Western and Muslim Educational Philosophies
The Foundations of Function: Educational Philosophy and Psychology
Meet the Social Realities of ESL Instruction
Education into English as a Second Language (ESL) has become very important in this country, as many people are coming in from non-English speaking countries because they feel that America has much more to offer them. These children are eager to learn, but they often struggle because they do not understand the English language well. Even those that can speak English reasonable well sometimes have difficulties because there are many subtleties in the English language that these ESL students do not understand or even realize. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the ESL education that goes on in the Western world, as well as the ESL education that Muslims deal with.
The similarities and differences will be discussed, and Muslims who come to America will also be discussed. It is important to understand how both cultures teach their ESL children and how those from the Muslim culture that come to America do when they are taught in the unfamiliar Western way of teaching where ESL education is concerned. This is an issue, because all cultures teach their children in a different way, and a Muslim student that comes to America has not only the culture shock to deal with, but a different way of teaching as well. This can be very confusing and upsetting for these students. Even students who live in their own culture and must learn English often struggle with the feelings that they have about inadequacy and an inability to keep up with their peers.
It is important to look first at the cultural diversity in America and how this effects ESL education. After this has been examined, the discussion will move to the Muslim students who come to America, and finally to Muslim students in their own country that must learn English as a second language. By following this pattern, it will be easier to see the similarities and the differences that take place in the different cultures, and the special problems that many educators and tutors are facing when trying to teach ESL education to those that do not understand the culture that they find themselves in.
Another important issue of note is that American education has little to do with religious understanding or opinion. Muslim education is centered around religion. Muslims who come to this country often have difficulty with the strangeness of a people that do not plan their lives around their religion and honor their God with everything that they do. This difference is very important, not only for those that are being taught, but for those that are teaching as well. The reason that this is so important for teachers is that they must understand the culture of the students that they teach, and many of them do not. This is not only in America, but is true of other countries as well.
Muslim schools that are found in countries that are traditionally not Islamic also have difficulties because many of the teachers do not understand the importance of religion in the lives of the Islamic people. Teachers that do understand often have difficulties convincing the administration how important these things are, and because of this the Muslim students that are studying in other countries are struggling and feelings as though they are not understood by others.
American Philosophies and ESL Education
There are many different perceptions that are held by educators, and these perceptions are often very different from the perceptions that are held by those that they are trying to teach. There are six levels of adaptation that will be discussed here, as these will help to understand the ways that students and educators must work to meet in the middle so that learning can take place and ESL instruction can be carried out in a way that facilitates the largest amount of learning as quickly as possible. The levels of adaptation will show how these students and educators can move from being basically unaware of each other’s culture to being completely versatile in both cultures. Not only will attaining this versatility help many of these students and educators, but even working toward this ideal, even if it is not achieved, will help them to understand more about each other’s cultural beliefs and practices.
Intercultural sensitivity is becoming increasingly more important in classrooms today, as there is much ethnic diversity in many of them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Unfortunately, all indications show that there is still very little awareness across cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This does not only mean that Americans are failing to recognize other cultures, but that other cultures are failing to recognize the American culture in which they find themselves living (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
It is not suggested that these other cultures are supposed to abandon all that they are used to and ‘become American,’ but only that an understanding of different cultures is important in a country that is such a melting pot of different ideals and beliefs (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Learning about someone else’s culture and trying to respect and understand it is not the same thing as becoming part of it, which appears to be the misunderstanding that many people have about recognizing other cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
While this is an important misunderstanding, there are others that belong to both educators and students alike. Until something is done about this, ESL instruction will continue to have difficulties because there will be no cultural understanding about what is needed to help students learn. Many believe that there is a ‘new breed of student’ and that, while students have become more widely diverse, educators have become less so (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is only making the difficulty larger and causing more unhappiness in the minds of educators and students (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is also upsetting to the parents that feel that their children are either being treated unfairly by their teachers or being forced to conform to a different culture because their teachers do not choose to acknowledge the one that they already have (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
One of the main problems that teachers have when they are trying to teach ESL education to students is that they see them as being basically the same as Americans, although they realize that they have some differences. This is a common misconception, because most people appear to have the same idea. That idea is that, because everyone is human, everyone is basically the same. This is, however, largely untrue. Everyone is different, and those that come from other cultures often have different ways of doing things, different ways of learning things, and different ways of thinking about things (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These are very significant differences, and educators and students that cannot recognize this struggle to understand why someone cannot change their attitude about something and act differently toward others (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is, however, not that simple, and the Western way of teaching ESL is harmed somewhat because of this. It is something that must be adjusted in the future (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
There is an argument as well about whether cultural sensitivity is really that significant, or whether it has been completely overemphasized (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Those that do not understand the subtleties of cultural differences often think that most cultures are very similar or very different – there is no middle ground (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). However, people who spend more time trying to understand other cultures begin to realize that there are more differences that are often subtle, and that the same is true for similarities as well (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These are very important differences, often times, but they go overlooked because people are not culturally sensitive, and this hurts those that are involved with teaching and learning (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Since the six stages of cultural awareness that were mentioned above has so much to do with how ESL learners and educators interact, it is important to discuss them here. This will help with an understanding of the Western way of dealing with ESL and why there are still many problems for those that are trying to teach and those that are struggling to learn. Teaching English to those that do not traditionally speak it is difficult, but it is made more so by the misunderstandings and misperceptions that are often involved when different cultures must deal with each other (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
The first stage of cultural awareness is ignorance (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is when someone from one culture completely fails to understand or comprehend that there is any difference between the cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Teachers that assume that their foreign students are just like their American students are often guilty of this. Time will change this, of course, but for a while there is no way that the teacher even realizes that any of the students are different (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There is more than one reason for this. The two most obvious reasons are that there is a lack of understanding that cultures are different from one another, and there is a lack of interest in believing that one culture is different from another and must be treated as such (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Many who come from other cultures are often overlooked by those that have been in America for their entire lives, and they find it easier to simply ignore a culture that they see as alien, rather than try to understand it (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The same is true for students that come from other cultures, as they often associate only with those of their same culture, and they remain largely uninformed about the American culture that they are surrounded by (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
They ignore most other individuals, and those same individuals ignore them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Because of this, the cultural exchange that should take place and would be helpful never happens and many people that could learn from each other lose out (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is also true with ESL, as it is much harder for individuals to learn when they feel as though their cultural needs are not being met, or worse are being mocked by their educators (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
