JMS: First Class Islamic Education in Singapore


Today, I am with the team from Khalifah Model School (Secondary) and Khalifah Education Foundation visited MUIS, al-Mawaddah Mosque and PERGAS HQ in Singapore. The last time I discussed about Islamic Education in Singapore with friends, was around year 2007 or 2008 when Madrasahs in Singapore were in dilemma after the government imposed compulsory education back then. I was very worried listening to the stories and at that time I thought, Singapore must do something since the paradigm of Islamic Education at that time looked poor. The disintegration between Diniyyah and Academic curriculum and Madrasahs against public schools was not encouraging. Later on, I was not sure where can I get the latest information and progress regarding Islamic education in Singapore.

But today, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss about the latest progress on Islamic education with MUIS, and we were introduced to the Joint Madrasah System (JMS) and I was overwhelmed listening to the presentation. Not only the integration between the Diniyyah curriculum with the academic has produced many internationally recognised qualifications such as GCSE Cambridge and IB but the Islamic education has also embrace the 21st century education with more learner centered, with high level of progressivism and even learning Islam has become fun, dynamic and exciting.

Now, our Singaporean brothers and sisters can pursue their tertiary education in Islamic Studies in countries like Egypt, Jordan and similar destinations directly from Madrasah, without the need to take a diploma in Malaysia like many did several years ago.

Congratulations MUIS and Singaporean Muslims for the great job in education.



Improving the Way We Praise Good Behaviour

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 7.44.01 PM
source fincherwannettaedm310.blogspot.my

“Dad, today I got my examination result. I got 70%” Ahmad told his father when he got into the car.

“Awesome. I love you” daddy replied.

“Hmm… did he mean what he said? 70% is not a good grade. Why did he praise me?” Ahmad had this thought in his mind. He doubted his father’s praise.

Today, in our school, we had our weekly circle for teachers. Our CEO was discussing about the art of praise as a form of reward to reinforce good behaviour. Culturally, it is not a very common thing for us to praise good behaviour. When our children or students do mistakes, we spontaneously realise them and we give them remark. But if they put their shoes in order, place their bags nicely as they supposed to do, we tend to ignore them, or our sight simply miss them.

Praising good behaviour is needed.

But at the same time, we need to improve the way we praise.

The evaluative praise is easy especially when you already have the habit.



This is beautiful!

This type of praise works well for beginners.

But we will reach one point where the praise itself sparks doubt. Especially in our society where praising each other has not overcome sarcasm and say double meaning words. The unspecified praise can also mislead our children or students. We want to praise the doing, but being unspecified, we praise the doer. The doer got confused. What did I do that makes me deserved the praise?

We need to upgrade evaluative praise to descriptive praise. Descriptive in a sense that the praise is describing specifically the subject.


source: How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

“Dad, today I got my examination result. I got 70%” Ahmad told his father when he got into the car.

“Awesome. I still remember that last semester you got around 60%. It is a good improvement. Keep up the good job. I love you, Ahmad” daddy replied.

“Owh, I thought it is not so good. But yes, there is an improvement and my dad acknowledges it” Ahmad’s inner speech is improved and becoming more positive.

I would say, this is one of the essence we can get from understanding the concept of qawlan sadīdā from surah al-Ahzāb verse 70:


“O you who believe, fear Allah and speak words straight to the point”

Sadīdā comes from the word sadd in Arabic which gives the meaning to contaminate, and direct something towards the intended direction. So when we describe our words as sadīdā, it means that we use the words that lead to the right direction and contain the right meaning. Precise!

When we speak, choose the right words, the right way to say the words, which will lead to the right outcome. This requires a good level of consciousness and wisdom. One might ask, why so fussy about it. Then, Allah relates the important of choosing the right words to the faith itself. Iman and Taqwa. If you consider yourself as a believer in Allah, fear Him and speak using the right words.


He will [then] amend for you your deeds and forgive you your sins. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment.

And Allah promise us, worldly, He will adjust your work for your and spiritually, He will forgive your sins. By doing this, you obey Him and His Messenger and whoever has that quality, he verily hath the signal  victory.

Don’t curse or swear, dear teachers and parents.


And improve the way we praise.

Be more descriptive.

