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In the Islamic College of South Australia's official website, the current principal, Robert Mayze,writes that he believes that the institution he works at has students that are "valued as individuals who have a right to academic, emotional, social, physical and spiritual nourishment", and that this method of dealing with the students is how they prepare them for becoming successful Australian Muslims.
This institution is owned and managed by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, a prestigious organization that operates similar schools in other locations in Australia, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.The Islamic College of South Australia has very strict policies on behavior management, bullying, student and staff protection, drugs, proper Internet usage, homework and resolving concerns, all of which are delineated on the school's official website.
The students that attend this college come from a wide range of backgrounds; the only unifying thread between them is that they are Muslim, and in search of an Islamic education that will give them a good future, as well as open their minds. According to Saeed, 2003, the number of Muslims in Australia counted in the census equaled to about 1.5% of the total population. Around 50% of that 1.5% is below the age of 24, accounting for a very young Muslim population. The students of the Islamic College of South Australia represent the future of this Australian Muslim population, hence educating these students to the best of this institution's capability is very important, as well as ensuring that
these students are given everything that they need in terms of facilities and services.
In Islam in Australia, Saeed states that most of these Australian Muslims are working class, hardly the movers and shakers of Australian society, but providing students with a proper education and a good social background could enable them to step into leadership roles in their adult lives.
The Islamic College of South Australia has four distinguishable divisions: the kindergarten division; the primary school division, years 3 through 6; the middle school division, years 7 through 9; and the senior division, years 10 through 12. Each of these divisions has its own curriculum, which is geared towardhelping students become more well-rounded individuals. The focus of most of the curricula happens to be in improving their students' literacy in the English language.However, the Islamic College of South Australia states that numeracy and proficiency in the Arabic language are other academic foci. The co-curriculum of this institution includes focus on sports, physical wellbeing, academic competitions, excursions, and the celebration of Muslim holidays such as Eid al-Fatr, the holy month of Ramadan and Harmony Day. Co-curricular activities help the students apply the things they have learned in their academic classes, as well as allow them to express themselves creatively, and experience things that they learn about in their classes.
The kindergarten division is composed of students whose ages range between 3 ½ to 5 years of age. The curriculum for this division is, according to the kindergarten handbook provided on the Islamic College of South Australia's website, aimed at aiding students in the honing of their English language skills.
English literacy is the main academic focus, as mastery of this will enable the school to level the communication playing field between its multi-cultural students, many of whom do not speak English as a first language due to their varied backgrounds. The school also states in the primary handbook that they believe that working on the students' emotional capabilities, together with the development of their social, physical movement and basic academic skills, is important. The kindergarten division is quite significant to the success of the students in the Islamic College of South Australia, as it sets the tone for the rest of the student's time in the institution.
This focus on English literacy is continued in the primary and middle school divisions, where the subject is taught in a way that students from non-English speaking families can learn as much as possible and become more proficient in the use of the language. Primary school English is focused on listening and speaking, writing, and reading and reviewing. Arabic language is considered an important course, and is taught to both primary and middle school students, together with their Islamic and Quranic studies, which are important to the students' religious educations. The Islamic College of South Australia aims to help its students to be able to study the Quran in Arabic, the language of Islam.
Primary students, have other basic academic subjects
such as: mathematics, with subtopics in measurement, spatial sense and geometry; science: life systems, energy systems, matter and earth and space; study of society and the environment: social systems, societies and cultures, place, space and environment and time continuity and change; and technology: designing, making and critiquing.Other subjects include the creative arts:art practice, art analysis, and arts in context; and health and physical education: physical activity and participation, health of individuals and communities, personal and social development, are the focus of their studies. These basic subjects go hand-in-hand with different co-curricular activities such as subject development, sporting activities and excursions.
The middle school division of the Islamic College of South Australia is geared towards helping students make the transition to the senior division, and being capable of handling the responsibilities and difficulties that come with the move up to high school. Basic subjects other than English, Arabic language, and religious studies include: society of environment, science, mathematics, computer science, health and physical education. The co-curricular program of the middle school division includes sports, public speaking, excursions and academic competitions.