When people are convinced to start looking at foreign individuals as having cultural differences that are important to them, they move on to the second stage, which is rejection (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This rejection often comes from culture shock. Often educators look to avoid students who come from minority cultures because the students do not conform to many of the behavioral patterns that educators believe to be mainstream or normal (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Eventually, these educators end up stereotyping these students in a negative way and only the differences that the educators choose to see are considered important (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
In stage three, the educator sees the foreign students as being reasonably similar to American students and does not enjoy the intercultural comments that are often made (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Educators may also believe that students who come from one culture actually belong to another culture, and because they do not ask, they fail to understand the differences and how important these differences are. Many people do not like being confused for a people of another culture that they do not actually belong to and this resentment can often come from issues such as this (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Because individuals sometimes belittle how important cultural diversity is it is easy for others to misunderstand many of the customs that come from different cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Educators often do not understand the requirements for private space and many touching behaviors that most cultures understand intuitively (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Even individuals who are well educated in basic cultures and how different they can be often have assumptions that are incorrect concerning how many human values these cultures actually share with one another (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). In stage four people began to become more comfortable with the likenesses and differences between various cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This helps to begin to enable many of the cross-cultural relationships that educators and students have with one another. Even though much of the intercultural behavior is recognized during this stage many of the values that are behind much of this behavior are still not appreciated or completely understood (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The individuals in this stage may not wish to participate in any of the customs of another culture even though they recognize them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
In stage five, educators and students move on to approval (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They do not have culture shock any longer and they see many of the behaviors that these foreign students or educators exhibit as being favorable (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Someone who is a westerner may adopt certain customs that are considered non-Western and even enjoy them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Because of this appreciation and understanding for the social behaviors and values of another culture intercultural relationships are viable at this point (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). When educators reach this stage they can have a multicultural classroom and do very well in it because they approve of the cultural diversity that is taking place (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
In stage six, versatility is achieved (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is rather difficult for individuals to attain as these individuals must have completely adapted to life in at least two cultures and sometimes more (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Students from other countries that are involved in ESL instruction and have been in the United States for many years often adapt to the American culture more or less completely (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They change the way they dress and the language that they speak, and many of their mannerisms and some of their body language also changes (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Unfortunately, many of these individuals lose the ties that they originally had with their home culture (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This can cause anxiety and confusion regarding the cultural identity that these individuals have and can actually be mentally and emotionally painful for them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The may feel upset and lost in a strange country (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They lose the values and customs that they had in their homeland and feel that they need to assimilate themselves into the dominant American culture (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Intercultural development is increasing in interest and educators are not completely prepared for the global society that has been emerging recently (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
One of the main issues that educators must face in dealing with intercultural issues has to do with providing sheltered instruction for many students who have limited proficiency in English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). However, with a content driven instructional method, it is possible to make much of the core curriculum completely accessible even to students who have limited proficiency in English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). As more students come into this country from other countries educators are finding that they need many different ways to provide these individuals with instruction and help so that they learn to speak English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). This can be done at the same time that they are able to continue to teach them from the core curriculum, so that they can keep up with their peers (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Some researchers have indicated that the method of instruction for these students that is most effective is instruction that is delivered to them in the language that they understand best (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). This would be their native language and this makes it very difficult for many instructors to deliver information to them correctly because they do not understand the language that the student originally spoke (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students who work with teachers in ESL instruction begin to pick up the language and develop what is termed a ‘surface proficiency’ with it (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). However, the surface proficiency does not give the students the language proficiency that they actually need to succeed correctly in school. These students are still often unable to make conclusions and synthesize the information that they receive when they are given this information in English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Those who are dealing with English as a second language in America are often confronted not only with the surface and the deeper features of their own native language but also with two different levels of English proficiency (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Many of these students who have limited proficiency in English use communication skills in their native language for everyday things but they do not have grade level or academic proficiency in either language (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). They can talk to each other and others in their native language but they may not have the literacy background that is actually necessary for them to achieve academic success (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students in these situations need to have an educational program that is taught to them in their native language while at the same time they continue to work with ESL teachers to develop English skills (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Once students have attained enough language background in English and have acquired basic literary skills they can then be instructed in English through a transition period where they switch over from being instructed in their native language to being instructed in English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Bilingual teachers are needed in most schools throughout the country and there are not enough of them (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). While teachers are very committed to providing quality instruction to students that do not have a good grasp of English language many of these teachers do not speak other languages and therefore cannot do as much as they would like for the students (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Another issue is that there are so many different languages represented in many of the schools that simply knowing how to speak Spanish or another language that is considered relatively common is not enough (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). There are still often students in these teachers’ classrooms that speak a language that is not familiar to the teacher. One of the ways that this is attempting to be adjusted is by providing sheltered instruction (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
This sheltered instruction helps to make lessons more understandable to students and by using controlled vocabulary, hands-on activities, and a slower speech rate, among other issues these techniques appear to be working for the students who are struggling to learn English and still keep up with their peers and with the other learning that they need (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students and teachers can communicate more effectively in this way even if they come from diverse language backgrounds and since it is content driven it is somewhat different from other ESL approaches that are normally used (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
When students learn in this way, they begin to digest the content material that they need to know and also help to develop English skills at the same time (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The curriculum that these students are taught during these lessons is just as challenging as regular instruction would be but is presented to them in a fashion that is more understandable (Wall-Thonis, 1988). This is done by putting the lessons into context and ensuring that the language has been simplified as much as possible (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
The same expressions and terms are used over and over again so that the vocabulary is controlled much more than it would be in a normal classroom (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Speech is also done at a slower rate and clear enunciation is very important so that students understand what the educator is trying to say (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The same is true with the students attempting to communicate back to the educator. Only when these students have attained an intermediate fluency, however, can they involve themselves in this sheltered instruction and do well at it (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
