Shifting Winds of Arabic Teaching in Islamic Schools

By Ayari, Salah | Islamic Horizons, March/April 2009 | Go to article overview

Shifting Winds of Arabic Teaching in Islamic Schools


Ayari, Salah, Islamic Horizons


The 2005 Arabic standards offer teachers opportunities to improve teaching of the language. By Salah Ayari

A 2006 Modern Language Association survey found that Arabic is the tenth most studied language in America. Training programs and professional development opportunities for teachers of Arabic have sprouted nationwide, and more Arabic-language textbooks, instructional materials, and assessment instruments are coming. The overarching theme driving some of these changes and framing the debate about Arabic teaching is the standards, which were published only in 2006.

These standards describe the learning outcomes that allow students to use Arabic to communicate effectively and appropriately, understand other cultures vis-à-vis their own, and acquire new knowledge. In 2005, the Arabic standards were translated into Arabic and presented at professional conferences. A standards workshop organized by the ISNA Education Forum and the Islamic Schools League of America in 2006 was attended by more than seventy Islamic school teachers. The ISNA Education Forum now offers these workshops each year.

Although Arabic has been taught in Islamic schools for at least two decades, scant data exists on teaching it in terms of curriculum, methods of instruction, teacher qualifications, assessment tools, or learners' profiles. Very few studies have looked at Islamic schools, and even fewer have looked at their Arabic curricula. Nevertheless, Badawi's 2005 study shows that the Islamic curriculum and experience drive parents' decision to put their children in Islamic schools.

Arabic is taught to ensure that Islamic school students can "read" the Qur'an, in the sense that they can decode and then recite the words; understanding has always been a secondary concern. Some Islamic schools, on the other hand, emphasize writing skills and vocabulary acquisition. This decision, however, usually rests with the teacher, since most schools lack a well-articulated Arabic curriculum with clear goals and objectives. …

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