REPORT ON VISIT TO ISTANBUL FOR THE ISLAMIC EDUCATION CONFERENCE AND VISITS TO SCHOOLS – 10 TO 15 APRIL 2019

1.    INTRODUCTION

The AMS KZN office learnt via the website of  the Islamic Conference which was being organized by Yekder (a Turkish NGO involved in the promotion of education) in collaboration with the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University (Topkapi Campus) in Istanbul on 12 and 13 April.

A notice was posted on the AMS Principals’ Whatsapp group as well  on the National AMS EXCO chatgroup. There was a good response from Principals and eventually the following principals and educationists embarked on the trip:

Mr Suleman Khan – Principal – Al Ghazalli College

Mrs Shireen Khan- Subject Adviser – GDE                                             

Mr M I Ismail – Principal – Phoenix Muslim School

Moulana Imran Khamissa – Port Shepstone Islamic School

Mrs Hajra Allijan – Principal – As salaam

Mr Zain Muhammad – Principal – Al Falaah College

Dr C Naroth – HOD – Islamic College Newcastle

Mr Ismail Naroth – Board member – Islamic College Newcastle

Mr Imtiaz Saib – CEP Qurtuba Academy

Moulana M A Rajah – HOD – Islamiat – Qurtuba Academy

Qari A Y Lockhat – CEO – Islamic Educational Organsiation of S A and Chairman AMS (SA)

Ml Bilal Kathrada – Founder of It Varsity and Compukids

Mr M A Aboobaker – DP – Anjuman Islamic School

Mr Edris Khamissa – Educational Consultant

Mr Ebrahim Ansur – AMS

Mr Hamid Kazi – AMS

Mr Zubeir Hassam – Principal of Madressa – Leicester, UK.

In addition, the group also had spouses – Mrs Khamissa, Mr M Allijan and his 3 children, and Mrs Kathrada.

The group comprised 23 altogether.

The group left on different dates. A group of  14 left via Turkish Airlines on 9 April and were joined by 4 who boarded in Johannesburg. Qari Lockaht and Edris Khamissa left a day later while Imtiaz Saib and Moulana Rajah left on 8 April, Zubeir Hassam joined the group on the morning of the 10 April.

 

2.    VISIT ARRANGED BY MAARIF FOUNDATION – THURSDAY 11 APRIL

Before the departure of the group, contact was made with Mr Ebrahim Seedat, Chief Strategy Officer of the Maarif Foundation in South Africa to assist in arranging a programme of visits to schools in Istanbul.  The group records its sincere thanks to Mr Seedat for facilitating this leg of the journey with the Maarif Foundation HQ in Istanbul.

The Maarif Foundation arranged for the group to visit the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Anatolian Imam Hatip High School in the Mahallesi area of  Istanbul, a government-funded institution which has an enrolment of 400 learners with students from 63 different countries. 220 of the learners stay in well-appointed dormitories on the campus. Originally built in 1873 as an orphanage, the building was converted to a school around 2012.

This is a school which has a very strict admission policy, with the criteria for entrance being above 70% which has to be maintained by the learners for the duration of their stay at the school.  There are two external examinations which learners write.  At the end of the final year (Grade 12), learners write a university-entrance examination and are placed by the government on the basis of their results.

The general impression gained of the learners was that they were well-behaved and appeared to be happy and comfortable in their school environment.  While they were attired neatly, there did not seem to be too much emphasis on enforcement of a strict uniform policy or on hairstyles. Corporal punishment is banned but learners who misbehave are referred to the school counsellor.

From the curricular perspective, it must be mentioned that the Imam Hatip schools are the only government schools where Islamic education into the curriculum.  The Turkish school system has several different streams of schools from vocational, social sciences, STEM schools and the Islamic integrated schools which were intended to prepare learners who wish to pursue Islamic theological studies.

At the Grade 9 and 10 levels, the course comprises general subjects with specialisation in Grades 11 and 12. The school day starts at 7h30 and ends at 15h45, with 10 periods of 40 minutes each, a 10 minute break between periods and a lunch break of an hour.

Additional classes are held in the afternoons and evenings for weaker learners.

In terms of facilities, the school is very spacious with wide corridors and individual lockers for learners and is very well-maintained. This school, like the others that we visited, had a common room for learners to use during breaks. These common rooms were carpeted and well-furnished with sofas and chairs.

Sport is not given too much prominence but those who are interested join clubs which are run by outside specialists.  This may be due to lack of facilities as land is very expensive in Istanbul.

What the group found noteworthy was the wide range of co- and extra-curricular activities such as calligraphy, photography, music (part of the national curriculum), robotics, chess, art and different codes of sport such as netball, hockey, football, basketball.