Let our praise understood by our students and children.

Allah will forgive us and make our work success, ameen.

Khalifah Model School Secondary


The Bloom’s Taxonomy of Hijrah


Bloom’s Taxonomy

“First, share what you remember from the Hijrah. Its the who, where and when.” I told my students.

This is the most basic part of the forum. Panelists should not over estimate the audience thinking that they already know everything. It is good to remind them of what are we talking about. Which Hijrah are you going to discuss, when did it happen, who involved, it took place from where to where… all these things will enhance your REMEMBERING.

Some of my students will become the panelists in a forum organised by our primary school (Khalifah Model School). Two of the panelists and the moderator were students there during their primary education, and one panelist will be a guest panelist. The forum is a part of the family day organised by the primary school. They invited students from the secondary school to conduct a forum on Hijrah, and the audience will be the primary school’s students and their parents, including the teachers.

“Okay, next stage, I suggest you to demonstrate your UNDERSTANDING. What do you understand about the Hijrah of the Prophet PBUH? Was it because they were afraid of the kuffar in Mecca? Or something else. Why Hijrah was so significant to Muslims? Well, what do you understand about the connection between Hijrah, and the development of Islamic calendar during the time of Khalifah Umar bin al-Khattab r.a.? These are the things that you can explore” I continued the coaching session.

Since early this year, we promote the Bloom’s Taxonomy as our strategy to promote High Order Thinking Skills. It has to be embedded in the learning, presentation, assessment, and all other possible activities.

Some of the students wrote down some notes, some were drawing, and I just smiled knowing each of them has their own way of learning. I hope so!

“After remembering and understanding, we should try to move to the next stage. The moderator can invite the next panelist to demonstrate his or her capability of APPLYING. If you live in Mecca during the time of the Hijrah, how would you see yourself as part of the historical event. What was your expectations? Will the face of Islam changed after the Hijrah? How confident you were at that time?” I added the next step to the strategy.

I don’t want to provide answers to all these questions. I want them to find them themselves. In fact, the questions should come from them. But at this stage, some sort of coaching is still needed.

“Does a forum has specific way to talk? Does it have to be formal, or… what do you think, ustaz?” one of the students ask me.

“Don’t worry about that. Which ever makes you more comfortable, then use it. Balance between them. And remember, you don’t have to impress the teachers or the parents. They are there, but I think, just concentrate on your juniors, the students.” I suggested.

Knowing that parents will also attend the forum, my students looked nervous.

“Well, the next stage, try to show some efforts on ANALYSING. Does Hijrah only refer to the physical movement from one place to another? Is there any other form of Hijrah? Are there still a requirement for us to hijrah? Did our Prophet PBUH mention anything about categories of Hijrah? Can you categorise Hijrah?” I continued with the Bloom’s.

I suggested them yo watch a video clip on Youtube when I talked about Hijrah on TV3 several years ago. I hoped they can see some different ideas on Hijrah, some different interpretations and understandings.

“The moderator can find your way to ask the next panelist to show the EVALUATING skills. What do you think about the current situation of Muslims? How they perceive Hijrah? How by improving their commitment to the better understanding of Hijrah can help them to change their life into betterment? Do you agree with the tradition of Hijrah marching or parade on the streets? If you agree, how you defend your agreement? If not, how do you argue?” I bombarded them with more and more questions.

I hope their experience in this forum will spark their mind to read, research and present in a more critical manner. If discussing about Hijrah goes only around where, when, who and a tinge of why, they will get bored and boring.

“Last but not least, can you come out with some skills on CREATING? Any action plan to help your peer? How you can help them improving themselves, and fulfilling your second duty as khalifah, help others to become good?” I concluded the coaching session.

I believe, if students can get into the habit of using Bloom’s Taxonomy in developing a content of any form of discussion, they will fulfil the objective of education, and that is LEARNING and developing the most precious skill as a human being and that is THINKING.

All the best, guys!



Building a Learner-Centered Course Outline


“The Malay paper for IGCSE is quite simple. So, I develop the course outline based on what I believe is needed for the students, beyond IGCSE’s requirement. But I found the content is overwhelming. Too many to cover (in a semester)” one of our teachers said during our consultation hour.

