serve the community, though they cry out to be inclusive. They are instituions that serve the 'elite'. I know friemds and family that want to send their children, but cant afford it. Or that palces are allocated according to who you know.

Theres a lot more I could say but I will restrain my self.

Lucyp said...

I assure you i am not a spy, the fake nose, curly wig and moustache i wear is ..erm.. for medicial reasons.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

I balanced working and studying our final year in England just to be able to continue sending my oldest to an Islamic school.

I married a Saudi specifically for my (then future) children. I wanted them to grow up in a Muslim country because I didn't want to deal with these issues.
When our scholarship came up and we went to England, my kids were very small (ages 3 and 1). I let my oldest go to a government reception class only to have to later deprogram her from Santa Claus, Easter bunny, and why her male teacher is married to a man (which he advertised in class quite often).
At age 4, when they had started teaching her about other religions in school, I hadn't even begun to teach her about Islam yet since she'd been too young. We spent 1 term till I removed her and sent her back to the Islamic school (which had by then expanded and included through year 2).
I have no problem with my children mixing with non-Muslims, half their family aren't Muslims. But until my children are grown, confident, and know who they are and what their beliefs are, I don't want their fundamental beliefs being challenged daily by the everything and everyone around them showing how different they are from everyone else.

hema said...

annoymous- i realy can't figure out which city you're talking about seen as you are ..erm annoymous. i'd be interested to know what else you have to say about it thouugh..

lucy, lol that outfit rather suits you actually:) even if you are a spy, you're a very funny one so you're welcome on here any time!

daisy- i know i knew all that, but thanks for sharing it with everyone else. i'm sure educating your kids in saudi must have its own set of problems but,as i said in the post, educating kids abroad is a serious option for me. there are some very good schools in Paskitan, for example, it's just about doing your research.

so, does anyone want to hear about my plight with the template change? probably not but i'm going to tell you anyway.
i wanted one with three columns and blogger doesn't offer it so i thought how hard can it be to get one from someone else. but i had to revert back to the classic template . i never appreciated how easy new blogger is compared to that! you have to get your hands dirty messign around with HTML tags! i manged to figure out how to add links, so will add those back in soon, but can't seem to add 3rd party codes, so if anyone can help me out i would be grateful. if not, i might just go back to the safe option.

Anonymous said...

Solve it?

The city is not up north nor down south. The Muslim population is mainly from India. And we have many Shuyuk, Alhamdulilah.

Another point:

I forgot to say that they have a very hard works ethic and if you dont meet their requirements then you may not get exam entry, which is rare anyway but it does happen from time to time. Hence why they have great results, like some private/grammer schools.

Saabirah said...

I may have to stop reading your blog, I can't focus on the words. Unless you're absolutely in love with the new look please change it to how it was?

YMiss said...

Had to double check the url to make sure I was at the right blog! I like the simplicity of this one, but defintly prefereed the old one. Even if it was cramed full of links!

'liya said...

I think it's pretty! :)

Umm Maymoonah said...

Its hurting my eyes! Hema have mercy on us! PS my link doesn't work

hema said...

hurting your eyes?? you should try reading the code when i'm trying to customise this thing!
aww i was learning so much about HTML this way, and even managed to add third party codes- you just shove them into the main code where you want it to go. i wonder why i've always been scared of HTML, i'm likeing my new found hobby of being a cyber geek. i might go and spend my free periods next week with the IT department learning more.
thanks for your sweet comment, Liya,but i'll change the template back. how can i say no to saabirah and umm maymoonah!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe ppl are so against Islamic schools. Who needs kuffaar proposing bans on them when you have Muslims like this?

hema said...

i don't think anyone has said they would ACTIVELY support a ban on Islamic Schools, even if they don't agree with them in principle.
although i belive very strongly in Islamic Schools, i can accept that a lot of Muslims don't, and this in no way makes them bad Muslims. in fact, i think some people have put some very strong cases forward here. for example, there are very few Islamic Colleges, and i have seen first hand what happens when SOME of these children get their first taste of freedom at that age.
also, the problems most people have is that the children may be losing out if the teachers aren't qualified or the Schools aren't teaching important subjects like Science which limits options later on.
it's interesting, as in my (limited) experience, i have found that most people sending their children to Islamic Schools didn't attend one themselves, and the ones i know who did attend Islamic Schools have all said they would never send their children to one.

this worries me slightly.