Of special interest was the projects which the students were engaged in as part of their co-curricular activities. The conversion of a petrol-engine car to an electric car and the construction of a model aircraft using recycled parts were two such projects. While tutors assisted the students, this was very much a student-centred effort.  That the students were well on their way to embracing the new technology spawned by the 4th Industrial revolution was evident in how they used a 3D printer, parts for which they had sourced themselves, to build components which they used in their projects.

The group was also very impressed by a commercial project which the Life Sciences students had set up, with an insect repellant produced from plants in the school gardens being marketed not only in Turkey but also abroad.

VISIT TO THE MAARIF FOUNDATION HEADQUARTERS

After the school visit on Thursday 11 April, the group was taken to the headquarters of the Maarif Foundation where we were treated to lunch.

The offices had a self-service canteen which caters for the staff as well as guests.  This was a facility that the group also found at the university where the conference was held as well as the schools that we visited.

The Maarif foundation was set up in 2016 by the Turkish Government to promote education in Turkey as well as in other countries. The underlying objective appeared to be to neutralize the influence of institutions belonging to the Gulen movement, which the Turkish Government regarded to be a terrorist organization responsible for the abortive coup in 2016.

The Vice-president of the Maarif Foundation and his senior officials addressed our delegation and provided a background to the work that the foundation was doing in Turkey, where they had assumed control of schools formerly belonging to the Gulen movement, as well as in more than 60 countries abroad, where at last count over 540 schools were established.

The foundation also had a dedicated curriculum development section which focused on the Cambridge and IB examination systems.

Questions that the delegation posed centred on the integrated Islamic-state curriculum model as well as the dilemma that AMS in South Africa faced with some schools which had links with the Gulen movement being long-standing members of AMS.

The response from the Vice-president was that this matter needed to be discussed with the  Director of the Maarif Foundation in South Africa, Mr Adem Koc, who was in the best position to advise on this matter.

The session ended with an exchange of gifts and a promise to continue networking in the interests of the promotion of education.

3.    INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC EDUCATION CONFERENCE : FRIDAY 12/SATURDAY 13 APRIL 2019

On Friday 12 April, the group attended the plenary opening session of the International Islamic Education Conference held at the Sultan Ahmet Vakif University (Topkapi Campus).

The opening address was in Turkish but with the provision of translation-enabled headphones, the gist of the address was easy to follow.

This was followed by a presentation on the misunderstood role of madressah education by Professor Mohammad Talib of the University of Oxford. As the South African concept of the madressah system in schooling  differs vastly from the traditional madressahs, which are strictly what we would refer to as Darul Ulooms, apart from the interest factor, there was little in this address that was relevant.

The breakaway sessions, unfortunately, were not very well organized, with most of the presentations in Turkish and without the benefit of translators.

Presentations which were of interest were:

1.    Islamic ethics of Teaching by Khosrow Bagheri Noaparast of the University of Teheran

2.    Ibn Arabi’s Theory of Education in Contemporary Perspective by Bushra Furqan of the Qaidi-i-Azam University, Islamabad

3.    The Darul Huda Model of Educational System in Kerala by Ahammed Ishac Chembrika Ebrahim

4.    Constructing the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in Light of the Role of The Messengers of God in Islam by Dr Khairil Husaini Bin Jamil of the International Islamic University, Malaysia

5.    Islamic Education in West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries by Zongo Saidu (in Arabic – key points translated into English).

            PRESENTATION BY DR ISHAAQ EBRAHIM – DARUL HUDA KERALA

            (Report by M I ismail – Principal  - Phoenix Muslim School)

Darul Huda Islamic University was established in 1986 and meets with Government Standards.

It is one of the Leading centres of Islamic Learning in Kerala. It follows the traditional  Dars System. It has been providing quality  Islamic knowledge for three decades. It has been providing Classical Islamic Knowledge and the Social Sciences. The system has been modelled through the Contemporary  and Selfless Visionary Scholars to meet the Challenges of the Contemporary world.

Religious Education has had a Deep Impact on the Religious System. This University was established in 1986. It follows a Unique Curriculum and has Gained Popularity through those Great Illuminaries.

The campus is a source of Energy with Religious Service Educating Community, Social Service and Empowerment etc. Darul Huda as stated above has a Unique Curriculum that can compete with Global Standards. The students spend  Twelve (12)  years at Darul Huda studying Quran , Hadees , Aqida , Fique and Other Related Disciplines. The students are also Trained in Arabic , Urdu , Regional Languages and Modern Social Sciences. All essential skills are well nurtured.

The University also gives Training in Public Speaking , Creative Writing and Personal Grooming. ,

The Darul Huda institute is a Beautiful Modern Building with a Library which Inspires  Research , Computer Laboratory , Scientific Designed Classrooms , a Hostel and a Lovely Musjid. It has Thirty Two (32) Colleges in and outside Kerala affiliated to the main campus. The University has a Post Graduate Programme which is structured with Different  Departments including Hadees and Science, Comparative Religion, Quran and Science , and Aqida and Science.