She has just recently joined us after her graduation and a short service as a substitute teacher in public schools.

This is a good example to contrast a teacher-centered classroom against a learner-centered classroom. To transform the teacher-centered classroom, a teacher needs to embrace the point that students need to play their active role as knowledge builders and teachers must step back from the front side of the classroom. How to reflect that on the course outline? A teacher needs to tolerate the function of content, and reflect on the learning outcome he or she wants the pupils to achieve.

Look at the content as a whole.

Understand the subject as a one big unit. Get the big picture.

Summarise the content, and explain the rational behind your summarisation.

Use a diagram for example, to visualise the flow of content from one category to another, from one point to another.

Again, try to categorise the content and organise them into themes.

Separate the themes from each other.

Evaluate the themes, criticise them and question if each of the themes can stand on its own as a module.

Build the course outline based on the themes into several modules.


This means, a teacher must have a strong sense of big picture of the subject he or she teaches, and possesses good details when the subject is zoomed in.

But at this transition period, I don’t prefer teachers to create a lesson plan on daily basis. I don’t ever prefer it to be called as a lesson plan. When a teacher has a lesson plan, he or she will ‘teach’. Perhaps at this stage, we will call it as a lesson strategy.

We have nobody from authorities to pressure us on reporting. Our ‘business’ in Khalifah Model School (Secondary) is only assisting the students to learn. Knowing how to know is always our priority, against the knowledge and gathering them. So, put your trust on your capability to develop, use your critical and creative mind, enjoy being a teacher.



From Parenting to Schooling


I embarked my involvement with education as a concerned parent. When my eldest son entered his first grade I saw how tremendously the schooling experience changed him within the first few months. I started to realize through experience that kids are highly influenced and adaptive to the surrounding. Six years of good parenting is not a guarantee for them to survive. I sent him to a private school since day 1 because living in Ampang, I found that the Principal of the best school in that area also sent his children to the private school, reluctant and worried of the unhealthy condition in public schools and education at that time.

Unfortunately the school we chose was not quite the right one. The school was clear about their mission to bring into practice the Islamic tradition. But the school is lacked of any specific method in pedagogy and curriculum. At that time, I believed that HOW in education is equally important as the WHAT. My son was burdened to learn something which I myself learnt at later age. I told my son that it is okay for you not to know the answer because the syllabus is completely irrelevant. He managed to scored  zero percent in Aqeedah paper and ranked the lowest in his class. To us, it meant nothing. But receiving response from people around us, it crushed down my son’s self esteem. My wife and I decided to quit him from the school after his first grade and we were searching for a school that has the courage to stand differently, which I myself was not so sure how different the school should be. At that point, Sister Azra Banu introduced me to Khalifah Model School. Happy with the who, why, how and what, we decided to send our children there.

I was not only involved in the school activities as a parent but even after my kids left, I continuesly shared whatever knowledge and skills I have to help the school and Khalifah Method.

Several years later I was invited to join the Board of Trustees committee and in August 2014, the BOT offered me to work as a full time staff at Khalifah Model School (Secondary) at its second year in operation. I refused to be appointed as the principal, knowing my weaknesses in administration and public communication. Alhamdulillah I was positioned as the head of the academic unit, holding responsibility to transform the concept and curriculum design to suit Khalifah Method and future education.

My life as an educationist began. I participated in the Islamic Teacher Education Program (ITEP), an online graduate teaching certification program and this summer, I attended the Summer School at the University of Helsinki to equip myself with knowlegde, skills, information and network, not just to continue to develop our school, but also to spark more interest among the public to talk about education as the most sustainable transformation we can work for a better future of this country.

Pihlajamäki, Helsinki.





Searching the best education system has a long historical background, highlighted by what Marc-Antoine Jullien de Paris (1775-1848) presented in his Esquisse (A Sketch and Preliminary View of a Work on Comparative Education. It was first published anonymously in a Swiss journal, Bibliotheque Universelle des Sciences, Belles Lettres et Arts (Geneva) in 1816 [i]. Under similar climate of exploring the modern paradigm of education, 􏰌􏰘􏰏􏰛􏰜 Rifa’a al-Tahtawi (1801-1873) also compared the French education as a model of Western education and what he had in his country, Egypt [ii].

