How to integrate classical Arabic into public education
16-year-old American high school student who wants to seriously study classical Arabic – i.e. Arabic used to understand Quran, hadiths, literature or historical works – has a few options:
- Take a year off and go to an institute specializing in classical education or travel abroad.
- Take an online course in addition to their already busy schedule.
- Transfer to an Islamic school. (If they have a good one, the school will have a good secular and Islamic studies.) Unfortunately, many parents have to make the difficult decision to put their children in a public school due to better secular studies and as a result, to outsource their Islamic education, many times through an outdated Sunday school system.
For the past ten years, these have been the avenues and options for students who are interested in classical Arabic earlier. Each option requires a unique sacrifice. Unfortunately, some do not have the time or the finances to make these sacrifices and are limited to the resources around them. So why hasn’t the American Muslim community found a solution to this? There are a few reasons:
- Most education officials such as principals and superintendents are unaware of the difference between Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic. In layman’s terms, Classical Arabic is similar to Latin in that it has the characteristics of a dead language – a language which is not used in everyday speech and which is mainly used for the purpose of reading and writing. Although they both focus on Arabic, the demographics are drastically different. It requires an educational marketing campaign that takes a lot of time and effort.
- There are not enough teachers who are fluent in English who can teach Arabic well enough to high school students
- There are not enough high school students interested in classical Arabic school to justify a separate class.
- Institutes that teach Classical Arabic are primarily focused on teaching communities or work with universities.
- Working with the public school system is a long process and often requires accreditation such as Cognia.
- By subcontracting Classical Arabic, the student has only one source of motivation, his own interest. For this reason, they are more likely not to complete the course as this motivation can easily diminish. Having multiple sources of motivation leads to higher retention rates and is essential for a successful student and course.
- The majority of secondary schools require foreign language credits. Thanks to this avenue, we can use classical Arabic courses to fill their foreign language credit. All it takes is an accredited institute that can transfer these credits to any high school. To do this, we must develop relationships with high schools. Also, many high schools require that an institute be accredited by some sort of body to take this relationship seriously.
- Instead of presenting Classical Arabic as an Islamic enterprise, we need to explain it as a cultural and linguistic study. This mode of communication is important for public schools to understand what is available. The reason is that schools would be more reluctant to accept Islamic studies courses than language courses.
- The objectives of Classical Arabic are more focused on reading and writing, not speaking and listening. Many times schools will need a speaking and listening portion based on state standards. One way to explain this to schools is to compare classical Arabic to Latin. When examining many Latin programs, it becomes evident that they also do not focus on speaking and listening, thus providing a gateway to classical Arabic.
- Accessibility. The silver lining with the Covid-19 pandemic was that online courses became standardized. Since the Muslim community and Arabic learners are spread across the country, the best way to get many students with a similar mindset and interest is to have the courses online.
Arabic Daily tries to fill this gap. They were recently accredited by Cognia, the world’s leading secondary school accreditation body. They are in constant communication with high schools in the United States and are accepting their first batch this fall 2021. A student simply needs to fill out the form and Arabic Daily will contact the high school on behalf of the student.
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