For the past Eight (8) years it has been an Official member of the League of Islamic Universities - Cairo. It also has signed  a Memorandum for the Purpose of Academic Co - operation with a Number of  Universities in Different Countries. Their Certificates are Approved.

They also made an urdu video for the Economic Challenged Muslim in the Northern Parts to promote The Religion.  They have a  Fully Fledged Girls University as well.

            VISITS TO SCHOOLS : MONDAY 15 APRIL 2019

            (Report by Mr M I Ismail – Principal – Phoenix Muslim School).

On Monday 15 April 2019 , the group continued with our school visits. This visit was arrange by Brother Enis Sener, a director of two independent schools in Istanbul, through kind arrangement with Edris Khamissa. 

The first school we visited on Monday was the Kadikoy Anadolu Imam Hatip School. The school caters for local  learners attending daily and those boarding in the hostel. It has   630 learners altogether, with a complement of 70 educators. The dormitory can house up to 400 learners. It has a number of huffaaz among its learner population.

Learners are accepted and admitted via an entrance examination. In spite of the religious education as part of its curriculum , most learners opt to go to universities and follow academic fields. This is so that they could obtain good jobs. However the school has produced about 30 hafiz and some of them are employed in the musjids as Imams.

The school has beautiful buildings and is well equipped. It has four(4) laboratories, a fully stocked library with computers and tables  and forty classrooms as well as a study hall, a recreational centre, a common room to relax and to study, a  lecture theatre and kitchen for meals. It has four floors with lifts.

The school focuses in technology and human and global values. the emphasis is love of creation. It provides also for sports and recreation in addition to PE, with specialists.

Another notable feature is that learners are encouraged to do research. They believe in seeing and learning. Learners do go on excursions.

This is one of the top performing schools encouraging learners to take part in quiz competitions etc. Their outstanding learner together with the educator  and school were recognised at a special awards function. It was a proud moment for the school. The school has a bright future and  this augurs well for the country.

There is not much emphasis on dress and hair and formal  uniform. However learners are neatly attired and do wear casual track suit uniforms.

The school is more than fifty years old and are in the present buildings for the last six  years. Music is one of the subjects offered and the learners welcomed us playing beautifully their guitars with their educator singing and others joining in.

The educators are supportive and  inspire the learners.

A group of learners converted a petrol car to an electric one. They also do other science-related activities outside the curriculum building things  using creativity.

I was very impressed with  the school, staff and learners. A striking feature is the entrance hall and reception area which is huge and the corridors are wide with lockers for learners located in the corridors. 

           BILGICAGI KOLEJI

           (Report by Hameed Kazi – AMS KZN Coordinator)

Bilgicagi Koleji, an independent school with an Islamic ethos, run  by the Sener brothers, Enis and Junaid, was the second school visited on Monday 15 April.

The school uses a human-centered model which focuses on developing an adapting new technologies in education. Learners are integrated in the social culture and provides them a value system which impact on spiritual values, the environment and peace.

The school is a co-ed primary school. The school building is spacious with a large foyer area. The Principal of school went to schools in other countries and used information to improve school spaces, teaching and learning. Parents are happy with the new religious focus. In the past the hijab was banned. Learners seem to be very happy at the school. A very good rapport exists between teachers and learners

The curriculum is set out by the Ministry of Education. A strong inspection system is employed to ensure that the curriculum is taught. Range of methodologies are used in their teaching. There is ongoing professional development. The Quran is taught at the school as part of the curriculum. Learners are encouraged to read the Quran as a tool to improve mental ability.

There is a very easy going loving environment. Independent schools have limited    funding from the Govt. Smart kids get a discount and there is an entrance exams for all learners for entry into high school. The school has a guidance counsellor. Subjects include Maths, science, Religion, English, Turkish literature, speed reading. Different methodologies are used. Overall much emphasis is placed on aklaaq and good values.                                                                 

          The meals are cooked in the kitchen of the school. Calorie-carbohydrate-protein calculations are made while preparing food   

          menus and meals are preferred to support the physical development of the learners. In the kindergarten level, morning nutrition,

          lunch and afternoon breakfast are provided. In the primary school level, morning breakfast and lunch are given. Other class

          levels include a rich lunch menu.

            

Play area                                                                    Salaah room

                       

                                                                     On the notice boards

                

           

IRFAN SCHOOL

The group also visited the Irfan School, an imposing independent school which is run very professionally.

The director of the school provided an overview of the business model that is used in setting up independent schools in Turkey. He did indicate that there was huge potential for the development of private schools in the country.