Specifically, there are six steps that are utilized in sheltered education lessons. The first one of these is to have a target vocabulary (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Several words or terms that are deemed to be critical to the lesson at hand are selected and these words are defined (Wall-Thonis, 1988). This is done at the beginning of the lesson and the words are also posted so that the students are able to refer to them visually when they need to (Wall-Thonis, 1988). A bank is created and the vocabulary words that are utilized in each lesson are continually added to it (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Previous lessons are built upon in the next lessons and as the word bank grows the students not only learn more English words, but the content of the lessons that are being taught to them at the same time (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
A main concept selection is the second step (Wall-Thonis, 1988). There are usually only one or two key concepts in most lessons in the chapters and these can be summarized (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The lesson then focuses only on that main concept and the main goal of the lesson becomes attaining that concept and understanding it (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Readings of various chapters are outlined or often reduced to smaller parts that are more manageable, which helps to make the content of the lesson more easily understood by students who do not speak or read English very well (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
When students completely understand the main ideas that are presented to them and have developed the vocabulary that they need to understand a particular lesson they retain worthy information and it becomes more valuable to them (Wall-Thonis, 1988). This is preferable to covering every specific detail in a chapter or lesson, but only gives an overview or a cursory understanding of all of the information to the student who is struggling with English (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
The third step is to create a context (Wall-Thonis, 1988). This requires great creativity on the part of the teacher (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Anything can be used to provide context for the information and help the students to understand it (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Teachers can use facial expressions, bulletin boards, props, sketches, gestures, and real objects to help students understand the concept that they are trying to demonstrate (Wall-Thonis, 1988). By helping to demonstrate what the particular lesson is actually talking about the students have experiences that will help to add meaning to the topic that they are studying (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
The fourth step in this way of learning comes with making connections (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The students are encouraged to relate many of their experiences from the past to the topic that is being discussed (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The teacher may need to learn what types of questions should be asked so that the students will provide information that can then be related to the topic that is being discussed (Wall-Thonis, 1988). By being able to identify something that they have actually done with the topic that the teachers are dealing with, the instruction is made more meaningful to many of the students and they understand it much better than the would if they were only given the lesson and had nothing to base it on (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
In the fifth step the teacher should check for understanding (Wall-Thonis, 1988). This often requires clarification, elaboration, and repetition for ESL students (Wall-Thonis, 1988). By going over the vocabulary and the concepts very often an educator can help to determine whether the students are actually understanding what he or she is trying to teach them (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Different types of questions must be used so that the student is not left with only answering yes or no questions as to whether they understand the specific concept (Wall-Thonis, 1988). By asking the right questions, it becomes easy to determine if the student is actually understanding what they should have learned (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
Being supportive and helping students to be comfortable participating in the lessons that the teacher creates and asking questions about these lessons is one of the main ways that the teacher can help to ensure that students will learn (Wall-Thonis, 1988). The sixth and final step is encouraging students to interact with one another (Wall-Thonis, 1988). Sheltered instruction is very interactive and students have a unique opportunity in which to practice many of the language skills that they are learning (Wall-Thonis, 1988). By having projects and cooperative activities that pair native English speakers with those who do not speak English well teachers give these students who are struggling with English a good way to learn more of the common ways that students speak and how they relate the information that they learn to the experiences that they are dealing with (Wall-Thonis, 1988).
Are Educators Doing a Disservice to These Students?
There are some, however, that feel that educators are actually doing a great disservice to students by teaching English as a second language the way that they do (Cortes, 1986). Teaching English to ethnic students is an ideology that is often used in the United States (Cortes, 1986). This helps not only to maintain the students’ native language as the primary language that they use but also allows them to learn English as a second language to the extent that they are able to function well in both cultures (Cortes, 1986).
Unfortunately, there are many problematic results for these students that come from this because they often remain deficient in much of the English that the need when compared to students who learn English as their primary or only language (Cortes, 1986). Despite this, ethnic populations are still increasing rapidly throughout America and those who make predictions on these types of issues indicate that there will be even further increases in ethnic populations as time goes on (Cortes, 1986).
Many ethnic students are coming to America and with an ability to speak very little or no English at all and they are entering school systems in this manner (Cortes, 1986). Some believe that educators are not helping the students any by teaching them English only as a second language (Cortes, 1986). It is important to examine both the arguments for and against the way that English instruction is taught to these students because others believe that English must be taught to these individuals as a primary and not a secondary language (Cortes, 1986). No other country in the world uses their native language as a secondary language for any who move to that country (Cortes, 1986). In schools in other countries throughout the world, including Muslim countries, the native tongue of that country is always the main and primary language that is taught to students who come into those schools (Cortes, 1986). In France, Japan, Russia, and all other countries, the native language of that country is taught to any student who comes into school as being the primary language (Cortes, 1986).
Students who normally speak English but find themselves in another country must learn the language spoken in schools as the primary language and not as a secondary language that they have learned only to get by (Cortes, 1986). It is not believed by individuals who agree with this native language teaching that a student loses his or her identity by being taught English as the primary language in school (Cortes, 1986). Because the student has left his or her particular native country and is now residing within America the student’s identity is actually being enhanced by learning English as a first language as opposed to being detracted from in some way (Cortes, 1986). The student who has moved to America has left behind the original country’s language and no longer lives in the country where that particular ethnic language was primary (Cortes, 1986).
Because of this, the ethnic language that the student used to speak should then become the secondary language and English the primary language (Cortes, 1986). It is argued that ethnic students who learn English as a second language will always have difficulty because those English skills that this student may have acquired will never be the same as someone who is taught English as their primary language (Cortes, 1986). This does not mean that individuals who have learned English will always be better versed than those that have come from other countries, but only that those that have come from other countries must learn English as a first language the same way that American children learn English to be as proficient in it and comfortable with it as students who have learned English all their lives (Cortes, 1986).
When living in America, English helps to allow for a greater audience and gives the student the luxury of who he or she speaks to (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). By learning only their ethnic language and English as a second language the student often remains trapped in populations who normally speak his or her native language and do not speak English well (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Because of this, the student is only able to work with a smaller group of people, based on language proficiency, than someone who is more fluent in English (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992).
The student is also not able to communicate across many ethnic boundaries by using English as a first language (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Since the current generation of students is being taught only English as a second language it appears that future generations will only learn from the current generation (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Because of this, the future generation will also not be as fluent in English as those individuals who are taught English as their primary language (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992).
Since it has been noted that ethnic populations all across America are increasing there will be even more ethnic students who will not be able to be proficient in the English language because they will only be taught English as a second language (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). There will be a deteriorating quality to the English language that is spoken in the United States and those who do not speak English well will be accepted much more widely (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). There will be misspellings, mispronunciations, jargon, semantic irregularities, and many other issues that will be thrust upon individuals in this country as more people learn to speak English but not to speak it correctly (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). It would appear that the United States would eventually be lowering their standards for their native language by allowing so many individuals to have only a shaky and tenuous grasp of English at best (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992).