In modern time, comparative education has become an established academic field of research. According to Harold J Noah (1985), and Dr.Farooq Joubish (2009), comparative education has four purposes:

  1. To describe educational systems, processes, or outcomes.
  2. To assist in the development of educational institutions and practices.
  3. To highlight the relationships between education and society.
  4. To establish generalized statements about education that are valid in more than one country.

These purposes of comparing education system from one country with another are now commonly presented by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study). Both had been widely used to measure the performance of a country in different core aspects of education as compared to other participating countries. The objectivity of this global survey is now being criticized by many, which lead to the question on its validity to compare one education system with another. For example, we learn from the prominent Chinese author, Yong Zhao in his recent Global Search interview, he claimed that his research indicates that PISA rankings have a significant negative correlation with entrepreneurial qualities [iii]. Gerard Kelly in his article suggested that Pisa has two big problems, according to its critics. The first is highly technical: the statistical model the OECD uses isn’t fit for purpose. The second is more comprehensible: different students in different countries weren’t asked the same questions. Indeed, it seems that more than half the teenagers taking part in Pisa in 2006 were not tested on any reading questions whatsoever, which didn’t stop the OECD giving them a score [iv]!

Therefore, the most important question remained unsolved. What is the best education system?


PISA has put Malaysia and Finland into the two extreme edges of the result. In 2012, Malaysian students have scored below the global average. Currently, Malaysian students are at the bottom one-third among more than 70 countries in international assessments like Timms (Trends in International Mathe­mathics and Science Studies) and Pisa.


The Malaysia Education Blueprint has set the goal for Malaysia to be in the top third of countries participating in Pisa and Timms by 2025, but will that lead Malaysia to have its best education system?

The University of Helsinki in Summer 2015 offered a course under the Department of Teacher Education titled, “Understanding Finnish Education: From Myths to Realities”. The course is intended to critically analyze Finnish education together with collective perspective on the best education system as perceived by the participants from many different countries. I participated in this program to broad my academic perspective on my current work in Ottoman History related to the theory of knowledge, but must importantly, on behalf of the school where I serve as the academic director, in search for the best education system with Finland as the mirror.

Describing an education system is a systemic task. Not as simple as it sound, one might confused when he or she got deeper into the process of change, when change is concerned. Therefore, we need some sense of what to expect and which direction to take. I would divide my explanation based on the suggestion presented by Beverly L. Anderson [v]. It includes six stages of change as follow:

  1. Vision
  2. Public and Political Support
  3. Networking
  4. Teaching and Learning Changes
  5. Administrative Roles and Responsibilities
  6. Policy Alignment


A visionary system for education is centralized on certain principles and not easily influenced by different stakeholders. The best education system serves its main client and that is the students themselves. The entire components of the system must uphold the shared vision to empower students as individuals. Finland has demonstrate a good example on how the commitment to the shared vision abstains the education system to be distracted by regional and global reforms such as the standardization of education, increasing focus on literacy and numeracy and consequential accountability systems for schools [vi]. Finland maintain its commitment to increase the student learning, which remains the most fundamental subject that an education system serves.


The best education system does not only communicate the public at the informing level but it has to be taken into the highest level of participation. The involvement of the public in the interest of students and their education requires an efficient level of decentralization, as promoted by UNESCO, the World Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies for a number of years [vii]. One of the key legislative successes of Finnish education is the decentralization policy [viii]. The decentralization, be it deconcentration, delegation or devolution, helps to position politics and politicians in serving education, and not the other way round.


The best education system defines network as part of the professional capital, together with human capital and decisional capital [ix]. It as seen as insignificant but the 21st century education requires teachers to have the access to local, regional and global network to develop a more resourceful perspective and support. The network as the social capital refers to how the quantity and quality of interactions and social relationships among people affects their access to knowledge and information; their senses of expectation, obligation, and trust; and how far they are likely to adhere to the same norms and codes of behavior.


The best education system empowers teaching and learning at its best. Teachers have to achieve competency as being educationists in the sense that they move from acting as the content delivers into reflective pedagogical professionals. Finland transforms the teacher education by upgrading the basic requirement for service entry of having masters degree for all teachers in all school levels with the exception of preschool. The main idea is not to produce researchers, but to ensure teachers are reflective and have the capability to articulate the surrounding, the practice and the changes in a methodological manner [x]. This also requires the classroom to be transferred from the traditional setting of teacher centered perennialistic or essentialistic classroom into a more progressive learner centered classroom, which will offer the teachers more room for observation, reflection and research.


