In The Name Of God The Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

France’s first private Muslim school tops the ranks

by FRANCE 24
Source: FRANCE 24

Filed under: Featured,Lifestyle,Society |

French students

By: FRANCE 24

Source: FRANCE 24

Averroès High School in Lille has been in the spotlight for a decade. Ten years ago, it was France’s first private Muslim school to follow the national curriculum. Now, it’s one of the country’s top-rated schools.

The classes may be a source of envy for many a harried high school teacher trying to instil discipline and impart knowledge to a roomful of teenagers interested in anything but spending their days in a classroom.

At the Lycée Averroès (Averroès High School) in the northern French city of Lille, the students – boys and girls, some of the latter veiled – assiduously concentrate on their classwork under the supervision of their teachers.

Over the past few days, the students’ concentration has not waned despite the presence of news cameras and crew at the back of some of the classrooms.

Averroès has been attracting a fair amount of attention in France after the private Muslim school ranked at the top of the regional list of quality schools and was among the top three on the national list.

While most French students are enrolled in state schools, around 15 percent of children in France attend some form of private school.

In theory, all public schools should provide the same quality of education. But as every French parent knows, that is not strictly true. The annual school ranking systems have long featured some of the better-known public high schools from across the country.

Over the past few years, private schools – either Catholic, Jewish or secular, with varying levels of state funding – have increasingly made their way to the top high-school rankings.

Averroès High School’s top ranking has raised eyebrows across France in part because it’s a private Muslim school that has been providing quality education to its students.

Home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, France has often been criticised in the international press for what many see as the country’s uncompromising commitment to laïcité – or secularism. A 2004 law banning the explicit display of religious affiliations in public schools was widely criticised in the international community, as well as by some minority groups inside France, although the vast majority of French people supported the ban.

Given France’s complex history of communal relations with its Muslim population, the success of the Averroès school has provided some welcome good news.

It’s something Averroès High School staff have grown used to over the past decade.

Thirty-four journalists for 11 students

In 2003, when the school opened, it was the first private Muslim school in France to follow the national curriculum. “On our first day, there were 34 journalists, including one from Japan – compared to only 11 students and 19 teachers,” said Amar Lasfar, rector of the Lille mosque and president of the Averroès school, in an interview with the leading French daily, Le Monde.

Ten years later, France’s first private Muslim school has grown to include more than 330 students and has left its old premises at the Lille mosque for a new building that can accommodate up to 600 students.

It’s a commendable rise for a school that has only been “sous contrat” (under contract) with the state since 2008. Under the French system, private schools are either “sous contrat” – with the government paying teachers’ salaries and the school following the national curriculum – or “hors contrat” – not funded by the government and therefore not obligated to follow any particular curriculum.

When asked about the secret to the school’s success, Lasfar is categorical: “Have faith – not necessarily religious faith, but believe in the project,” he told Le Monde.

At Averroès High School, students’ parents appear to believe in the project as much as the staff, with volunteer parents running the school cafeteria, for instance.

While most of the students are Muslim, the school is open to non-Muslims as well.

As for the students, the advantages of the school are numerous. Averroès graduates list the small class size, the studious atmosphere and the staff’s commitment to quality education as the school’s best features.

They also said they happened to have a lot of fun while they were at school.

4 comments
IftikharAhmad
IftikharAhmad

The Muslim community has been passing through a phase of fourth Crusades. The battleground is the field of education, where the young generation will be educated properly with the Holly Quran in one hand and Sciences in other hand to serve the British society and the world at large. A true Muslim is a citizen of the world, which has become a small global village. We are going to prepare our youth to achieve that objective in the long run. A true Muslim believes in Prophet Moses and the Prophet Jesus and without them one cannot be a Muslim. My suggestion is that in all state, independent and Christian based school special attention should be given to the teaching of Comparative Religion and Islam should be taught by qualified Muslim Teachers to make the children aware the closeness of Islam to Christianity and Judaism which will help them to think about Islam, as “A Pragmatic and Modern Way of Life,” during their life time.