No other country in the world does this and some believe that this is undermining much of what America has become (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). There is also concern that, with the strong increase in ethnic groups, English will eventually become the second language of America (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). If educators do not maintain high standards that were originally set for English instruction to all students including those who come from other ethnicities, these problems will began in this generation and continue to become worse in future generations (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). This is not only for oral English skills but also for written words as well (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Individuals who cannot read, write, or speak English well often have few chances for success and advancement in this country because many colleges and universities demand students who are proficient in English (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Because of this, many individuals will suffer because educators today are not interested in making sure that students have a complete grasp of the English language (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992). Because of this, it appears that educators should look at the reasons behind why English is being taught only as a second language to foreign students and many of the reasons behind this may then be able to be rethought and reevaluated (Slavin & Yampolsky, 1992).
ESL Teaching Will Continue
However, for those who continue to teach English as a second language there are many necessary elements that need to be considered. Individualized instruction is one of the ways that these students can benefit from learning the English language but this must be tailored to the competency of the language that the student already has (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Cultural and linguistic backgrounds will affect how well these students learn and how much they retain (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). How these individuals are taught must be considered because many cultural backgrounds are very different from American cultural backgrounds (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Whether students should learn English as a first or as a second language is still debatable but it is clear that students who come from foreign lands often learn things in different ways due to the way their culture has normally taught students.
Because of this, there is much information that should be given to tutors and educators so that they are more able to help the children of immigrants. One-on-one tutoring appears to be the most effective of all of the forms that can be utilized for teaching reading and writing to students who do not have English as a first language (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Personal support and encouragement can often be provided by a tutor and educator who deals with only one student at a time and this will help for reading and writing skills in children who are uncomfortable with learning English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). It is necessary for students who are learning English as a second language to have this individualized instruction if they are ever to learn English in a way that is as proficient as those who have been taught English all of their lives (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). They must catch up with their peers and because of this they must learn the English language in a way that is accelerated somewhat more than most individuals have had to deal with when they have learned English in the past (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
They must reach a level of competency in speaking, reading, writing, and also in listening, if they are going to be able to compete with their peers and therefore succeed academically at the grade level which is appropriate for their age (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Teaching English as a first language is somewhat difficult because English is a very complex language and there are many words that have complex or varied meanings (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). However, students who are learning English as a second language have even more difficulty in learning English and there are knowledge bases and skills that go well beyond just the preparation that is required to help English as a first language students (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
When someone who has spoken English all their lives enters the school system at the age appropriate for kindergarten there is usually seen to be between 5000 and 7000 vocabulary words that are known by the children (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). These children are also able to speak English in a way that is correct syntactically and pragmatically (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). When individuals come from other countries and began to learn English as a second language they often have an oral proficiency which is below that of a preschool level child and because of this they have trouble making sense out of much of the information that is provided to them (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). If students do not have a good concept of the language that they are asked to read about in the textbooks and all their assignments teaching them to read and write a more proficient level often stalls (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
This makes for children who are reading things in English but are not decoding or comprehending them and due to this teaching phonics and other issues to these students is extremely necessary so that they attain a level of oral proficiency that is considered adequate for their age (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students are not able to make connections between spoken and written words when they do not have a sufficient vocabulary in English and even though it is not completely necessary to wait until many of the students have become completely proficient in speaking and listening it is important to teach them as much as possible of the English language before they attempt to perform actual work that is being done by those who have already learned English and are proficient at it (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Children who are learning English as a second language will also be at a variety of different stages in how much English they actually know and how much they are able to read, speak, and write that will be correct (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Assessing lesson planning accordingly is extremely necessary so that teachers can not only determine what it is that the students are already capable of doing but how much they actually have to learn (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Whether the country that the student came from is one that also uses English is also very important. Some students come from countries where English is also spoken and therefore they have a better grasp of English than those students who come from countries where English is not used to all (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). It is likely, however, that all children have picked up at least some words in English and some understanding of how they work because it seems that there is always someone in any country who is capable of speaking English at least to some degree (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Many of the students are also capable of reading and writing at a good level in the language that they were originally taught and some of these students will have more difficulty than others (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). This is largely due to the fact that some languages are more close to English than others are (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students who speak languages that have words that sound similar to English and have better ways of constructing sentences and ideas that are similar to American ways of doing these things will fare better in learning English as a second language when they come to America (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Some of these students will eventually switch over to this culture and learn English as their first language (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). These individuals will only use their native language at home or when they travel to their native country and will use a proficient amount of English for all other issues that they must handle (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Comparing progress between students who are learning English as a second language and providing instruction that is based only on that is not appropriate for many of these individuals because it is unfair to compare these students with each other when they have such varying backgrounds (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Different expectations must be held by educators for different children based on the factors discussed above (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Students who come from countries that have had formal education in their native language will often be able to take the knowledge that they have about reading comprehension strategies and other issues and transfer that over to English (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). This will help to facilitate much of the progress that the students will make in reading and writing (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). On the other hand, children that come from countries where there is little formal education will likely have picked up their native language only from being self-taught and learning from parents and other siblings (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
They will not have a formalized education that other students have and will therefore have more difficulty transferring what they have learned of their native language and how to respond to and learn from the ways that Americans teach their children the English language (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). How different a culture is from the American or Western culture also relates to how well a student will learn English as a second language (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). There are many students who have completely different concepts about family or community than what are considered traditionally Western concepts and some of the words that Americans use on a daily basis will not mean anything to the student because they do not use a word in their country that means anything similar (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). Because of this, it is important not only to teach children the English language but to teach them the deeper meanings that come from cultural experiences in the Western world (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). By exposing the children to as much background knowledge as possible through objects, people, pictures, books, and other issues this helps to facilitate not only an understanding of the English language but the English culture (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996).
Many of these children who understand the culture behind the language will have less difficulty picking up expressions that are considered typically Western or innuendos that are often attached to words based on facial or body expressions (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). These things are understood intuitively by someone who is American by birth or has come from a Western country where English is spoken (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). However, students who come from a drastically different culture often do not understand many of the subtleties that come with the way the words are said, the volume or pitch that is used with speaking, and the body language that comes with a particular word or phrase (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996). As can be seen, it is necessary not only to incorporate language into these students’ curriculum but also the culture of the Western world as well.
