The benefit of acquiring a good education is something children clearly stand to gain the most from.
Given that 34% of British Muslims are aged under sixteen, as compared to 20% as a national average, (2001 census), it is perhaps understandable that Muslims are particularly anxious in ensuring children gain the most from school especially given the importance Islam places on acquiring knowledge.
It is therefore sad to note British Muslim children fare the worst out of all faith groups in terms of educational achievement, with only 15% of Muslims being educated to a degree standard or higher (the lowest of any group) compared to a national average of 16.4%.
Parents evidently have a critical role to play in ensuring their children perform well at school. However, beyond providing a stable home environment and ensuring kids work hard and do their homework what else can be done?
In the last few years, many public personalities, including Sir David Attenborough have called for young people in schools to increase lessons and experiences taught outside the classroom.
According to the ‘Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’, field based learning provides students with new opportunities to develop their confidence, enhance their emotional and spiritual skills and improve their fitness levels. Children also learn how they can contribute positively to community life.
Such learning occurs through various means, including volunteering in community projects, work experience, physical outdoor activities and visits to farms, heritage sites and sacred spaces.
Children, parents and teachers together can form a powerful alliance which can practically bring faith to life, not only through theory, belief or rituals, but also through combining knowledge and action into a complete way of life.
At 1st Ethical this mindset has led to us developing a ground breaking ‘Ilm2Amal Schools Curriculum’ coupled with our field based Campaign Toolkits.
Alongside academic lessons, we have teamed up with several charities like the RSPCA, Age UK and the Salvation Army to offer pupils a number of practical and easy to implement campaign toolkits which can be implemented outside the classroom in the local community in partnership with mainstream charities.
At a time when unemployment is on the rise, with Muslims already over three times as likely to be unemployed compared to others, many may feel such an approach is very important in developing a generation of Muslims who are both faithful to their faith and confident in knowing how to best benefit others.
However, how many schools and madrasahs are empowering their pupils to do good purely ‘…for the sake of God alone…’ with pupils who ‘…seek neither recompense nor thanks…’ (76:8-9)? How many are being actively encouraged to tangibly give something back to their communities and thereby learn critical life and communication skills?