Almost all children now believe they go to school to pass exams. The idea that they may be there for an education is irrelevant. Leading companies are struggling to recruit teenagers with basic skills because schools have been turned into “exam factories”, business leaders have warned. Many employers had been left “disheartened and downright frustrated” by poor levels of literacy, numeracy, communication and timekeeping among school leavers and graduates. Overemphasis on sitting exams and hitting targets throughout compulsory education had robbed children of the chance to develop the “soft” skills needed in the work place. Business leaders believed the emphasis on passing exams at school meant children failed to develop other skills, including the ability to hold a conversation, display good work ethic, turn upon time and apply basic literacy and numeracy.
State schools have become exam factories, interested only in A to C Grades. They do not educate children. Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability. Employers have moaned for years that too many employees cannot read or write properly. According to a survey, school-leavers and even graduates lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. More and more companies are having to provide remedial training to new staff, who can’t write clear instructions, do simple maths, or solve problems. Both graduates and school-leavers were also criticised for their sloppy time-keeping, ignorance of basic customer service and lack of self-discipline.
Even Muslim schools have also become Exam Factories, only interested in A to C grades just like state schools. There is a positive co-relation between faith, culture and language. Faith needs culture and languages to flourish. According to a research, children who study the language and culture of their parents may achieve more and become more involved citizens. Migrant Muslims speak variety of languages. State schools as well as Muslim schools give lip service to the community languages but majority of Muslim schools completely ignore or discourage community languages. The ex- chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools Mr.Idrees Mears, a native revert totally rejects the teaching of Urdu and other languages. The same opinion was expressed by the head of state funded Islamia School as well as by the ex- Chairman of the Nida Trust. They are not in a position to understand the needs and demands of the bilingual children because they are themselves monolinguals. It is a well known fact that social and emotional education comes with ones own language, literature and poetry. Pakistani children suffer more than other children. They speak different languages at home and when they go to the Masajid they are exposed to Urdu and Arabic. At schools they are exposed to English and at the age of 11 are exposed to European languages. Now European languages are introduced at Primary level, but Urdu is totally ignored and discouraged by the state as well as by the Muslim schools. English, Arabic and Urdu must be introduced at nursery level so that the children can grow up with three languages. We have already lost three generation and the fourth one is in the process of losing its linguistic and cultural identity by not learning Urdu. The Muslim community is suffering because of social and cultural problems of high rate of divorce, run away young girls, low academic achievements, drug addiction, drinking, teenage pregnancies, disrespect for their parents and elders, forced marriages and honour killings. It is all because our youth are cut off from their cultural roots and languages. I blame state schools because they have never been serious in the teaching of Urdu, Arabic and other community languages.
An American research reveals in 2005 that bilingual learners with no education in their first language take longer to learn English and a bilingual learner with a good education in their own language do best of all. Muslim schools are committing the same mistake by ignoring community languages. Even OFSTED is not serious about the importance of bilingualism and bilingual education. Their priority is the teaching of English language. No body is denying the importance of English as an economic language but equally important is the first languages of the children for social and emotional literacy.
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.
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.
I regard Muslim schools not just Faith schools but more or less bilingual schools. I set up the first Muslim school in Forest Gate London in 1981. Special attention was given to Standard English, Arabic and Urdu languages along with National Curriculum. But due to its closure, it could not become a model school for others to follow. Islamia School, founded by Yusuf Islam became the model school where there is no place for the teaching of Urdu and other community languages and only Arabic is taught.
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.
Majority of Muslim children are from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India They need to learn Arabic and Urdu to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Urdu is a lingua frankua of the Muslim communities from the sub-continent. The young generation learn Urdu from Indian/Pakistani films, more than two dozens TV Channels and couple of radio stations broadcasting round the clock in Urdu/Hindi. They can speak and understand but are unable to read and write Urdu literature and poetry. Bilingualism and bilingual education should be part and parcel of each and every Muslim school. The problem is that most of Muslim schools are running by British educated Muslims who are made monolinguals by state schools. They do not feel the charm of bilingualism. They have never been given the chance to learn Arabic and Urdu along with English. An English man is proud of his language, culture and faith or no faith. In the same way a Muslim should be proud of his faith, languages and cultures. In my opinion at least three hours a day must be given for the teaching of English, Arabic, Urdu and other community languages from nursery level. The teaching of Standard English will help them to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity.
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.
The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
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.
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.
London School of Islamics Trust