Administrative roles and responsibilities in the best education system must be position is delivering service by encouraging rethinking, improvement, and innovation, away from unnecessary bureaucracy. If Malaysia is taken as an example, we know that the roles and functions of the District Education Officers (DEOs) are mainly supervisory, managing information, and carrying out routine tasks. But how effective are the DEOs in carrying out their duties? Research on this question indicates that that the DEOs tend to spend more time handling administrative matters than professional matters [xi].


All level of policy, must to be aligned around the beliefs and practices of the new system, particularly in areas related to curriculum frameworks, instructional methods and materials, student assessment practices, resource allocation, and the inclusion of all types of students [xii]. The harmony in policies will ensure a clear direction with minimum supervision based on the culture of trust which would be considered as the most unusual but real factor behind the excellent quality of Finnish education.


The best education system is concentrating on human elements rather than numbers. Peter Gray once said:

Most problems in life cannot be solved with formulae or memorised answers of the type learnt in school. They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play[xiii].

Less is more.

Less teaching.

More learning.



[i] Jullien, Marc-Antoine. From Jacobin to Liberal: Marc-Antoine Jullien, 1775-1848. Princeton University Press, 1993.

[ii] Livingston, John W. “Western Science and Educational Reform in the Thought of Shaykh Rifa a al-Tahtawi.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28, no. 04 (1996): 543-564.

[iii] The Huffington Post,. ‘The Global Search For Education: Focus On China’. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.

[iv] Tes.com,. ‘From The Editor – Pisa Is Not Perfect But Rankings Are Here To Stay – Opinion – TES’. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.

[v] Anderson, Beverly L. “The stages of systemic change.” Educational Leadership 51 (1993): 14-14.

[vi] Sahlberg, Pasi. “Education policies for raising student learning: The Finnish approach.” Journal of Education Policy 22, no. 2 (2007): 147-171.

[vii] McGinn, Noel F. “The impact of globalization on national education systems.” Prospects 27, no. 1 (1997): 41-54.

[viii] Edpolicy.stanford.edu,. ‘Why Finland’S Educational Model Is More Conservative Than Ours | Stanford Center For Opportunity Policy In Education’. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

[ix] Hargreaves, Andy, and Michael Fullan. Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. Teachers College Press, 2012.

[x] Toom, Auli, Heikki Kynäslahti, Leena Krokfors, Riitta Jyrhämä, Reijo Byman, Katariina Stenberg, Katriina Maaranen, and Pertti Kansanen. “Experiences of a Research‐based Approach to Teacher Education: suggestions for future policies.” European Journal of Education 45, no. 2 (2010): 331-344.

[xi] Lee, Molly NN. “Centralized decentralization in Malaysian education.” In Educational Decentralization, pp. 149-158. Springer Netherlands, 2006.

[xii] Ascd.org,. ‘Educational Leadership:Inventing New Systems:The Stages Of Systemic Change’. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

[xiii] The Independent,. ‘Give Childhood Back To Children: If We Want Our Offspring To Have Happy, Productive And Moral Lives, We Must Allow More Time For Play, Not Less’. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.


ITEP C103K: Module 4 – Encouraging Inquiry


Assalamualaikum WBT. Alhamdulillah, Solatan wa salaman ‘ala Rasulillah. Amma ba’du.

Sheikh Ramzy Ajem described the topic excellently and I benefited a lot from it. The extended explanation and tadabbur on the verse (فاعلم أنّه لا إله إلا الله) is very important that Allah declares even the highest degree of  recognition the truth (there is no God but Allah) is still by seeking knowledge.

