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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Call for better Muslim schooling
Muslim students in class
The report calls for religious awareness training for school staff
Muslim educationalists have called for an education system in the UK that better meets Muslim pupils' needs.

A group of academics and education experts said "institutional racism" was stopping more Muslim state schools from being set up.

Their Muslims on Education report calls for curriculum changes, suggesting there might be an Islamic studies A-level.

Other recommendations included reversing the trend of mixed sex education, training staff in religious awareness, and public funding for Muslim schools and institutions.

The report, billed as the first substantial feedback to ministers by Muslim groups, says many Muslims did not have access to any suitable education.

'Insensitivities'

It called for the fast-tracking of more of the 80 or so independent Muslim schools into the state sector. So far only five have qualified for state funding.

The authors, who include the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, rejected claims that single faith schools had contributed to divisions in society.

More faith schools is the easy cop-out
Andrew Bennett MP
Their report also cited incidents of insensitivity towards Muslim pupils - such as serving pork in school meals.

Among its two dozen recommendations was a suggestion that there should be a compulsory exam in religious education or citizenship.

It also called for religious education to be compulsory between the ages of 14 and 16 - though this is already the case.

There was a call for greater privacy in changing facilities for PE.

It said the chance to study languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Hindi or Urdu would better reflect the diversity of communities.

There should be more research into and formal consultation with the Muslim community - and more Muslim school inspectors.

And parents who wanted to educate their children at home should get financial help, including tax breaks.

State funding

Labour peer Baroness Uddin told Radio 4's Today programme there needed to be a debate about why Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in state schools were not performing to their maximum.

And she called for Muslim schools to be treated like other faith schools.

She said: "There should be recognition of these schools which have been working for a long time and should be state funded, just like Jewish and Church of England schools."

Kurshid Ahmed of the Commission for Racial Equality told BBC News that state school provision for Muslims could be improved, but warned that separate faith schools prevented integration.

Divisions

A select committee of MPs looking into race riots a few years ago suggested Muslim schools caused social division.

Its chairman, Labour MP Andrew Bennett, told Today religious schools in Northern Ireland showed this to be the case.

He applauded some parts of the report but added: "More faith schools is the easy cop-out."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We are committed to raising the standard of every pupil, regardless of their social or religious background.

"Schools and teachers must respect the different faiths and customs of all their pupils.

"It is up to individual governing bodies, schools and LEAs to decide if they wish to provide facilities specifically aimed at certain religious beliefs. And we know that many more schools and LEAs are doing just that."

A spokesman for the prime minister added: "The government's view is that these issues are dealt with at a local level. Any decisions to create a new faith school are made there.

"We are not campaigning for more faith schools, but we support those that are there already."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Robert Pigott
"They want an increase in religious education, an A-level in Islamic studies and single sex classes"



SEE ALSO:
Bangladeshi pupils can improve
07 May 04  |  Education
Muslim group to open faith school
24 May 04  |  England


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