There are several things that tutors and educators must acquire if they are to teach these children and actually have them learn what they need to know to function correctly in society and be able to speak English to a degree that they are able to do what they need to without relapsing to their native language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The first thing that these educators must be aware of is that there are many factors that can either promote or hinder how well someone does in school (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There is not one single source for this issue and many students have to deal with other issues that are related to their schoolwork in seemingly surprising ways (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They may, for example, not have enough to eat or not have a space in their home where they can go and sit quietly to do the school related work that they need to do (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They may not have anyone in their family that is capable of speaking English to a degree that they are able to help them with their schoolwork (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
This makes it more difficult on the students because they do not have parents or other siblings that are able to check their homework and tell them if it is done correctly (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There may also be educators who have a poor attitude toward individuals who are learning English as a second language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Not only do some of these individuals have very little understanding of the culture that these other students have come from but they may have prejudices based on a certain ethnic background or have very low expectations of how well students can do when learning English as a second language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
This is particularly true of the Muslim culture at this point due to the terrorist activity and the war with Iraq. It is important that these educators learn cultural information about these students including the beliefs that they hold, their customs and ideas, the traditions that they have, the views that they have on education, and the ways of their family (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The self-esteem and self-perceptions that these students have will be affected by many of these factors and the attitude that these students have toward schooling will also be affected based on how important schooling is in their family and in their culture as well (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The second thing that educators must look toward is that there are often many distinctive features in the first language of the student being taught and by understanding these various chronological and morphological features educators will have a clear understanding of why these types of students tend to make specific errors when they are reading, speaking, or writing the English language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
When they become aware of these things they are able to plan instructional activities that will address these specific errors and explain to the students why they are having difficulty with particular areas (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The third issue that must be considered is that there are also common characteristics or traits that are often found to belong to a particular group of individuals but that many of these are stereotypical (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There are also certain ways that culture is to specific things that are not the same in this country and the concept that each person is an individual must be stressed so that educators and other students cannot stereotype individuals to put them into a specific category based only on their ethnicity (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
The fourth issue is to develop rapport and trust between those who are teaching and those who are being taught (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Sometimes stories can be shared about countries, families, and various experiences (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Tutors and educators in the United States can then use this information, whether it is spoken, written, or perhaps indicated by pictures and drawings, to show similarities and differences between cultures and help to facilitate comfort and understanding between the two different cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These can help not only with phonetic awareness but with language syntax as well and will provide a great deal of background information about the student and his or her particular culture and native lands (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The final issue is to learn how to show that these students’ language and cultures have validity (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Educators can ask these students how they would say a particular vocabulary word in their native language and some of these students who are unable to read or write and have no formal education when they come to the United States must be taught originally in this way (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The educators can show the child an object and the child can respond with the word for that object in his or her native language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). After this, the teacher can then give the child the word for that particular object in English so that the student begins to understand not only the English word but the concepts and objects to which it relates (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is also important for students who cannot speak any English to be addressed by someone who can speak their native language fluently so that they can have an explanation as to how they will be helped to learn English, why it is important, who will help them, how they will do that, and what types of projects they will utilize to do these things (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
A professional translator, a parent volunteer, a student who is more proficient with English, or an educator who knows the language fluently can do this type of translation for the student (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is very important as it will help to lighten the anxiety level that many of the students have and will make them more open to the experience of learning English (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is particularly true if the person who translates this information for them will be teaching them the English or is a student in the class in which they will be learning English (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Once this has been accomplished, instructional planning by the educators must be based on the language assessment of the student (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is important to have ongoing assessment of many of these issues such as listening, reading, speaking, and writing so that the instruction that is given to those who are learning English for the first time as a second language can be adjusted as the students become more proficient (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
The proficiencies for each student in the second language must be known by the educators and lesson plans must be based on information that has been obtained through assessment (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There are several important aspects that need to be considered for those learning English as a second language when it comes to literary instruction that is effective (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Assessing the oral and speaking skills that students have in a second language is the first critical step with learning how to teach one of these students to read and write (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is relatively easy to assess these types of issues and educators can ask questions that deal with the student’s life such as what they like or do not like and follow these questions with more specific knowledge that has to do with English concepts and vocabulary (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). By determining at what point the child fails to understand much of what was asked, it is more easily determined how much proficiency the child has in English (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
There may be pre-created lists of questions or educators may create their own lists that deal with yes or no answers, answers that only involve one or two words, and answers that must deal with basic descriptions and shorter phrases (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This will help to assess how much skill the student actually has with the English language. Looking at pictures and discussing what the individuals are wearing or what they are doing can also be very helpful especially when there is little time to develop an assessment and many of the instructors who utilize this also have little experience in the area of how to teach a second language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There is also the Student Language Observation Matrix, SOLOM, and other tests that have specific rubrics that categorize fluency, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
There are several different approaches once this has been determined and some of these use reading and writing activities while others focus more on hands-on activities that the students will be dealing with (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). The next thing that needs to be done is to assess the reading competency that the second-language student has (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Not only in the ability to comprehend the words in texts, but the ability to decode, the concept of prints, the attitudes that the children display toward reading, and the reading strategies that they use all must be assesses and examined in order to determine the best possible plan of instruction (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
All educators who are teaching English as a second-language should have a wide variety of books on many different things at very different grade and readability levels so that all students will have something that they will be interested in reading and able to read (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). If possible to do so, books should be used that represent the particular students’ native cultures so that they will feel comfortable reading something that reminds them of their homelands (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). There are many challenges when those who are learning to read attempt to do so and this is especially true for students who are learning English as a second language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is extremely important that educators understand this and understand how not having enough vocabulary or background knowledge on something in particular may help dampen the ability that the reader has to comprehend the text he or she is reading (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
In situations such as this, it is important that educators have strategies they can use to build up the background information and knowledge that a particular student has before he or she begins to read (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Another problem that ESL students must deal with is that many of the reading strategies that are usually taught to those who are learning English as a first language are not the same for those who are learning English as a second-language (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). For example, those who are learning English as a first language are often asked, if they mispronounce a word, if that particular word sounds right to them or makes sense. Sometimes they also are asked about similar words that began with particular letters (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). A second-language learner often misses much of this and may not be able to determine whether the word makes sense because they do not understand the context that it comes in (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They also do not have a good grasp of synonyms and may not have a large enough vocabulary to find similar words that began with other letters (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Many of these children who come from other countries may also not have been exposed to books and reading in any way and because of this they may dislike reading or simply have little interest in doing it (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They have not yet learned how enjoyable reading can be and how much excitement can be found within the pages of a good book. Promoting a love for the written word should be done at the heart of instructing these students in English (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Educators should also be sensitive to the fact that students may not pronounce things the same way that native English speakers would and that this will not necessarily interfere with the reading comprehension that the students have (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is often not a problem for these students as long as they are able to understand the concept behind what they are reading (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Also important to these educators and their students is to assess how well the students are able to write (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Some of these students will not be able to write in English on any level and others will be able to do so only in limited amounts (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). For students that are able to do so to some degree, it is important to write about a topic that they are familiar with (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This helps them to feel more comfortable and does not ask them to write not only in an unfamiliar language but also on a topic that they know very little about (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). They can write about going to school, what types of activities they like or do not like, what life is like in the country that they came from, and stories that deal with friends and family (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This can often be done with the use of writing prompts and any other kind of creative prompts that can be utilized to help trigger different types of writing (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This can also help learning punctuation or the proper way to create a paragraph (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
This is clearly a very important aspect of what these students need and how they need to be taught because there are many commercial publications that are available to help students learn and master these skills (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Picture books and questions that were used for assessment can also be used to help teach the student language that he or she did not know when the assessment took place (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is important to be aware of this and know that much of what is used for assessment is also used for teaching (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These can often be utilized in an instructional plan that is created for each individual student based on the initial assessment that was created (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Ideally, the plan should include the areas of strength that the student has, the areas that the student needs to work on, specific objectives regarding the language, and a plan of action that shows what types of outcomes will be created in the end (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
It is becoming more clear that those who are learning English as a second-language must have individualized instruction that addresses the particular literacy needs that the students have (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). By having competent educators that will take the time to understand the students and their culture, as well as take the time to prepare proper lessons for the students, it is likely that many of them will be able to succeed in learning Western culture and the English language.