It reminds me on the explanation given by Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. regarding the origin of Shirk, back in the time of Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi al-Salam. On commenting verse 22 chapter Nuh, Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. said:

هذه أسماء رجال صالحين من قوم نوح، فلما هلكوا أوحى الشيطان إلى قومهم: أن أنصبوا إلى مجالسهم التي كانوا يجلسون أنصاباً وسموها بأسمائهم، ففعلوا، فلم تعبد، حتى إذا هلك أولئك ونسخ العلم عبدت

“They (for those whom the idols were named) were the names of righteous men among Nuh’s AS people. Then when they died, Shaytan inspired their people to set up images at the places where they used to sit and call them by their names. So they did this, but they were not worshipped until when those who made them had died and the knowledge of the origin of the statues was altered, they were worshipped. (al-Bukhari 4920)”

When faith is no longer based on knowledge and understanding, what happened to the people of Nuh a.s. and the famous Ashram Cat, will continue to damage the foundation of our ummah.

I strongly agree that the totalitarian approach in Islamic Schools is a form of Jahiliyyah, against all the examples we learn from the traditions of the Prophet as listed in our handbook. Some even misuse verse 101 chapter 5 (al-Māidah) in a wrong context:

“O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made unto you, would trouble you”

But yes, as Sheikh Ramzy Ajem said, we also need to guide our students how to ask. The Prophet PBUH was not only encouraging the companions to ask questions, but sometimes he also corrected the questions asked or directed it to a more relevant topic. Once a Bedouin asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, “When is the hour?” [the Day of Judgment]. The Prophet said, “What have you prepared for that final hour?” The Bedouin said, “I haven’t prepared a lot of salah and I haven’t prepared a lot of zakah but I am preparing one thing – my love for Allah and His messenger.” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “You will be with who you love.”

But culturally, our students are mainly shy away from asking questions. The effort here is double or triple than what I experienced when teaching in Ireland many years ago. Students here need a huge paradigm shifting in order to raise their hands or move forward to ask questions.

QUESTION: What do you currently do in your classrooms to enact this principle. There is great learning through sharing of ideas so please try to post your thoughts, activities and approaches.

First, we need to understand why students do not ask questions. There is a huge influence of cultural background that causes the students to remain silence. The reason is different from one community to other. As for the Japanese, many believe that it was a sign of strength to solve your problems yourself and not to impose them on others. [Tateishi, Carol A. “Taking a chance with words.” Rethinking Schools 22, no. 2 (2007): 20-23.]

As for Malaysian students like in our country, Peen, Tan Yin, and Mohammad Yusof Arshad suggested that problem-based learning (PBL) proves to be able to promote teacher and student questioning in Malaysian classroom context during sharing phase, and students are able to adapt to this new learning approach. However, the ratio of high order questions to low order questions is still low. Teachers need to develop better facilitating and questioning skills. One of the methods is by extending basic low order questions with the ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘what if’ reflective questions. For example, “why do you say so?”, “why is it so?”, “how do you do that?”, “how does it happen?”, “what if that’s not …?”, “how about other options…?”, etc. These types of questions stimulate students to think critically and creatively. Teachers should continuously reflect on their own questioning practice and make enhancement. [Peen, Tan Yin, and Mohammad Yusof Arshad. “Teacher and Student Questions: A Case Study in Malaysian Secondary School Problem-Based Learning.” Asian Social Science 10, no. 4 (2014): p174.]

In our school, we see improvements after shifting the instruction from teacher centered classroom into the current learner centered progressivistic classroom. Students involve in three different types of learning:

  • Active learning – games, quiz, group discussions etc.
  • Inquiry learning – instead of answering students questions directly, teachers encourage students to explore more to a broader spectrum of the subject. For instance when a student found on his calculator that 0 / 0 = error and asked the teacher why, the teacher directed the students to ask history teacher about the history of zero from al-Khawarizmi’s time, and how zero entered modern mathematics. The student also met Usul al-Deen teacher and tried to understand error in illogical questions such as can Allah creates another Allah, to understand why 0/0 is error.
  • Contextual learning – we bring students outside classrooms and encourage them to relate what they discussed in the classroom to the real world. When learning about prayer while sitting because of sickness, students came out with a project to design a pamphlet which can be distributed in hospitals. In history, students are sent away to investigate topics assigned involving interview, visiting relevant institutions, transcribing interview, processing data and presenting their finding before the assembly.

We explore many aspects of non conventional learning, with one specific reason, we want to promote that knowing is fun, our students are no longer act as receivers of knowledge but builders of their own knowledge with teacher as facilitator, not as provider.