Students in the senior division of this college study nine core subjects: Australian Studies, English, Health, Information and Communication Technology, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, Studies in Religion, and Work Education, with student-specific variations under their Personal Learning Plan. The Islamic College of South Australia believes that this curriculum will aid students in achieving their SACE, or South Australian Certificate of Education, as well as prepare them for future independence
by ensuring that students leave the college with a well-honed sense of self, as well as a strong academic background.
The senior handbook provided at the website states that senior students are to show leadership, however there is no prefect system in place in the Islamic College of South Australia, and these Seniors are encouraged to show leadership simply by wearing the proscribed school uniform and attending school activities. There is also a Vocational Education and Training program put into place, as well as the chance to study college-level subjects such as accounting and biology.
In 2008, 91% of the students from the Islamic College of South Australia who took were able to receive their SACE, or South Australian Certificate of Education. In terms of the TER, or the Tertiary Entrance Rank, the highest score achieved by a student of the college was 96.95% and 33% were able to score over 90. All of the students of this college who were able to apply to universities were accepted, and those who applied for TAFE, technical and further education, courses were offered places. Of the eleven senior students of 2008, six are matriculating at different universities under various courses and four are doing TAFE courses. Also in 2008,students in their 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th years were tested in reading, writing and numeracy and all of their scores did not fall below 93%.
Students that wish to enroll with the Islamic College of South Australia may do so by applying through the school office and accomplishing a form to show their interest, and
afterwards, an official application form. Students are then privately interviewed, together with their parents, by the school principal of the Islamic College of South Australia. The acceptance of a prospective student hinges on this interview. Feedback on their application is sent to prospective students through the mail.
Despite the ease with which a prospective student may enroll into this college, as well as its seemingly well-balanced curriculum, and the fact that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils manages the Islamic College of South Australia, there are several issues with which parents of current students have a hard time reconciling with, and parents of prospective students may find these troubling.
This paper highlights and discusses several specific issues with education in the Islamic College of South Australia and states some helpful recommendations.The issues mentioned in this paper are those observed from the school itself, and possible difficulties that may arise. The recommendations given are based on solutions to similar issues in other establishments and it is hoped that these may provide helpful insights into resolving these issues.These issues and recommendations may be grouped as follows: the provision of missing support staff in the Islamic College of South Australia, the establishment of a prefect system, the development of a parent volunteer committee, and the assignation of a Coordinator for Campus Intercultural Understanding. All of these are delineated and discussed below.
Upon perusing the different handbooks of the Islamic College of South Australia, it is quite obvious that the institution's responsibilities
are complex, from academic difficulties, as the curriculum has to be able to cater to its wide range of students as well as be able to fit specific students' needs,to discipline-related matters such as in the methods in which the Islamic College of South Australia tries to integrate students of such varied backgrounds under one policy system.
Despite the single, unifying factor of the students' religion being Islam, the fact that the student body ismulti-cultural and multi-ethnic must be a limiting factor in the accomplishment of school goals. One of the missions of the Islamic College of South Australia, according to its website, is "to provide comprehensive support for its students". However their mission, and the reality that is presented in the campus, are not one and the same.
The Islamic College of South Australia prides itself on the people it has hired. In the kindergarten school handbook it is stated that the division is under the care of a teacher with a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood and a Masters in Special Education. There are specialist teachers in charge of subjects such as Arabic Language Studies and Islamic Studies in the primary level, and even more specialist instructors in the higher divisions. Despite this, the school seems to be understaffed in critical areas.
The school also states that literacy is important to the development of its students, however there are no library supervisors, or people similarly trained, to guide the students in the use of such an
important resource as the library collection. Providing the students with specialized instructors is a necessity that is easily understandable. Specialized instruction more often than not leads to better understanding of a subject area. However, specialized instruction is only one facet of ensuring that students are learning at an optimum level. Having instructors who are trained in special skill sets, such as library supervisors, will enable students to learn some of these specialized skills.
Not having a library supervisor almost renders having a library moot; without a library supervisor, students will not have the support necessary to learn the correct and efficient use of the library's resources. Librarians can educate students about the Dewey Decimal System, the proper way to use a card catalog, and how to utilize special archives, all of which are important methods of obtaining research materials. Students that learn effective researcher methods when they are young will be able to apply these in higher education, such as in making research papers in their senior years, as well as in university.