Muslims in Western Schools
Increasingly, Muslim students have been found in American schools (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Quite often, most of the teachers in the United States know very little about Islam and even less about the cultures of these Muslim students (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Since they do not have teachers that understand them or are informed about their culture, most Muslim students find that they have a strong struggle going on between what is expected to be normal in the classroom and the school and what they feel they must do in their family and religion (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Not all Muslims are the same as Islam has very distinct branches (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
There are two major groups composed of the Sunni and the Shiite (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Not all Muslims who come to America come from the Middle East and not all are Arabs (Bashir-Ali, 2003). There are several different countries of origin for Muslim immigrants and these include Turkey, Bosnia, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and others (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
All Muslims appear to share the same beliefs in the same basic religious practices but they have very distinctive cultural differences that influence not only their view of the world but their lifestyle as well (Bashir-Ali, 2003). In various Islamic countries there are differences for behavior, especially for women, and much of this has to do with their ethnic beliefs, the rural or urban differences that they have, and the economic status of their particular family (Bashir-Ali, 2003). It is important to treat these Muslim students in a fashion that is considered to be culturally sensitive but because many teachers do not understand that some students who come from Turkey, Bosnia, Nigeria, and other regions may be Muslim the lack the knowledge of these students’ culture, which impedes their ability to treat these individuals in the proper way (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
It is easiest to discuss Muslim girls and women because they have the most differences from their American or Western counterparts. Not all Muslim girls who come to this country will dress in a manner that they would in their native countries, but those who observe the dress code of Islam must cover their hair and all of their body when they reach puberty with the exception of their feet, faces, and hands (Bashir-Ali, 2003). However, the degree that these individuals cover themselves often depends on the culture and also on the interpretation of the religion that is seen in their family (Bashir-Ali, 2003). When it comes to physical education classes there is also a conflict of dress code based on what Muslim girls must wear and what American girls wear (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Muslims who follow the dress code of their religion may not wear short-sleeved T-shirts and shorts and sometimes Muslim girls will receive lower grades in these types of classes because the teachers believe that they have a disregard for the rules (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
It is important to look at these cultural differences and be aware of them because many of these Muslim students feel that they are being punished in front of others for being who they are (Bashir-Ali, 2003). The parents also do not understand why individuals in this country wish to change their children into something else and cannot respect the dress code required by their religion (Bashir-Ali, 2003). In their native countries, this would not be an issue and they would teach students physical education and other activities without requiring them to uncover their bodies (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Often, Muslim girls are seen to be invisible in schools in America (Bashir-Ali, 2003). They often stay separated from groups because their culture has taught them this and they often sit in the back of the room quietly and hoping that no one will notice them or talk to them (Bashir-Ali, 2003). They remain with girls that belong to their ethnic group because they feel safe but allowing them to feel that they are appreciated and understood can help them to become more visible and more willing to speak to others who do not belong to their culture or religion (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Stereotypes are also very important, especially in the post-9/11 world. However, even before the terrorist events called the Muslim people and the Islamic religion into a deep discussion about whether it was dangerous Americans and other Westerners still had other issues in social studies or history, such as the crusades, which basically persecuted most Muslims (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Many individuals felt uncomfortable with this due to the fact that they felt there were being judged based on their religion or ethnicity (Bashir-Ali, 2003). At home, Muslims also have much different issues than Americans do (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Often they are required to do a great deal of housework and must take care of their siblings and therefore they may come to school unprepared because they did not have time for their homework (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Teachers may believe that they are lazy or that they have no interest in schoolwork or have taken an American attitude which is caused them to rebel (Bashir-Ali, 2003). This is often far from the truth but sometimes discussing these issues with their parents may prove helpful both to the educator and to the parents about what is required in American schools (Bashir-Ali, 2003). There are many other issues that Muslims must deal with, especially when they come to Western cultures and enter schools (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Extracurricular activities or any type of enrichment programs that take place after school are things which they are not allowed to participate in and often they have so many responsibilities at home that they would not have time for these things even if they were allowed to participate (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Families who are Muslim tend to be very close and do not want their children discussing dating, family issues, or peer relations with any counselors or teachers at the school (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
School counselors and those who work as specialists to teach English as a second-language often help teachers to see the impact of their religion, culture, and background on these Muslims and what type of behavior and academic study will be displayed (Bashir-Ali, 2003). It is still true that most parents of Muslim children wish to maintain cultural and religious values in their household and their families by providing their own type of counseling to their daughters (Bashir-Ali, 2003). There are also many food restrictions that are presented and when Muslims come to American schools this can be difficult (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Muslims cannot eat any type of pork or pork byproducts and cafeteria workers and those who may prepare food for classrooms for any reason must be made aware of this. There are several things that must be recognized when Muslims come to the West (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
First, just because someone is Muslim does not mean that they have come from the same place or the same culture as another Muslim and this difference must be taken into account (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Second, Muslim girls and women may act quite differently in behavior and demeanor to the other young women in the class but this does not mean that they have a lack of attention or respect for teachers (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Whether or not they touch another person or make eye contact often has much to do with their cultural and religious beliefs and when this is understood fewer difficulties will be found relating to this (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Third, most Muslim girls will not mix with anyone of the opposite sex or date in the same way that those who are not Muslim (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Fourth, many Muslims feel that they are invisible in classrooms and they often attempt to remain so (Bashir-Ali, 2003). Educators who are knowledgeable about their culture and religion can help them to feel more comfortable in classrooms and ensure that they can meet the demands of both their school and their home life (Bashir-Ali, 2003). The dress codes for physical education classes are often not tolerated by Muslim girls because they are not allowed to show their bodies in this way and accommodations for these religious issues will need to be made (Bashir-Ali, 2003).
