JEDDAH: As international schools in the city gear up for the new academic session, some parents have requested that schools improve the quality of their classes in Islamic studies. Although the Ministry of Education has decreed that all international schools must teach Islamic civilization, several concerned parents have complained that international schools still have serious deficiencies in the teaching of Islamic studies.

Mohammed Tayeb, a father of two children, said: “The curricula of international schools do meet the high expectations we have both in English and Arabic. But they lack in teaching Islamic education. I have hired a teacher to give them private classes on Islamic studies and the Qur’an.”

He added that it is essential for the students to have knowledge about Islam and said that the schools should put in more effort to promote a good understanding of Islam and the role of Muslims in the contemporary world. “We pay a huge amount in fees these days and we want them to learn all the subjects, including Islam,” Tayeb said.

In some international schools, the Islamic studies subject is included in the curriculum simply to meet a Ministry of Education requirement rather than being developed with the same commitment to excellence and improvement like the core subjects, such as English or Arabic.

Since a high number of Saudis and Arab expatriates attend International schools, parents feel it is important that their children learn about Islam.

Manal Al-Redwan, a resident of Jeddah, said: “Previously the schools used to teach children how to read the Qur’an and the history of Islam. But unfortunately, the schools these days lack this. I too have hired an outside teacher for my children who teaches them to learn Islamic studies, and I pay him SR500 every month.”

She said that although the schools have this subject as a part of the curricula, the poor quality of teaching is the most persistent problem. “I have noticed that several international schools lack qualified teachers for teaching Islamic studies. They should recite the verses accurately and should know the Qur’an,” she added.

Commenting on this, Mrs. Fatima, vice principal of an international school in Jeddah, said: “The problem lies in the teaching skills of the teachers, not their expertise in the subjects. Many of them have immense knowledge and gained their degrees from reputable universities, but are unable to teach and convey it to the students. In the boys’ section, we have qualified teachers, but in the girls’ section its a bit difficult to find a good one. However, we have started to train female teachers.”