Private Islamic schools are religious-affiliated or faith-based schools, associated with the religion of Islam. There are many private Islamic schools in Canada, including in Toronto (and the GTA), Mississauga, Brampton, Scarborough and Ottawa. While each has its own focus and approach, they’re united in their aim to provide students with a strong Islamic education, and to instill in them traditional Islamic beliefs.
Islamic schools don’t require students to be Muslim. In practice, though, most of their students are Muslim, and they’re expected to participate in religious practices during school.
Some Islamic or Muslim schools focus specifically on teaching Arabic or Persian. These schools don't teach any other secular or non-secular subjects. These Arabic-Islamic schools normally are afterschool or weekend programs. They offer classes for kids of different ages, anywhere from once to several times a week.
Islamic schools, like other private religious-affiliated schools, have a dual-track curriculum. They focus on both secular academics and religious studies while providing a balanced education for their students.
Secular curriculum: Islamic schools provide a strong secular education. Dedicated instructors teach subjects such as math, science, English, French, and history, in a rigorous and engaging manner. These subjects are typically taught on their own, as part of a segregated curriculum. Sometimes, though, they’re integrated with the religious curriculum. For instance, they might be taught in an Islamic context, as part of an overall integrated curriculum.
Most Islamic schools don’t offer music or dance. Some more traditional schools don’t offer drama either. Otherwise, they teach all other core secular subjects.
Religious curriculum: The religious curriculum in private Islamic schools is meant to give students a solid foundation in the Muslim religion (or religion of Islam). Students closely study the Quran. By examining the Quran, students learn about Islamic law, and apply its lessons to real life. Some students even memorize this holy Muslim text or large portions of it.
Islamic studies also focus on monotheism, the tenet that there’s one and only one all-powerful God. They teach the attributes of this God, and the connection between God and Islamic law.
Sometimes students also learn about the Muslim religion through stories. These may be stories about prophets or other important figures. And, in many schools, students learn about the history of Islam and muslim culture.
In almost all Islamic schools, Arabic is a required subject. This can be very challenging, especially since it uses a different alphabet and script than English, French, and other Romance languages.
That said, many students find this very engaging and rewarding. Learning a second language can also have enormous benefits. For instance, it can lead to improved literacy skills and a deeper understanding of certain dimensions of language, such as grammar. Most students don’t become fluent in Arabic, though.
In most Islamic schools in Canada, especially more traditional ones, students pray, either in a mosque (which may be on school grounds) or in school. There are five daily Muslim prayers. Students often pray once or twice a day at school, and are asked to complete the remaining prayers at home.
Students participate in Islamic holidays, such as Ramadan. During this holiday, some students may be required to fast from dawn to sunset. Most schools also have other dietary restrictions. Students aren’t allowed to eat pork, and they’re forbidden to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes at school. They’re also strongly encouraged to follow these rules at home.
Many Islamic schools have rules about attire or dress. Girls may be required to cover their heads and to wear long clothing, such as dresses. They may also be asked to avoid wearing jewellery (at least that’s visible). Boys may be asked to wear long pants.
Islamic beliefs and values
Islamic schools instill in students traditional Islamic values—the values codified in the Quran. These values include honour, trust, honesty, and justice. Students are also taught proper manners, including how to conduct oneself, and how to act towards one’s neighbours, as indicated by Islamic law.