A Canadian High school Tailors Parts of Islamic Education to Fit within Their Graduation Model

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Saima Naz is the Principal of iLearn Distributed Learning. iLearn DL is a British Columbia high school from Grade 8 to 12 that provides a selection of elective credits for the BC high school diploma. iLearn DL system allows students to personalize their education by blending online and traditional courses. 

Students have 4 months to complete a course. They can take as many courses as they wish during the same time period. iLearn DL is a system that allows students from grade 8 to 12 to tailor their educational experiences fit to their needs. It works well for students who wish to seek religious education while completing their BC high school diploma.

Recently, Saima was approached by Mufti Aasim Rashid of Al-Ihsan institute about a potential partnership with iLearn DL.

Saima is my friend and we often delve into life’s deeper issues, sharing our passion for education and our desire to see a more Muslim-friendly society. She asked me to join her efforts at making education accessible for every child through iLean DL. I accepted her invitation.

“The beauty of iLearn DL Secondary School is that it is people-based, not system-based,” said Saima.

Saima asked my opinion to take on the Muslim madrasahs as part of iLearn. She asked for my insight because of my ties with the community. 

Mufti Aasim Rashid of Al-Ihsan institute recognized the benefit of the iLearn model. Mufti Aasim offers religious education in Surrey, BC. He wanted to see if iLearn DL’s model provides an opportunity for madrasah students to gain credits towards their high school education for their religious studies at the institute.

Mufti Aasim’s program focuses 4 hours of the day for intensive religious education and the other 4 hours for BC Ministry required core-courses. Students were enrolled either in homeschooling or through another Distributed Learning institute.

Mufti Aasim and Saima recognized that students become exhausted because of spending extra hours for comprehensive religious education on top of regular education, so they thought about a creative way to combine the Madrasah’s curriculum toward high school credits. 

Hafiz Mohammed Zafar Abid, who runs another Madrasah-Dar ul Quran, had the same problem.

Both of these Islamic scholars reached out to Saima for help. By using respective strengths of Mufti Aasim and Hafiz Zafar Abid in religion, and Saima’s knowledge of BC curriculum, they designed a curriculum that responded to the BC’s code of education as well as the madrasah’s curriculum. They presented their program to Canada’s Ministry of Education for approval. 

Their unique model included Calligraphy for Art, recitation of the Quran for Music equivalency credits, and Arabic language to fulfil the language requirement. 

This is a pioneer high school model that works within the parameters of Canadian law. “Religious freedom is protected by the Charter of Rights, so is the right to good quality education. This model is the ideal amalgamation of these two rights,” Mufti Aasim said. 

Currently iLearn DL has an enrolment of 50 Muslim male students. Saima hopes to see more female students enrolling for iLearn DL. Both of those Madrasahs plan on adding a similar full-time program for female students by next year.

iLearn DL isn’t just for madrasah students. The model fits for advanced student seeking to finish their high school education faster, or for students with learning disabilities or with special needs.

Mehru’s son is a student of iLearn DL. He has been diagnosed with mixed type ADHD, mild depression and anxiety. Whilst going to traditional school, he was set-up in specials needs class. He felt trapped by the label of special needs and was focusing more on what he could not achieve than what he could do. Mehru enrolled her son with iLearn when he started high school.

“My son was able to build his confidence and establish a strong sense of acceptance, trust, belonging and community, which he never experienced in the past,” Mehru said.

 Fatima Sultan, daughter of Naz Sultan, has the same experience. Fatima had been in private Muslim elementary schools until Grade 8. But she couldn’t find a private school that fit her needs.  Her family was in the process of looking for another school, when they met Saima.

“Giving Fatima the choice to try and explore her interests through iLearn has been the best decision ever,” Naz, Fatima’s mom said. 

Summery

A look at a unique high school education model in British Columbia, Canada. How this new educational model is helping students pursuing religious education, students with special needs, as well as students who wish for more flexibility and achieve more out of their high school education.