A report by the Institute for Community Cohesion found that native parents were deserting some schools after finding their children out numbered by pupils from ethnic minorities. Schools in parts of England are becoming increasingly segregated. The study focused on 13 local authorities. Many of the schools and colleges are segregated and this was generally worsening over recent years. This is RACISM because British society is the home of institutional racism. My statement regarding Muslim schools where there is no place for non-Muslim child or a teacher is based on educational process and not on racism. Muslim children need Muslim teachers during their developmental periods. For higher studies and research, Muslim teacher is not a priority.I have been campaigning for Muslim schools since early 70s because there is no place for foreign cultures, languages and faiths in state schools. Muslim children are victim of racial abuse and discrimination. Neither Muslim community nor the DFE paid any attention to my proposal. Muslim community kept on setting up Masajid for worshiping and for the education of their children. Masajid help Muslim children to recite the Holy Quran without understanding and teach them how to perform their prayers. DFE introduced Multicultural education for the integration and assimilation of the Muslims. The sound knowledge of ones owns language would appear to help – not hinder the acquisition of a second language and bilingual children may even have cognitive advantages and that the ability to speak more than one language is going to be increasingly important for the world of the future. Therefore, Muslim children and young Muslims have potentially a major educational advantage, although sadly this is not being developed well at present. British policy makers now recognise bilingualism as an educational asset rather than a problem. Education plays a central role in the transmission of languages from one generation to the next. The teaching of mother tongues is essential in terms of culture and identity. Arabic is a religious language for the Muslims but for Pakistanis, Urdu is also essential for culture and identity. Blind Muslim children in Bradford are learning to read Arabic and Urdu Braille, by a blind teacher who travelled from Pakistan. Now blind Muslim children are not going to miss out on culture, religion, language and the social aspects and integration into their own community and identity. According to a recent report, Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country's 7000 schools. Muslim schools do well because of their Islamic ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. They teach children what is right and what is wrong, because young children need structured guidance.Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted. You better teach your children in your own schools and let migrant communities teach their children according to their needs and demands. British Establishment and society should concentrate on the evils of their own society and stop trying to change the way of life of Muslims. Muslim community does not want to integrate with the British society, indulging in incivility, anti-social behaviour, drug and knife culture, binge drinking, teenage pregnancies and abortion.  Prince Charles, while visiting the first grant maintained Muslim school in north London, said that the pupils would be the future ambassadors of Islam. But what about thousands of others, who attend state schools deemed to be "sink schools"? In education, there should be a choice and at present it is denied to the Muslim community. In the late 80s and early 90s, when I floated the idea of Muslim community schools, I was declared a "school hijacker" by an editorial in the Newham Recorder newspaper in east London. This clearly shows that the British media does not believe in choice and diversity in the field of education and has no respect for those who are different. Muslim schools, in spite of meager resources, have excelled to a further extent this year, with couple of schools achieving 100% A-C grades for five or more GCSEs. They beat well resourced state and independent schools in Birmingham and Hackney.  Muslim schools are doing better because a majority of the teachers are Muslim. The pupils are not exposed to the pressures of racism, multiculturalism and bullying. There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

Iftikhar Ahmad

London School of Islamics Trust

http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

Jonathan Smith
Jonathan Smith

School is a place where you send your child to learn to understand the world, I am really happy after reading this blog, because there are various places where girls are not allowed to study, especially in Muslim areas.


IftikharAhmad1
IftikharAhmad1

God has created diverse human beings to live in this tiny global village of one family. Creation by its very nature is diverse with different species, different communities, different cultures and languages. These differences represent the beauty and wonder but diversity is sometimes not fully appreciated, resulting in all sorts of clashes. The British society and Establishment must learn to respect and accommodate others, as if in a family.

A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. He/she is supposed to be well versed in standard English, Arabic, Urdu and other community languages, to be part of the British society, as well as proud of his/her cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of his/her literature and poetry.  During colonial days, British did not follow local customs or culture. They didn't exactly "go native". They even forced the native Americans and native Australian to adopt all the evils of their culture and customs. They are still the underdogs of American and Australian societies. At least Australian Prime Minister apologised to the natives for their evil deeds. Brits living in Spain and France don't even bother learning the language of the new adopted country.Frankly suggesting that people don't want to become "British" they should move elsewhere is extremely irritating. Immigrants are in UK because they are needed, it was never an act of charity. Without migration, British economy and society will bleed to death. British culture and customs will undoubtedly change as it has for millennium due to immigration. I am not quite sure why Brits would be worried about that.

I have been campaigning for state funded Muslim schools since early 70s. I set up the first Muslim school in London in 1981. At the time of 9/11, there were only 54 schools and now there are 143 full time Muslim schools and more are in the pipe lines. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models.

In Harrow, state funded Hindu school is functioning and next year there will be a Hindu school in Leicester. State funded Sikh schools are functioning in Hounslow and Slough.

A study claims that Black and Asian pupils are being held back in the classroom because schools are "intuitionally racist". Now a race relations campaigner has called for the creation of "black schools"to stem the avalanche of educational failure and descent into violent gang culture. It is high time that the black community runs its own schools with black teachers and black governors.

Let the minority communities educate their own children and you better educate your children for the well being of the British society.

IA

http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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