Schools in Muslim Countries
In contrast with the way Americans teach students from other countries, Muslim schools require that their educators be extremely well grounded in Islamic education and its philosophy (Sanjakdar, 2004). Although those who work in America are not required to be strongly updated and grounded in the Christian religion, Muslims incorporate their religion into much more of what they do that Americans do. There are many Muslim schools outside the actual traditional Muslim world and South Africa is one of the places that has the largest group of these (Sanjakdar, 2004). One of the most important things that Muslim schools are dealing with at the moment are inset programs which are being designed for their schools (Designing, 2003). These are dedicated to the retraining and reeducation of those who teach in Muslim schools and there are several issues that they must look at (Designing, 2003).
One of the reasons that these inset programs are becoming so popular is because they are all planned, developed, and presented within the framework of Islam (Designing, 2003). All of the content of the programs that are created relates to Islam and the courses all are utilized to make sure that the teachers have all of the skill and education that they need to be completely grounded in their religion and ensure that the students operate in the same manner (Designing, 2003). Much of what is taught to all educators in these types of programs will then be passed on in some manner to the students and therefore it is relevant to discuss this education issue here. What type of vision Islamic education has is one of the most important topics and includes not only the history of Islamic education but also the mission and vision of it and the specific goals of it as well (Designing, 2003).
Also taught to these educators is something that the American teachers often do not have – the way to have a clear distinction between the Western view and the Islamic view of the way things are done (Designing, 2003). Most American educators do not know how to do this, not just for the Muslim or Islamic world but for any other foreign cultures or religions that come into their schools. In Muslim schools it is vitally important that these differences be discussed and understood (Designing, 2003). There are different needs that Muslim learners have when compared to non-Muslim learners and highlighting these differences and understanding them is tantamount to providing a good educational experience for students under these educators’ care (Designing, 2003).
These educators must be role models to those that are learning and looking at their character from an Islamic perspective is also taught (Designing, 2003). The other issues that are dealt with in Muslim schools include culture and legacy that deals with the Islamic civilization, the need for Muslim schools, and the Islamic role that a manager or administrator has within a school (Designing, 2003). Curriculum development, lesson planning, teaching methods, and instructional evaluations are also geared toward an Islamic perspective (Designing, 2003). The Muslim schools and the way that they teach their children are much more focused on one specific aspect and the integration of it into everything else then Western schools are (Designing, 2003). Everything that is discussed within the curriculum of a particular Muslim school relates in some way to the Islamic goals and beliefs of the Muslim world (Designing, 2003).
This is much different from the way American educators teach children as there is no specific set of religious principles that most instructors follow (Sanjakdar, 2004). In fact, they must be very careful about how much religion they discuss in the classroom or what they say about particular religions because church and state are supposed to be separate. Teachers are not allowed to pray during class times and the subject of religion is often off-limits unless the teachers and students are somewhere off campus at a function that is not related to the school in any way.
In other words, if a teacher and a student ran into each other at the local library it would be perfectly acceptable for them to discuss religion but it would not be appropriate after class during lunch break while still on campus for them to do the same thing. Islamic and Muslim schools do not look at things this way and they see their religion as central to everything that they teach (Sanjakdar, 2004). While American schools see culture and religion as being entirely separate, Islamic schools see culture and religion as one and the same (Sanjakdar, 2004). Their religion is about their culture and their culture is their religion (Sanjakdar, 2004). There is no part of these issues that cannot be found to meet and agree with the other issue (Sanjakdar, 2004).
There are some Muslims that are stricter than others, but religion plays a central role in the lives of all of them, regardless of how certain families sometimes interpret Islamic law and religion somewhat differently than others (Sanjakdar, 2004). Schools are very strict about sticking to the Qur’an and the text that Muslim students must learn (Sanjakdar, 2004). Most Islamic schools have been established in many countries and much of this has come about because it was believed by parents that the religious needs of the Muslim children were not actually being met in a standard education system (Sanjakdar, 2004). In their native country, this would not be a problem, but in other countries in the world religion is not seen as having a great deal to do with education (Sanjakdar, 2004).
The Islamic view of education is important to discuss here. Everything that a Muslim does, and this includes the seeking of education, is seen as being a basic act of worship (Sanjakdar, 2004). Because of this, Muslims find education as being fundamentally important. Their holy book, the Qur’an, emphasizes that knowledge and education is extremely important so that God’s commands can be understood (Sanjakdar, 2004). Without this knowledge, they will never be able to understand God, and their prophet Mohammed also discussed the importance of education and knowledge (Sanjakdar, 2004). Because Muslims see Islam is being the purpose of their life knowledge is also related to religion. It is believed by many that education is concerned with the development of human life that is full.
Islamic education is also concerned with this but only with an Islamic life that is full (Sanjakdar, 2004).
This must be based on faith, belief, and unity of God, and also must be guided by the teachings from the Qur’an (Sanjakdar, 2004). Muslims do not have any duality in education (Sanjakdar, 2004). In other words, they cannot divide the knowledge that they have into the religious and the secular, but consider all knowledge as belonging to religion (Sanjakdar, 2004). Having an education without being aware of God is completely meaningless and many Muslims find that it is also a contradiction in terms (Sanjakdar, 2004). Becoming profoundly aware of God is much of what learning is about for Muslims (Sanjakdar, 2004).
