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BismiAllah

If you want to keep a houseplant, you must learn her personality. Sometimes she isn't comfortable in certain environments and will need to be moved to a different location. If she likes it, you will see the improvement. If not, try again until you find the right spot.

Such, it seems, is the case with today's educational situation. An excellent analysis (masha'Allah) of the situation entitled "
Is Education Failing?" lays the cards out on the table very well, but it is becoming a bit more complicated each day.

I cannot add much more to the the above-mentioned article, but it is the final comment which has unveiled yet another crack in our foundational structures. The issue is one of morality. Where do our children learn morality?

At home of course! But what if our children aren't learning what they need to learn at home? What if their fathers aren't in the picture because they are too busy sipping on coffee as they discuss the politics of back home? What if their mothers are just too busy with other things to notice the problems or are simply at a loss for solutions?

In an effort to try to understand this all better, I put the question to my uncle, an excellent teacher of many years having taught in both public and private schools, "How can we teach children morals and values??" His response earnestly led towards trying to get the family back in order, but his words were tinged with despair as he described the resistance of some parents in embracing the role of an educator at home. It seems like a hopeless situation for many.

My optimism was soon renewed as my uncle told me the story of one student who inquired about what he missed in class during his absence only because he knew that when he went home his father would ask him what he had learnt that day. This simple and habitual question will give this young man, in the least, an appreciation for knowledge. Often, the best way to teach is to take small, yet consistent, steps. It is no surprise that this is also one great way to learn.

Our discussion regarding education continued for some time, but I still felt unsettled. Surely there must be way out of this web of deteriorating morality. So I asked him, "Do you think it's good for children to attend public schools or Islamic schools?" His answer was very insightful, as I had not thought of this before. He said that for the first few years Islamic school is good because it instills a strong Islamic identity in children. After that, they should be in public schools so they experience a struggle. Our young need the struggle in order to appreciate and learn to value the depths of our own moral and ethical Islamic teachings. Essentially, when the foundation is solid, the struggle serves only to strengthen the rest of the building.

The day after speaking to my uncle, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with a good friend. Knowing that she has a healthy background in education, especially early childhood education, I asked her which she thought was more beneficial, Islamic school or public school. Her answer was quite the contrary, clearly reflecting her own experiences. She said that it didn't matter if their early years were in a public school because children aren't very susceptible to peer pressure at that age. However, once they get older, they should be in Islamic schools, especially in their teenage years. Some youngsters simply cannot handle the strong conformity pressures of public schools today.

The one view is that of equipping children with the necessary tools and forcing them to use them in the real world, and the other is that of shielding them until they find themselves.

Like houseplants, it's a case-by-case decision. My hope is that after good years of nurturing them, they will survive in the wild. But alas, the matter is not in my hands. As the brother reminds us, "It's a huge favour from Allah Subhana wa ta'Ala that He has protected us from falling into the many traps of academia, while so many others just get washed away in the current."

Thank you Allah!

4 comments:

Faraz said...

You know, I completely forgot about this. I wrote "I may continue along this theme with a later post, as I haven't even started on the social aspects of high school education. That's where things really get messy." And I never got around to following that up. Incidentally, my students just disappeared on me one day without warning. Oh well.

I'm quite impressed with what I've seen of the Muslim schools in Montreal and Ottawa. I don't know much about Toronto, but there are way more such schools there than there are in Montreal and Ottawa combined.

In terms of morality, it's hard to say. With my own nephews who have started in a Muslim school, it's hard to distinguish between what they learned in school and what was taught at home. Either way, they're turning out okay so alhamdolillah regardless.

I'm not sure if I agree that kids aren't susceptible to peer pressure in their early years, but there's definitely more pressure on conformity as one gets into the high school years.

As you said, it's a case-by-case basis; there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution, except that if we do our part in following the example of the Prophet and his wives as parents, insha-Allah things will work out.

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum

I notice you use the term "Muslim school" as opposed to "Islamic school" -- is this deliberate or a habit?

Too bad for your students. The parameters for the teacher-student relationship seems blurred if at all there. I guess that's why Imam Ghazali wrote about it in detail.

Toronto does have a lot of Islamic schools. The ones I've seen are decent, but I'm aware of some internal politics with them which tends to irritate me a bit because it affects the quality of education.

I agree, I don't think young kids aren't susceptible to peer pressure, but definitely less so than teenagers (which is also what the sister was getting at).

Ameera said...

It's unfortunate that I have to say this but... we need Islamic schools in Paksitan, too in place of the mess the private schoolars have created in terms of morality. My cousin recently attended his first 'prom' so that should be a reasonable indicator.

Ofcourse, private school here are in the minority, most schools being the low-standard Government school (where the upper middle class and elites would never dare send their kids).

Islam-centered schools are propping up but only a few are doing a good job at it by ensuring things such as teachers in proper Hijab or Zuhr prayers in Jama'ah inside the school. A good example in India would be the Internation Islamic School run by Dr. Zakir Naik's foundation.

For the West, I think there certainly should be Islamic schools or Muslim schools - I don't really see much of a difference between the two. However, the best way to go about it swould be to impart pure knowledge from the Islamic point of view all the while also ensuring that students get to interact with those of other (public) schools in constructive activities like debates or sports.

That seems like the best case scenario to me , in the current circumstances where there's this huge communication gap with Muslims within the Western communities.

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum Ameera

Thank you for sharing your insights with me.

However, the best way to go about it swould be to impart pure knowledge from the Islamic point of view all the while also ensuring that students get to interact with those of other (public) schools in constructive activities like debates or sports.

That sounds good. And theoretically, it could work. But it's much easier than said. The problem being is that we are failing in imparting that Islamic knowledge, which I think often is more than memorized words. It includes a lot of action too. Our deen's theory is only relevant because of our practice.

I recently read an article about Pakistan madrasas trying to come up with a Shariah legal system since they feel the government fails. But there seems to be a lack of balance everywhere we turn. SubhanAllah. My brain cramps when I think of these things too long.

AlhamduliAllah, it's not that bad here. The values of the general population are pretty decent (in my opinion), but they need to be reinforced with a healthy home environment where we learn the meaning of taqwa and servitude to Allah, insha'Allah.

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]

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Inspiration

"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]