Other than teaching students about proper library etiquette and efficient research methods, a library supervisor has other responsibilities that only they can fill. The materials in the library, such as the books, archives and magazines, all need specific kinds of maintenance in order to be useable, let alone appealing, to the students and staff. Library supervisors would ensure that these resources would be kept in good shape, so as to maximize these materials' use. A library supervisor
can also properly monitor the proper system of borrowing and returning library materials.
The hiring of a library supervisor is recommended, as this could minimize that negative effects of the misuse and mishandling of materials, ensuring that the institution will not expend necessary funds in order to replace vital library resources, and causing, in the meantime, inconvenience to students.
Another necessary members of the staff that are not present in the Islamic College of South Australiaare physical education teachersand special sports instructors.These types of teachers are necessary as Physical Education is a whole separate class that all students must participate in. Special sports instructors are necessary for the students that participate in sports for their co-curricular activities. The college puts a premium on encouraging students to remain healthy and physically fit, and not having the proper instructors to advise students on how to get around to being fit is counter-productive.
A physical education teacher must be well versed in the different needs of the students in the school, understanding that different types of children need varied kinds of exercise. Students of different ages and sexes have different requirements for physical fitness and education. The lack of a physical education teacher may have been detracting from students' general fitness, as well as creating a dangerous environment for the students to be participating in the different activities connected to the subject of physical education as they are not being properly guided or supervised in the proper methods of exercise.
Physical education teachers would also be the best people to assess whether the student body of the Islamic College of South Australia is a healthy one, and whether or not the student body needs specialized training depending on the sport or lifestyle they want to live. Physical education teachers also provide a proper example for students in terms of physical fitness, and the proper form one must have while doing exercise.
Likewise, special sports instructors would be the best people for encouraging students to become more active in co-curricular sporting activities, as well as train student athletes in their chosen sports. The participation of student athletes in sporting events is a very delicate enterprise; athletes must be trained well so that they will not injure themselves through overexertion, as well as be able to perform well on the day of a sporting event. A sports instructor also teaches athletes about the various idiosyncrasies of a particular sport, and provides students with a good example of proper sportsmanlike behavior.
The presence of physical education teachers who are well versed with the physical fitness needs of different kinds of students is necessary for the student body's general physical welfare and health. We recommend that physical fitness teachers, as well as specialized sports instructors, be hired in order to raise the caliber of physical fitness and sporting ability in the Islamic College of South Australia, as well as ensure that students of Physical Education have less chance of physically harming or injuring themselves
due to an non-physical education instructor's inexperience. Having specialized sporting instructors would also protect athletes who may not be undergoing proper guidance in their sport, as they may injure themselves while training, or even in the heat of competition.
Even the administrative arm of the school is lacking in members, as it has no deputy principal. The Islamic College of South Australia has over five hundred students, and the administrative workload generated by this large number of students is handled by only two people: the principal and his receptionist. Running an institution as large as the Islamic College of South Australia is difficult enough without the inherent difficulties of running an institution with a multi-cultural student base. The administration would probably better serve its student body by hiring a deputy principal in order to allow the workload to be distributed more evenly, as well as ensure that there are more people dealing with the day-to-day events of this institution, such as student discipline.
The handbook discusses how the emotional well-being and stability of each student is an issue that is important to the Islamic College of South Australia, however this institution does not have a school counselor. A school counselor would be essential in helping students deal with the difficulties of their day-to-day academic experience, as well as advise the administration on the proper methods of developing students' strengths. Since there is no school counselor, and the school staff may not be equipped to arbitrate on matters related to student
discipline and welfare, there may be difficulties in determining reasons for students' disciplinary problems.Even the teachers who are employed in the Islamic College of South Australia may be having difficulties of their own with remaining on campus, taking leaves of absence frequently. This could be due to their feeling stressed or over-worked; states of mind that does not lend to a stable learning environment to the children.
The wide range of the Islamic College of South Australia's attending students is in itself an indicator of the possibly equally wide range of social and emotional issues being carried by the student body of the institution. Not having a dedicated school counselor present to help students deal with their daily difficulties, whether from home or at school, seems counter-productive to providing students with a healthy social environment, especially for students in the middle and senior division as students in that age range that have the most difficulties fitting in and finding themselves.
