Netherlands: Muslim schools aiming to improve

Netherlands: Muslim schools aiming to improve

They are hotbeds of Muslim extremism, principals pinch tax money and students don't learn Dutch. Islamic education is known as bad. Now they themselves think it's time to clean house. "The time to stick it out is past. We'll make a clean sweep," says principal Yusuf Altuntas of ISBO, the umbrella organization of the Islamic educational system.

With 42 elementary schools and two secondary seconds, and about 10,000 children, the Muslim education is a factor of significance. Four schools as been called 'very poor' by the school inspection. A dozen are 'poor', the rest are adequate, and some even score above the average on national tests (Cito)

Altuntas says that in Turkey Islamic education even banned, while in the Netherlands it's simply allowed, and that they're extremely thankful for that. It's even more of a reason to increase the quality. In 2012 not one of their members would be 'very poor', he promises.

Tomorrow the organization will have its annual speech in which it will detail the plans for the future and in particular for education among Muslims. A year and a half ago the new administration came in. The 19 school boards were offered a drastic approach. "They could accept it or not. But if not, then we'll immediately break off. They accepted it. The previous administration were the pioneers and they achieved a lot, but now it's time for the next step."

The ISBO website has been giving a continuous overview of which schools are good, poor or very poor. "Painful, but it should also generate a healthy competition between the schools. We'll therefore also have a prize for the best school," says Altuntas.

The schools have resounding ambitions. "We want with our schools to have immigrant children excelling, and offer education in a safe environment. We are convinced that students who learn by us do not become dropouts. No, we don't celebrate Christmas, but we do educate to good citizens. Islamic education is the answer for youth hanging about and problem youth. We teach norms and values because we can reach them from within Islam."

In 2002 the AIVD (Dutch Intelligence) published a report which said that some school administration were spreading radical-Islamic ideas. Also, some schools kept direct contacts with 'foreign organizations with political-religious aspirations'. The school inspection established that same year that students were 'in danger of becoming isolated from Dutch society'. "The AIVD called Islamic education a thorn in the flesh. Dreadful. But since then such signs have disappeared. Muslim schools have absolutely nothing to do with Muslim extremism." He says as an example that 55% of the teachers are non-Muslims.

One of the first feats was the dismissing of one of the members: the As Saddieq elementary school in Amsterdam. The school did not comply with the new code for good administration. A problem with which the Muslim educational system has been contending for a while. "We could hardly find good administrators. Among other things it led to self-enrichment by the chairman of the SIBA schools in Amsterdam. But with a new approach we're going to prevent that."

One of the most important agreements is the implementation of a monitoring system linked with harsh sanctions. The foundation administrations must painstakingly follow the activities of the school principals and the quality of education. Guidelines form the criteria of the school inspection. Not only the Cito scores, but especially also good accounting of the educational budget and policy.

Altuntas: We shouldn't just wake up when the inspection is coming. It will certainly not be non-committal. It's alarming that there are many poor schools within the Islamic educational system, while Islam sets quality in everything above all.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

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