Unfortunately, because of time constraints we could not do justice to gaining more information about the school but we were very impressed with the facilities, the attitude of the students  and the commitment of the staff.

SOME OTHER INPUTS FROM MEMBERS OF THE GROUP:

Conference

Moulana Imran Khamissa


1. Myths about madrasah Education –

Do not allow “others” to define us. Misunderstood in terms of its role

2. Presentation on taxonomies from Quran brought in a new dimension
Tilaawat - Recital
Taleem - Education
Hikmah - Wisdom
Tazkiya – Purification of the soul


Islamic Theory and methodology
Ethical dimensions of teaching ,Morality and Akhlaaq
Principles of Islamic ethics on Teaching
Principles are prescriptive
Personal responsibility versus social responsibility

Principle 1 Teachers relationship with others
Transcending ones intention
Maintain one's dignity
Consistency
Principle 2 -Care about pupils’ development
Attending to different level of pupils needs
Principle 3 - Maintaining  pupils’ dignity
Providing Equality and celebrating inequality.
Dealing with differences be tolerant
Epistemological tolerance

School visits

Hospitality and warmth overwhelming.

Learners seem to be excited about being in school.
Schools face the challenge of providing Islamic studies.

Learners have the option of learning Quran.
Motivational quotations posted all over the school
Small numbers, specialist rooms, encourage training of mind games
Robotics featured prominently in all schools.
Notice Boards with powerful messages.
Smart boards in use in all classes with the necessary support material
5 minute video clip on overall vision mission and operation of school  informative
Nationalistic .

Sad to learn that Islamic Studies is optional at some schools

Maarif Foundation Visit
Arafa means to  recognise
Alima means to know  Arafa higher – deeper knowledge
Not to pass information only –need to know  purpose of our  existence
Levels of knowledge ilmul yaqeen, ainul yaqeen and haqqul yaqeen

Layers of education
Seeing, doing, feeling –eg rain
Hadith ((People are like mines))
Purpose of schools recognize ability, talents of each learner
Develop character of children
Maroof common good everyone is on
Universal values maths science geography good of humanity
Global perspective
Urf local culture don't ignore cultural values
GLOCAL
Compass metaphor -Keep one foot tied to own religion other rest of the globe
No imperialist style - Not to erase local identity
Keep national identity
Priority languages, Sciences and Moral development

When good people are passive bad would be active

Teacher more important than curriculum

Dr Charmon Naroth – HOD Islamic College Newcastle

Overview:

Attending the conference with peers and colleagues in education was a professionally rewarding experience. It was stimulating and empowering to escape from the often isolating daily work of teaching and school management. Meeting people with different cultures and dispositions enlightened one’s way of thinking in your own life and in your field of study.

The Conference:

Unfortunately, in terms of logistical arrangements, the conference was not well organised. However, the conference offered an opportunity to learn from and collaborate with other academics and educators, to build networks and links for future collaborations within our own schools and across the world.

The presentations that impacted me most profoundly:

Islamic Ethics of Teaching – A good reminder of our purpose as educators, and that teaching is amanah from Allah SWT. Our teachers need to be exposed to this perspective regularly.

Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (based on Quran and Hadith) – a useful resource to ensure that we focus on deen when planning all educational activities, including planning of lessons and assessment tasks. I intend to incorporate this into training sessions with teachers.

School Visits:

All the schools that we visited were very well-resourced. Given this disparity in infrastructure when compared to many of our Islamic schools, it would be a major challenge to transfer some ideas to our own schools. This challenge is further exacerbated by the fact that our education systems and school systems are rooted in specific cultural and political contexts. However, there were many practices that we could adopt and adapt for use in our schools. These are some of the lessons learned:

• We need to think more strategically about the physical arrangement and furniture in our classrooms. A well-thought-out and organised physical arrangement promotes student engagement and creates a positive learning environment

• The vegetable gardens at the first school and selling of the apples at another school (both for charity) are good examples of ongoing projects that can help to instil compassion and encourage our children to accept Sadaqah Jariyah as a way of life.

• In all the schools that we visited the learners appeared care-free and happy. I also noticed that the teachers did not exercise the extreme levels of control and supervision as in most of our schools. Although I do not have enough information about how the Turkish schools manage discipline, this observation has led me to consider the discipline policies at most of our schools, which is based on extrinsic rewards and consequences, as opposed to helping learners to appreciate the intrinsic satisfaction that learning can bring. At the least, we need to have conversations about how we can

balance a culture of discipline with pastoral support, and adopting an educational rather than a managerial approach to behaviour.

• The schools place much emphasis on the holistic development of the child. Their education system focuses time and resources on learning more than just academics, and also encompasses physical, social, emotional, artistic and spiritual aspects. This will undoubtedly prepare children to become well-rounded adults. This is certainly lacking in my own school and many other Islamic schools in South

Africa.

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