Students in the middle school division have to deal with a spectrum of emotional problems that are part and parcel of experiencing adolescence and becoming young adults. They may experience difficulties that they may not feel comfortable discussing with their parents and friends. Senior students have the equally difficult task of deciding exactly who they are before they leave the halls of the Islamic College of South Australia, as well as trying to find out what they want to do with the rest of the adult lives. That is
nothing to say of minor difficulties such as dealing with both peer and parental pressure, and managing the academic course load that comes with being a student in such an institution.
While a Careers Counselor, Mrs. H. Bhatia, is currently hired by the Islamic College of South Australia, it is impossible for her to deal with all the students' emotional and mental concerns, especially as her counseling is specifically for aiding students choose their future careers. Younger students should be able to avail of guidance from a school counselor as well.
A school counselor is also equally important to the administration of the school. School counselors give administrators insight into student lives and needs, as well as help teachers deal with difficult cases, such as evaluatingproblem students, so that the faculty of the Islamic College of South Australia may be able to act accordingly. School counselors are also trained in identifying whether difficult students are in fact, students with special needs, and help guide the faculty towards methods of properly handling these cases.A counselor could also be instrumental in providing baselines for student behavior and attitudes, as well as aiding in determining the mental and emotional health of the entire student body. Simply being present and available in the school could aid students with mental and emotional difficulties get the help that they need.
Teachers should be able to avail of a school counselor's services as well; being a teacher is a very high stress and demanding occupation
due to its ever-changing responsibilities, and school counselors can help determine when a faculty member may be in need of help, and exactly what type of help is necessary. Providing this service to teachers would ensure that they would be more capable of providing a better classroom experience to their students, as well as accomplish their work in a more efficient manner.
It is recommended that the necessity of a staff of school counselors be evaluated by the administration, and that the service be provided to both students and teachers.This would be done in order to ensure a healthier working environment for both the faculty and the students, as well as provide consultations for the administration regarding difficult student cases. It would also be advisable to require that students have a yearly evaluation through the school counselors, as this would give a better indication of student well-being.
Another factor, which lends itself to the idea that the Islamic College of South Australia may not be capable of managing discipline issues, is that the college does not possess a prefect system. In the student handbook, it is written that the Islamic College of South Australia is dedicated towards helping their senior students prepare for the outside world, however the almost entirely academic nature of their curriculum suggests that this preparation is not entirely well-rounded. It is stated in the handbook that leadership qualities are exhibited through senior students' proper wearing of the uniform and participation in school events.
are forms of student government which are integral in the development of leadership qualities in students inclined towards it, as well as in creating representation for the student body, or liaisons between the administration and the students, as well as ensuring that non-prefect students have role models of their own level to look up to and relate with. The formation of a student government such as a prefect system would enable participating students to assume roles of leadership in the student body. There are many types of prefects, ranging from sports prefects to academic prefects; this would ensure that different students not only have representation, but also have acceptable role models and mentors.
It is often easier for students to relate with their fellow students, especially when they have difficulties that they feel older teachers and parents are not capable or willing to understand. A prefect system would provide the student body with a support system outside of the classroom and the provisions of the faculty, and also encourage them to take on responsibilities. The formation of a prefect system is also recommended as it helps students who are natural leaders hone their abilities for similar future endeavors, such as at university, or perhaps on the political stage.
Having a prefect system could also aid the administration and school staff in disciplining students who have either committed minor infractions, and in cases where the intervention of administration could be considered overkill, or when the students in question are repeat offenders
who have already developed a distrust of adult authority figures. Student government discipline would fill a niche that would provide students with both a helping hand and an understanding ear. A prefect system would also be a boon to school administration and staff as it would be a method to allow the student body to centralize, making the dissemination of information easier, as well as allow seniors to interact with younger students and pass advice and guidance onward.
Another issue in the Islamic College of South Australia is that parents are also discomfited by the fact that there is no method through which they can be involved in school activities. There is no parental committee in place to serve as the parents' voice in school matters, and this prevents parents from being able to participate in the place where their children spend most of their young lives. Parents are also hard-pressed to find a method of communication with the school, especially their concerns regarding school-related matters.
Since the administrative duties are only held by the principal and coursed through one receptionist, it is a valid fear that most suggestions and concernsmay be lost in the din of over five hundred students' parents. A parent's committee would allow all of their concerns to be coursed through a school-sanctioned body of parental volunteers, making sure that all their ideas are heard, and their questions answered.While the school does distribute an e-newsletter on its website, this newsletter is released at the
end of every term. Parents could benefit from fresher news, especially if a parent committee is formed. They would then be able to react more quickly to school news and contribute to the future activities of the school.
