There is an ongoing discussion about what type of schooling is best for Muslim children: the public school setting, the plenty of Islamic schools available, and, of course, the option of homeschooling. As parents, and even parents-to-be in the future, this is something we need to sit down and think about from all directions. Although it is a very tough decision to make, having the right conversation with someone who may have experienced each type may just give you the information you need.
The infamous public school – where kids go "bad" – is not as awful as we think. I personally went to public school, from kindergarten all the way until 12th grade, and I turned out okay, I think. Of course, there are bad influences, and kids will question your daughter's Hijab or why your kids can't eat the chili-cheese hot dogs for lunch. But the argument for public school says that the strengthening of faith, the proper way to communicate our beliefs to others, and even the confidence in being a Muslim all come from home.
Kids spend seven to eight hours of their day in school, most of the time in the classroom learning, not socializing. They will see, and may even copycat the behaviors of their peers, most commonly in the elementary grades, but if parents are teaching the right stuff in regards to Akhlaq, or manners, at home, there is usually not a problem. Public school also provides well-balanced preparation for the real world when your kids will be adults and surrounded by people of all faiths and races. Secondly, the education standards are tested over and over, and usually this enforces good teaching.
However, just because things will be okay does not mean we can ignore the negative side to public schools. Sometimes that bad social influence, even with good discipline at home, can get to the best of our kids. And of course, there is peer pressure. Peer pressure exists in every grade, but the more dangerous kind is when your child will hit the teenage years and above. That is something to also be aware of
Islamic school is definitely a blessing for many families. Your child will get all the same education that public school is giving, plus the added bonus, in most cases, of learning to read the Holy Qur'an, learning the Arabic language, basic Islamic values, and teachers you can trust even more. And how can we forget, 100 percent hot-Halal lunches!
Fizah Naqvi, when asked about what she liked the most about Islamic school, after having attended from fifth through 12th grade, said, "The good thing about it was that I was able to keep good friends with Islamic values. The biggest problem in most public schools is that people make bad friends, and are just surrounded with bad people. Islamic school has a lot more control over that." And that is very true, since Islamic schools is full of other kids whose parents also want their child to be surrounded by people of the same values, morals, and beliefs.
But even though it may seem as the solution to all of schooling problems, Islamic school do have their low points. Today we find a lot of Islamic schools built along with an Islamic center or mosque. This usually entails not-so-stringent conditions on who will be able to teach. Sometimes it just the "Aunty" who doesn't have a job, isn't certified, and only has experience teaching small madressa classes. Consequently, the education that another kid is getting in a public school just might be better and more up to standards that are set for that state, city, etc.
Naqvi also pointed out something she was not too fond of growing up in an Islamic school environment. She said that most students who stay in Islamic school all of their life, or most of, usually do not gain or learn the proper socializing habits that their peers may have, and when they go out into the real world, like college or the workforce, it is usually always an entrance in those worlds with a whole lot of fear of unknown. Islamic schools just may be putting too little emphasis on how to work with others, even if they are the opposite gender. Another problem that is common in Islamic schools is desperate parents putting their troubled or poorly-behaving child in Islamic school in the hopes that it will "save" him or her, which obviously has negative repercussions for other students in the school.
If you decide public school, be an involved parent and be ready to compromise when it comes to your kids having friends who are non-Muslim. Know them, and know who they are, but don't say no due to the fear of unknown. If you decide Islamic school, that is great, but make sure the research is done, because the education may not be the same as public school. Know the rules, the teachers, and the background of the school in order to know their quality and their structure.
Whatever the opinions are, that is all they are – opinions. As for parents making a decision, they should always explore all options. Bad influences are everywhere. You cannot hide your kids from the real world. As long as you are raising a child with strong Islamic beliefs and values and with sincere intentions, they will be prepared to say no to whatever it is, no matter where they are.