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Course helps primary-school teachers with Islam-related dilemmas

Primary-school teachers who aren’t Muslim themselves but do have Muslim children in their class sometimes face dilemmas and cultural or religious differences. The ‘Islam in the Classroom’ course at the Leiden Islam Academy can help them resolve these. A new round begins on 9 September.

The ‘Islam in the Classroom’ course [taught in Dutch] looks at the challenges that non-Muslim primary-school teachers may face if they have children in their class who come from an Islamic background. These challenges could include opinions on celebrating Christmas, the need for privacy when showering after PE or other issues arising from differences in culture and upbringing.

Awareness and empathy

Primary-school teachers helped design the course. Each section begins with a video of two teachers discussing a certain topic. Various methods are used during the course such as podcasts, questionnaires, short quizzes and short films. There is also plenty of opportunity for interaction between the course participants themselves and between the participants and the instructor. The course provides a safe setting in which participants can discuss cases and thus learn from one another’s experiences. Participants in previous editions of the course said they felt better able to deal with dilemmas and discussions that might arise in class. ‘The course gives teachers the opportunity to explore their own awareness and preconceptions about the topic,’ said one participant. ‘All teachers should follow training like this in sensitivity and empathy, preferably at the start of their career.’

Real experiences take centre stage

The course was developed with the aid of the Leiden Centre for Innovation, and uses resources such as videos and podcasts.  This means that, rather than abstract information on the topic, people’s real experiences take centre stage and inform the discussion. Through personal stories and everyday situations, the teachers learn about potential differences of opinion on a topic as well as the different viewpoints and how these are reached. They also learn something about the Islamic faith. Course instructor Fatiha Azzarhouni: ‘The aim of the discussions is not to provide ready-made answers, but for the participants to become more aware of the perspective of others. This helps them in the classroom and at school.’

A new edition of the ‘Islam in the Classroom’ [taught in Dutch] course begins at the Leiden Islam Academy on 9 September. For more information and to register for the course, see the website.

About the Leiden Islam Academy

The Leiden Islam Academy (LIA) aims to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims – both online and offline – so that they can share their experiences and viewpoints on a range of topics, including topics that are considered controversial. LIA believes in the power of dialogue and wants to involve all of society in the academic exploration of the age-old, rich and diverse culture of Islam.

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