The school website states that volunteers for running the school cafeteria are appreciated, both for the service a parent volunteer could provide, as well as the interaction between parents that could result from participating in the school cafeteria. However, not having a centralized organization for parents in the school does not seem to send the same message to the parents of the students of the Islamic College of South Australia. A parent's committee would be the ideal place for parents to meet and organize, as well as to find ways of helping the school. It would be advisable to provide parents with a means of volunteering that would allow them to make a difference in the institution, as they ought to be able to have a hand in their children's education. The input of an organization made of parent volunteers could be essential in providing the school administration with information about how the facilities and services of the Islamic College South Australia can be made better, as well as insight into exactly what kind of education they want their children to receive.
Parent organizations can aid in the school in many ways other than by centralizing information. Some specific examples are: they can help the school raise funds for facilities and activities,
provide aid as chaperones on school trips, and even develop a permanent parent volunteer rota for the school cafeteria. A committee of parent volunteers may even help the Islamic College of South Australia create closer ties to the community outside of its four walls, allowing connections between school and society to develop. Amir, et al. wrote in 1984 that the breakdown between school and community occurs when students become involved in social and political activities; being accepted by the community would aid students become more socio-civically minded, a trait valued in future Australian Muslim leaders.
The highly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of the student body lends itself to other issues in the Islamic College of South Australia. Multi-ethnic and multi-cultural students themselves are not the problem, however frissons due to cultural misunderstandings are a common problem in other institutions similar to the Islamic College of South Australia. In the handbooks of the different divisions of the Islamic College of South Australia, there is no special emphasis on accepting or trying to understand the different backgrounds of the students, however there are mentions of helping students learn despite their different backgrounds.
The use of the word 'despite' makes it sound as though their rich and varied cultures are simply obstacles to overcome in the pursuit of becoming a successful Australian Muslim. Conflict between students of different ethnicities and cultures can be averted only by promoting understanding between students, as well as acceptance of each person's individual cultural history. Students ought to
be encouraged to be proper representatives of their different ways of life.
The Islamic College of South Australia is blessed with the unique opportunity of introducing the idea of different ways of life to its students, but currently it does not seem to take advantage of this. It is recommended that a coordinator for the promotion of intercultural campus understanding be appointed, in order to aid students and staff members in dealing with cultural differences and the problems and misunderstandings that may arise from these. This coordinator could also serve as an arbiter in these kinds of misunderstandings and aid in conflict resolution.
This understanding of a multi-cultural student body may help the Islamic College of South Australia teach their students a better way of integrating into Australian society in the future, as students may become more open-minded and comfortable with non-Muslim people, an ability that will serve them well in university and into adulthood. It would also be advisable to encourage students to actively participate in the community surrounding the Islamic College of South Australia as a co-curricular activity, as this could be a good method of teaching students methods of social integration. While the students of the institution can become quite comfortable within the boundaries of the school, it is only once the students step out of their comfort zone that they can achieve a better understanding of the world that they live in.
In conclusion, while the Islamic College of South Australia is run by a very
experienced owner and manager, and has a very comprehensive curriculum, there are some things that can be improved upon in order to make this institution a better place for its students. Most of the issues connected to this institution include the lack of specialized support staff for the students, the lack of administrative staff, the absence of a parent volunteer committee and the non-implementation of the prefect system.
The first is to ensure that special personnel, such as a library supervisor, physical education teacher, special sports instructor, and most importantly, a school counselor, be hired in order to give students better services and facilities. The second is to add a deputy principal to the administration in order to allow for the better management of administrative duties, as well as allow for more hands-on dealings with the students on a daily basis.
Other recommendationsinclude the formation of parent volunteer committee to perform a myriad number of roles, as well as the implementation of the prefect system in the campus, the addition of a coordinator for Campus Intercultural Understanding, to serve as a guide for possible difficulties and misunderstandings between the multi-cultural student body, as well as to show that the school believes in respecting each individual student's unique ethnic background. The last recommendation given was to encourage students to participate in out-of-school activities in the community.
Hopefully, the above recommendations will be taken into consideration and applied in the Islamic College of South Australia for the betterment of the education of its students so that they may truly become successful Australian Muslims.