Wednesday 13 August 2008

Islamic School or State School?

A child’s education is always on a mother’s mind and it is something that has crossed my mind intermittently since before the birth of my first child. Of course we want the best for them and we are blessed to have so many options available to us. But how do we ensure we are making the right choice. When Little Lady was three we enrolled her in an Islamic nursery attached to a home-schooling group. The effect on her behaviour was almost immediate (aside from flooding the nursery by opening all the taps on the first day). She was more polite and a lot calmer. She also spent every day pleading with us not to send her back (she was probably way to young for school)

Eventually the nursery was inspected by OFSTED and closed, so after approx two months we withdrew her and six months later she started in her local nursery which she loved. She has just finished reception and is progressing well although she is still adamant that she dislikes school and would rather stay at home. Little Man is due to follow her there in September.

This means that we have to work extra hard to make sure we instil a good tarbiyyah (upbringing/manners) within them. I have noticed she has picked up some naughty words and some cheeky ideas that we have to deal with. However her class is perhaps 60% Muslim, the school serve halal lunches and her teacher has agreed to make sure that any gelatine sweets children bring in at birthdays etc are replaced with a vegetarian alternative. Her teacher is very big on being kind and being nice and respecting each other (for example she discourages them from saying "Oh God" - which I said once and was told off by LL and told to say "Oh beans" instead). I understand this is rare, but I suppose it’s one of the benefits of living in cosmopolitan London. The issue however is environment: what Little Lady is picking up from her peers.

In contrast, my cousin has attended the same home-schooling group mentioned above. The children pray salah together, learn Arabic and Quran and at the same time are studying an accelerated programme of academic learning. My cousin is doing very well and loves his group. One of the differences I have noted in this child is his sincerity and his love of learning, which is not very cool amongst older children in mainstream schools and discouraged. His younger sister spent a year and a half with the group and did not progress at all. Her mum moved her to her local state primary which is quite good and she has progressed better in her reading and writing and is far happier.

Another example that concerns me is a cousin that goes to an all-girls Islamic school. She is doing well academically and in terms of her Islamic scholar course, but I have noticed that many of the girls in this school are obsessed with the way they look: comparing their hijabs, their jilbab’s, their weight, waxing and bleaching their faces at 13 and getting their hair done. This is so NOT what I want for my daughter and I would have hoped that a sound Islamic education would help to move away from this.

I have not ruled out any options (cost permitting). I do feel that the most important thing is to have a strong Islamic environment at home to begin with and set the best example ourselves. The next issue is to make sure that my children are learning about their faith and gaining the knowledge they require to practice it fully without compromising their academic education.
I hope that whatever route we choose that that it leads them to become Muslims with a pride in their faith and people of culture and broad thinking. Finally that they enjoy the process - that a love of learning is instilled in them that colours their whole lives.


  1. Aslamu alakum
    Just picking up on the comment about the 13yrs olds . As a mother of a teen i see this as the age to have intrest in these maters sister. As this generation are developing much quicker than we ever did and therefore will be taking intrest in these maters early by our standards perhaps.

    You have to remember that no where is perfect only jannah and you as the mother have to do your best and constantly ask Allah to guide your kids to the straight path. The basic islamic character will be shaped at home sister by you, you will be the one laying the foundations for the life ahead of your children. I am a home educator but have sent my children to Arabic curriculum private schools, more recently aboard and the whole time i have continue to home education be it part time or here and there. I opt not to send my kids to state schools. Make istikarah and i will remeber you in my duas.

  2. good to hear your thoughts on this sis masha'allah. I remember I used to help out at a school in bradford that was predominantly muslim.. subhanallah the language i used to hear from the kids drove me to distraction.. that was a state school. I suppose this is all something I will have to look into in the future.

  3. Assalam-alaikam Sister Rainbow,
    I agree that this is the age that girls are sensitive about these things, but I am seeing it more than average in this group of girls.

