Bridging the gaps
Blanche Clark, Herald Sun
May 19, 2010
A new resource aims to help teachers develop better relationships with their Muslim students, writes Blanche Clark.
Research shows teachers are uncomfortable dealing with many issues that involve Muslim students.
It might be debates over the hijab, exclusion from swimming lessons or concern about young students fasting during Ramadan.
Prof Shahram Akbarzadeh, of the University of Melbourne, realised teachers needed guidance and applied to the Myer Foundation for a grant to run professional learning workshops.
Educator Jennet Cole-Adams and Muslim education expert Dr Eeqbal Hassim, who delivered the workshops in Melbourne and Sydney last year, soon discovered that teachers were encountering a wide range of dilemmas.
Their new resource, Learning From One Another, uses this information to educate teachers about Muslim beliefs and culture and provide ideas for lessons.
The director of curriculum services at the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA), Cole-Adams says the lesson plans are designed to benefit all students.
"Our suggestions for how you can incorporate this are aimed to benefit all students and to nurture relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim students by making non-Muslim students more aware of the history and contemporary situations," she says.
"The resource covers things such as learning about the tessellating tiles of Alhambra in Spain and the Afghan cameleers, and the contribution of Muslim scholars to science."
Hassim says: "We emphasise in the workshop that we think appreciating different perspectives and managing diverse opinions is a skill that kids need to develop at school."
Hassim says teachers need to find common ground, rather than give Muslims special treatment.
"We don't want schools to compromise on their stance and what they believe in," he says.
"If schools are trying to bend backwards to please Muslims and their students, then this might be a situation of compromise and that may be counterproductive, because it might emphasise that Muslims are very different . . . which may not necessarily be true for the vast majority of Muslims."
He says the book doesn't present Islam as if it is one opinion or one interpretation.
"Rather we try to provide as many different examples of various opinions, so teachers can pick and choose what applies to their situation," he says.
Cole-Adams says there are no ready answers.
"In some ways it will be a bit frustrating for teachers because they will think, 'How am I going to deal with the fact that one student won't go on school camp?' and we offer some reasons, but there are no answers or solutions that can be guaranteed."
Hassim says during the fasting month of Ramadan, many Muslim students don't take part in physical education. But rather than sending students to the library, Hassim suggests teachers get the students involved in the planning or running of the lesson.
In regards to sex education, he says teachers need to explain why it's important to the parents.
"Often parents say, 'We don't want this because we are Muslims and we don't like how it's taught', and that's where it stops. It's about going one step further and talking to them about it," Hassim says.
Victorian teachers are invited to register for a free workshop on June 2, 9am-2.30pm, Yasuko Hiraoka Myer Room, Level 1, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne. For details about the workshop or the resource, Learning From One Another, contact ACSA, ph: (02) 6260 5660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What a shame all that time and money, was not used to educate Muslims on how to behave in a Western Democracy and what their obligations to Australia are and what is expected of them by their host country.
How many more examples of the total incompatibility the Islamic mindset has with western democracy and civilization are Muslims and their leftist cheer squads going to present to the Australian people?
I support "the right of return" for all Muslims to what ever country it was they or the parents / grand parents ran away from, where all the Religious and social structures that they demand be imposed on Australian society are already in place... it's a win win as we say.