Australian Islamic Education Conference

9 March 2016

Islamic schools in countries such as Australia, UK, USA and Canada have flourished in size and number over the last three decades, with these schools creating communities and playing an important part in the lives of students. Research has shown the predominant reason for parents to send their children to an Islamic school is to provide them with an Islamic environment in which they can maintain their identity, learn about Islam and be in a comfortable environment to practise their faith. Given the rise of Islamophobia and racism, the role of these schools has become even more significant.

In collaboration with Griffith University, Al Siraat College organised the inaugural Australian Islamic Education Conference to start a national and international conversation in relation to the challenges, issues and opportunities facing Islamic schooling, particularly within a Western context. Over 200 people attended the conference including teachers (the largest group), school governors and school leaders, leading researchers and academics in the area of Islamic education / schooling, Islamic scholars and our international guests.Some of the themes and ideas presented (amongst many others) included:

  • How ‘Islamic’ is the Islamic Curriculum in Islamic schools. As Dr Peter Jones identified, whilst schools taught specified units of Islam, the real question is how much Islam permeated the wider curriculum.

  • Recognising and celebrating the different flavour towards Islamic education that each school has to offer.

  • Ensuring schools have an Islamic vision, which provides direction and guidance for the organisation. Importantly, this vision needs to be implemented and adopted by the school community.

  • Adopting an Islamic Behaviour Management model that is based on the way that our beloved Prophet ﷺ made tarbiyah of people.

  • Ensuring Islamic studies are relevant, contextual and engaging for students. Importantly, there is a need to empower our students with the knowledge to understand and deal with the more difficult issues faced by Muslims. An Applied Islam curriculum delivered by Dr Mohamad Abdalla has been found to be highly engaging and relevant to the interests of students.

  • Teaching content and using resources with an Islamic World View to ensure that students are nurtured with Islamic values.

  • Mapping rich and authentic Islamic content to outcomes based on the Australian curriculum. This will infuse Islamic content into the existing curriculum, thus removing the dichotomy of the ‘bolt on’ approach in which Islamic content is taught only in Islamic classes.

  • Issues in teaching Arabic, with possible solutions around computer aided language teaching and learning tools.

What was particularly encouraging is that there was a strong feeling amongst conference delegates on the need to continue this conversation, and importantly set structures in place to ensure that we can work together to develop solutions to the many issues and challenges that were discussed. Indeed, schools in Australia are well funded and well placed in relation to the resources they have, putting us in an excellent position to contribute and work together.

Undoubtedly, the conference raised more questions than providing answers. As intended, this is a start of a conversation and these are healthy questions that we look to unpack through collaborative efforts to coming up with resources and positive strategies for our Islamic schools to further progress and prosper.