For as the Research Fellow and Program Director for Islamic Education from the University of South Australia puts it, Islamic schools in Australia have done the “hard yards” and are now ready to emerge into brighter, more collaborative pastures.
So to celebrate this transition and bolster the momentum needed to forge best practice across the sector, this July educators, policy makers and thought leaders will converge for the second Annual Australian Islamic Schooling Conference.
Considered “watershed” events for the sector, Chown says the annual PD gatherings are designed to plug a very real chasm.
“We were inspired by some of the whole-of-field conferences that are held in other contexts on Islamic schooling; the north American context, they’ve been holding annual conferences for some time now, equally the UK and Malaysia as well, so we are aware that these whole of field gatherings are bringing together educators inside of Islamic schooling circles.
“We certainly identified that as a gap in Australia, we know for ourselves, because we have had the privilege of travelling frequently, that there are so many talented and committed researchers, educators…”
Guided by the theme “Islamic Schooling Renewal – A Focus on Curriculum” CITE Director and conference convenor, Professor Mohamad Abdalla and his team have put together a program that delves into the latest research grounded in the Islamic tradition.
Crucially, however, it’s carefully aligned with contemporary practice.
"Professor Abdalla explains (that) Islamic schooling (in Australia) has had to rely typically on resources - literary texts, textbooks or readers and often they have been out of context. They have been criticized as being boring, repetitive," Chown says.
“[We are working towards an] Islamic studies curriculum that would reflect the elements and the form of other national curriculum key learning areas, that would allow educators in Islamic schools, both the religious staff and the teachers of other teaching areas, to have far more dialogue and far more opportunities to integrate cross-curricula learning, which is a feature of the Australian curriculum.”
Chown says delegates of all faiths and sectors will have much to take away from the distinguished keynote speakers, many of which have been plucked from around the globe.
Dr. Nadeem Memon, Director of Education at Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group and Dr. Seema Imam, Co-Chair of the National College of Education, at National Louis University are just two presenters set to enlighten and inspire.
The two-day learning and networking fest has another driving goal: to smash down social barriers.
“As educators we cannot afford to ever be insular, we need to be reaching out to colleagues across sectors, be it the state system or other colleagues in faith- based or independent schooling more broadly,” Chown notes.
“I hope that [delegates] see the breadth and the agility of the Australian curriculum and are inspired to really engage in innovative responses and approaches to the integration of beliefs, values and traditions within our schools, within what is a quality curriculum.”
The 2nd Annual Australian Islamic Schooling Conference will take place from July 11-12 at Mount Lofty House, Crafers, SA.