Article Op-Ed

Public School or Islamic School?

Public School or Islamic School?

Author Khadijah Maimuna by

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Photo: Elizabeth Albert

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One of the biggest decisions all parents face: where and how to educate their children. For Muslim parents, this is a particularly difficult question with two common answers: Islamic school or public school. The advantages of an Islamic education should be evident, but it is important for Muslim parents to ask themselves the tough questions about such private schools before enrolling their children. Asking those questions might help parents reach the best decision for both themselves and their children.

To that end, here are some of the issues to consider before sending your child to an Islamic school:

  1. Are you willing to drive your kids to and from islamic school every morning and every afternoon? Even if the school offers bus service, you will most likely still have to drive them to the bus stop.

  2. Are you willing to pay for textbooks in addition to tuition?

  3. Are you willing to pay even more money for extracurricular activities? Not because you really want them to become soccer stars or Tae Kwon Do masters, but because they need to learn to play and interact with kids that do not share their faith and ethnicity. One of the criticisms parents hear about sending their kids to Islamic school is that their children will not learn to interact in the real world--that their children will be sheltered and then “go crazy” (with alcohol, drugs, the opposite sex, etc.) when they get older and have more freedom.  There may be some truth to this, so children who are “sheltered” at Islamic school must have opportunities to interact and work with children of different backgrounds and faiths outside of school.

  4. Will you be able to handle any issues with your child’s teachers or administrators delicately? You may have personal relationships with some of the school staff. You may have to put some of these relationships at risk when raising a sensitive topic with a teacher.

  5. Do you understand that YOU are ultimately responsible for your child’s Islamic education?  The teachers will impart Islamic information, but what your children end up actually practicing will depend on what happens at home. Your children will be steadfast in their prayers if you pray regularly at home. Your children will respect their elders if they see you respecting yours. Your children will refrain from swearing if you refrain at home.

  6. Are you okay with the school and teachers perhaps teaching more conservative interpretations of Islam than what you practice? You may not interpret some ideas exactly the way the teacher does, so you may have to explain various nuances to your child. For example, you may have to supplement at home with these: having Thanksgiving dinner is not haram and celebrating the Fourth of July does not make you a heathen.

  7. Are you prepared to respond to this criticism from family and friends-- “We went to public school, and we turned out okay. So why are you sending your kids to Islamic school?” It is a legitimate question that you should ask yourself.

After reading these questions, you may ask yourself why anyone would possibly choose Islamic school. The answer is that the return on the investment is immense.

When you overhear your young children debating Islamic issues, breaking into Quranic recitation out of the blue, receiving a cheerful greeting of “Asalamu’alaikum!” from their teachers, and know that your children have performed Dhur salat in jama’a at school - these things make Islamic school worth it.

Both Islamic school and public school have their own advantages, but we have to remember that neither is fool-proof. Those advantages are never advantages on their own. They are only advantages when families take an active role in the lives of their children.

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