In Focus Headlines
|Written by Sadia Virk|
|Sunday, 15 July 2012 18:50|
With the number of fulltime and weekend Islamic schools in North America continuously increasing, Razi Group, in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), is now offering the Islamic Teacher Education Program (ITEP), an online professional development program for educators in Muslim schools.
As Dr. Nadeem Memon, program director and course facilitator for ITEP explains, the purpose in establishing the program was two-fold:
“The first purpose was to help raise the quality of education in Islamic schools in North America and beyond,” he says. “One of the negative criticisms we face in our schools is quality, as there is a real gap in teacher training. Not that our teachers are under qualified, rather there is a gap in the particular nuance of understanding what Islamic education is.”
This gap became more apparent to Dr. Memon as he began to look closely at Catholic and Jewish schools and the university programs designed to train their teachers. While such programs have long been in place for these faith-based schools, nothing similar existed for Islamic school teachers.
While completing his PhD in History and the Philosophy of Education, focusing on the vision of Islamic schooling in North America, Dr. Memon started the Muslim Education Project in 2006, a research think-tank on issues of education, which later led him to develop ITEP, with the help of Razi and OISE.
The one-year certificate program trains Muslim educators in Islamic Pedagogy and the principles and philosophies of Islamic education, linking educational thought from classical and contemporary Islamic scholarship with the current trends in education. Offering three modules, Islamic Education: Purpose and Pedagogy; Designing Curriculum for Islamic Schools; and Implementing Islamic Pedagogy in Schools; the program seeks to provide teachers with a framework of “why, what and how to teach from an Islamic perspective.”
Upon completion of the three courses, participants graduate with a Professional Learning Certificate from OISE.
“We all know as Muslims and as educators that there is a deep practice of teaching and learning in our Islamic tradition, but we haven’t captured this in our schools,” Dr. Memon says, explaining the second reason behind ITEP.
“This program is not just to benefit our schools, but also to raise conversations on the perspectives Islam can provide to benefit people anywhere in the world. There are so many different perspectives on education – Aboriginal, Waldorf, Montessori. We want to contribute to the wider discourse of education through ITEP, to articulate and capture the theory of Islamic education and explore how it can benefit the field of education.”
After kicking off in January 2011, the program is currently in its fourth cohort of students. With new semesters starting in January, September and May and running simultaneously, each of the three online modules feature video lectures, live sessions, course readings, discussion boards, as well as assignments and learning activities.
Camilla Efendieva graduated from the first cohort of ITEP in December 2011. A primary school teacher living in the United Arab Emirates, she previously completed a postgraduate certificate in education from the University of Gloucestershire before enrolling in ITEP.
“My passion is Islamic education, or rather, education from an Islamic perspective and that’s what motivated me to take this program,” she explains. “I was extremely excited to find the course perfectly suited my thirst to explore this subject in greater depth. It’s very relevant and practical.”
ITEP administrator Zaynab Ahdab points out that although the program is based out of Toronto, the fact that it is conducted online allows students from all over the world to take part.
“We have participants from Finland, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, North America and other countries,” she says. “There is a wide recognition that ITEP transcends community or country barriers, and has a relevance to all Muslim educators and Muslim students in whatever education system they may find themselves.”
Dr. Seema Imam joined ITEP as an instructor earlier this year. An associated professor at National Louis University in Chicago, as well as former board member for the Islamic Schools League of America, she has completed her doctorate in Curriculum and Social Inquiry and is currently working on a second doctorate in Islamic Education. Dr. Imam feels that although teachers at Islamic schools face a lot of challenges, related to organization, curriculum and professional development, the future looks promising.
“Within my lifetime I have had the pleasure of watching us go from a few Sunday Schools to fulltime Islamic schools, and now we have seen the opening of a higher education institution,” she shares. “I see that we will be making continuous strides towards the dream of yet more development. My vision includes well-developed curriculum and a full accredited teacher education program Insha Allah (God willing).”
Dr. Imam’s sentiments are echoed by Dr. Memon’s, who in addition to facilitating ITEP also works as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto and at Wilfrid Laurier University. He aspires to see ITEP continue to grow in the future, offering not only an accredited B.Ed in teaching training in addition to the ITEP certificate, but also advanced education for leaders in education theory. His hope is to see all the different Islamic schools come together to realize that there is much to learn and share from one another.
“I think a lot of Islamic schools live in little communities and everyone is trying to do everything on their own, and so everyone is struggling,” he says.
“We don’t realize there is such a big community of schools to benefit from. We have a lot of successes in a lot of different places but we aren’t connected, so we don’t know of these successes and aren’t able to build on them. We must find the time and resources to reach out to connect, to benefit, share and collaborate with other schools.”
For more information about the Islamic Education Teacher Program, please visit: islamicteachereducation.com ■