The environment, culture, and organization that Muslims have has as much to do with their attitudes and behaviors as their schooling does. (Sanjakdar, 2004) This is often called the hidden curriculum and even though it is not announced to the public it is recognized by those who attend that school, teacher at that school, and by the parents of the students who go to that school (Sanjakdar, 2004). Muslim children are often immersed in an Islamic environment and they can therefore feel that their own culture believes their norms are actually being respected rather than feeling as though they are becoming assimilated into the norms of the Western world (Sanjakdar, 2004).
There are two distinctive roles that this Islamic education plays (Sanjakdar, 2004). The first is helping to preserve much of the cultural heritage and the development of the faith that these individuals are expected to have (Sanjakdar, 2004). The second is the establishment of a strictly Islamic identity (Sanjakdar, 2004). However, there are often problems with the curriculum of many Muslims schools that are created and operated outside of the traditional Islamic world. Much of this has to do with religious and secular subjects and how a balance between these two can be found so that those who are Muslim feel that their beliefs and culture is being respected (Sanjakdar, 2004).
Too much secular information indicates a drive for academic success that has little to do with religion and the teachings of God (Sanjakdar, 2004). There is a concern that colleges and other schools that do things this way will forget many of the religious obligations that they are supposed to have and the commitment that is made to the students and parents thought to be immersed in the Islamic tradition (Sanjakdar, 2004). When this happens to schools an Islamic education is often lost in all of the other subjects that are being taught and the true spirit of it is no longer present (Sanjakdar, 2004). The sense of Islamic education is that there is not seen to be any difference between religious and secular education (Sanjakdar, 2004).
Including a class on Islamic studies three times a week is not the same thing as having a comprehensive Islamic education (Sanjakdar, 2004). This comprehensive Islamic education is what is strived for in Muslims schools outside of the traditionally Muslim world (Sanjakdar, 2004). Religious curriculum is also often very restricted and this causes problems for teachers as well (Sanjakdar, 2004). Concerned that students will explore these questions about religion only in classes that deal with religion and that knowledge about religion will become compartmentalized is on the rise among these teachers (Sanjakdar, 2004). Having classes like this where religion is taught will show religion as something that should only be dealt with in a certain time and in a certain place and this will separate religion from basic questions about life and other issues (Sanjakdar, 2004). It will show religion as being separate from normal and everyday life, which is something that the principles of Islam do not teach (Sanjakdar, 2004).
Having restricted religious classes in this way makes viewing Islam as a lifelong activity very difficult for most students (Sanjakdar, 2004). Some subjects also have nothing to do with Islam in any way and teaching them also contradicts Islamic beliefs (Sanjakdar, 2004). This causes not only problems for Muslim staff but confusion among students and upset from parents (Sanjakdar, 2004). For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution is often taught in secondary science classes and this is seen as one of the justifiable theories of existence but it is contrary to the beliefs of Islam (Sanjakdar, 2004). Teachers of religion must then supply students with a discussion of evolution that includes the Islamic perspective and this adds to the already overburdened workload that many of them have (Sanjakdar, 2004). The way that many of those who work in Muslim schools respond to these problems is to create a curriculum model that is integrated and based solely on the Islamic beliefs and principles (Sanjakdar, 2004).
This is not an entirely new concept for many Muslim educators because it is believed that bringing these secular subjects in line with the beliefs and principles of Islam is the only way that the students will see the connection between Islam and other various knowledge areas, as well as the relevance of Islam in their daily lives (Sanjakdar, 2004). Including Islam across the entire curriculum that is taught will show many contributions that Muslims have made to civilization, science, world history, and other issues (Sanjakdar, 2004). Generally, much of this information is not known and many curriculums do not discuss it (Sanjakdar, 2004).
There are also controversial areas such as those that deal with health education of a sexual nature that are not currently in any type of Muslim curriculum (Sanjakdar, 2004). Many of these topics are not discussed because they do not fall into what Islam believes is appropriate for young men and women and therefore those who could forego their beliefs at a later data or do things outside of what they believe their religion teaches them can find themselves in a great deal of trouble because they do not how the basic health and sexual knowledge that all young people should have in this world today (Sanjakdar, 2004).
As can be seen, there are many differences between the way American and other Western schools educate their students and the way that Islamic schools educate their students, and there are both good and bad points to each. Whether it has to do with English as a second language, or only with education in general, there are many differences that are related to culture and beliefs. Many of these differences are also related to the religious beliefs and understandings that are had by both cultures. When American students go to countries that are traditionally Muslim, or when Muslim students come to countries that are traditionally American or westernized, there is a great deal of culture shock and dismay at the differences that they must deal with.
They often feel alone and have difficulty understanding much of what they are told because they do not speak the language and even if they did would still not understand the cultural reasons behind much of it. Teaching English as a second language is very difficult but the most important thing to teach to any foreign student coming into a school in a different country is cultural understandings so that the student feels more at home because he or she is aware of some of the reasons that his or her peers are doing the things that they are doing. Taking the extra time to talk with students such as this helps to understand his or her culture somewhat and is also very important as this can help facilitate an understanding between the two cultures that will be seen as a very important tool for learning and understanding.
Bashir-Ali. K. (2003). Teaching Muslim girls in American schools. Social Education.
Cortes, C. (1986). The Education of Language Minority Students. In Beyond Language: Social & Cultural Factors in Schooling Language Minority Students. Los Angeles, California: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, CSU, Los Angeles.
Designing inset programmes for Muslim schools. (2003). INSET. Retrieved at http://www.iberr.org/inset.htm
O’Malley, M. & Valdez-Pierce, L. (1996). Authentic Assessment for English Language Learners. New York: Addison Wesley.
Peregoy, S. & Boyle, O. (2000). Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL. New York: Longman.
Sanjakdar, F. (2004). Educating Muslim Children: A study of the hidden and core curriculum of an Islamic school. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved at http://www.aare.edu.au/01pap/san01187.htm
Slavin, R. & Yampolsky, R. (1992). Success for all. Effects on students with limited English proficiency: A three-year evaluation. Report No. 29 Maryland: Center for Research on Effective Schooling for disadvantaged Students.
Wall-Thonis, E. (1988). Reading Instruction for Language Minority Students. In Schooling and Language Minority Students: A Theoretical Framework. Office of Bilingual Bicultural Education, California State Department of Education. (1988). California State University, Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center.
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