    I agree that that the biggest role in shaping my children will be mine and this is what scares the heck out of me - I am not sure I trust myself to do a good enough job. Homeschooling seems like a good option, but would take alot of guts on my part. I am more worried about secondary school which is ages away and I am adamant the kids won't go to the local school I went to.

    You are right istikharah and dua, I'm grateful for yours.

    Assalam-aliakam Sister Ammena,
    I'm not surprised, as though the parents often push their kids to wear salwar kameez or hijab, they don't focus on correct tarbiyyah, my dad teaches at the mosque and he sees the same sometimes.

  4. Asalaamu alaykum - I am interested in your opinions on a topic I have written about at my blog. Could you check it out and tell me what you think? I just wanted the opinions of some mothers of teenagers to know what sort of things I can do to prevent pop culture from infiltrating my home - and/or to instill in my child a good islamic upbringing. I'm not sure - as only Allah knows - if Islamic school will be an option for me (as we might not have enough money at that point) so I will probably have to either send them to public schools, or there is always the option of homeschooling (which I know nothing about yet but I'm sure I could learn if it was better for my kids. Anyway, if you wouldn't mind checking it out and let me know what you think about the topic.

    Salaam to you.

  5. Assalamualaykum sis,

    Very interesting post. For me as having a 12 year old girl, I did learn a lots and still learn. My children went to state school, love it , no problem and now as we are in non muslim areaI opt to homeschool them.

    Like you said, still I'm nervous sometimes to think what is right and wrong. State school, islamic school or homeschool? I think as you said as well, from my expefience, the important is the upbringing and how we tarbiyah them. It is very important to tarbiyah them to be strong muslim and have a strong faith and always going back to Allah in whatever situation. For me that's what the important knowledge we sometimes forgot. We think by giving them islamic knowledge theoritically it's enough. Learn, finish and that's it.

    If you give them tarbiyah to be strong, stand on their own feet and not pushing too much in term of learning, they will Insya Allah gorw up having strong believe and not easily get influence by others and will always learn and put in practise all the time. That's what I can see from my children at this time. Still long way to go for me.

    But, that's how me and hubby want. Doesn't matter they learn about duniya knowledge, go to work and not being an alimm but keep their faith and believe and always do dakwah to others.

  6. Assalamu alaykum ukhit,
    this topic touch me very dearly and I am of strong opinion about it.
    I love homeschooling my kids and believe strongly in keeping the kids with the parents, teaching them and give them strong tarbiyah. Of course I love for my kids to learn as well to respect, live, talk, converse, eat, share with other people outside our deen. Once your kids have a strong tarbiyah then hamdulillah. they stand on their two feet and be steady fast.
    Only one of my children went to a school for a year. it was an independent islamic school that support home education. We liked it but decided to pull the child out at the end of the year as me and dh believe strongly that children should be raised up at home, within loved ones that can understand them fully and encourage them. Also what's the difference between Muslim school and state school a part that in muslim schools you eat halal food?
    There are so many issues in muslim schools. Just to mention few:
    -not qualified teachers;
    -if the school in ofsted registered the curriculum is the -same as in the state school;
    -very weak Arabic/Islamic curriculum;
    -sometimes you find non-muslim teachers;
    very few resources and at times poor hygiene;
    -no very professionals;
    -kids missing out on visits such as museums, theme parks etc as funding is very low...
    -last but not least very expensive!!!
    I could go on and on.
    As one of the sister said, upbringing and tarbiyah is very important but I like to add the environment where our kids live day in/out is fundamental! As you cannot teach islam hypothetically, it must be taught by example, day in day out.
    May Allah keep us steadfast in our decision to do what's best for our kids.Ameen.
    may Allah makes us be good mothers, carers,educators for our kids.Ameen.
    Whatever decision you will take sis, make dua'as to Allah and Al-Fattah will open a fdoor for you.
    all my dua'as
    wa alaykum assalam