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