In parenting course, we also encourage parents to discuss about the learning process at school with their kids. We provide them some tips on how to engage with teenage children beginning with understanding what happened at school.

May Allah ease the process, ameen.



ITEP C103K: Module 3 – Teaching is a Trust


Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh.

Alhamdulillah, praise is all due to Allah.

Nothing is more important in teaching than placing “intention” as the point to begin, which is aligned with the tradition of our scholars who many of them began their books with the hadith (إنّما الأعمال بالنيات).

Our school’s name is Khalifah Model School (kmss.edu.my) and the niche of our school is the Khalifah Method. It is all about being Khalifah, shaping our students to embrace the idea of being Khalifah and having the quality of Khalifah.  Khalifah is placed at the world view level which produces approaches, policies and curriculum.

I am so grateful to listen to Sheikh Ramzy Ajem’s lecture. Thank you Sheikh. Several important points are taken:

  • Being Khalifah: The Angels’ point of view, it requires the quality of obedience manifested in the characteristics of them (we praise and sanctify You while Adam is potentially causing corruptions and shedding blood – Q2:30). But Allah chose Adam for a very important characteristic He embedded in Adam and the offsprings and that is Adam is a learner, a rational being, who can learn and explore by his choice which is more superior to his potential of causing corruptions and shedding blood. Allah knows and the angels do not know.
  • The main character of a khalifah is he or she has the capability to learn and understand, which makes teaching and helping the learners understand is the most divine responsibility and role to play. It begins with Allah teaches Adam, and Adam’s offsprings teach each other to continue to similar divine process.
  • Teaching and Learning is concluded by al-Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d1209M) based on verse 79 chapter 3 (Āl ‘Imrān) in his Tafsir Mafātīh al-Ghayb as follow:
    • Possessing knowledge, wisdom and the legacy of Prophethood led the transgressing people to direct the learners to themselves instead of God. This caused destruction to the previous nations and a bold reminder to us. ِAvoid the mistake committed by the people of the book as Allah describes in surah al-Tawbah 9:31.
    • Therefore, the teacher, the learner and the knowledge must all be characterized with the quality of Rabbānī and that is to base everything on Rabb (Allah). The knowledge must lead to Allah, be it the revealed or the scientific knowledge, the students must seek knowledge with the Rabbānī motive (I go to school and learn, not only to pass exam and have a good career and life, but to fulfill my purpose of life, know my Creator and submitting myself to my Him), and most importantly, the teachers teach with a strong faith that teaching is a TRUST.

Question: What do you currently do in your classroom teaching to embody (yourself) and reinforce (to your students) that teaching and learning is a trust and that we, as human beings, are God’s vicegerents (khalifa) on earth?

Our goal in Khalifah Model School is very clear at the conceptual and practical level and that is “SHAPING EXCELLENT CHARACTER”. In terms of academic, we strongly believe that academic excellency is byproduct when the students possess the excellent character.

Therefore, since last year (when I join ITEP), we work hard on embedding the school’s vision to not only the character shaping activities, but as well as the academic (subjects and classroom activities). We break down the idea of being Khalifah into actions with the three responsibilities:

  1. Make yourself good (choose to be good),
  2. Help others to become good,
  3. Keep the physical world clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.

This is also the school oath which the students repeatedly recite during our Friday morning assembly.

As for the academic level, for example, when students sit for their Mathematics’ paper, students are given the option to choose which paper they want to answer: the basic, the intermediate or the advance paper. The advance paper allows students to use calculator and refer to text books. The intermediate paper allows students to refer to text book with no calculator. The basic paper does not allow students to refer to text books or use the calculator. This is to teach them to exercise their free will and taking the responsibility at the highest level.

If the result is very poor, students are allowed to resit the subject with different mode of paper. Students with good result can help their peers with difficulties and if they manage to help their friends, they can claim small extra marks for the paper as a reward for “help others to become good”.

So, subjects, be it the scientific subjects or the Diniyyah, the compulsory questions they need to answer are:

  1. How by learning this subject, you can make yourself good?
  2. How by learning this subject, you can help others to become good?
  3. How by learning this subject, you can keep the physical world clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.

This is at the classroom level.

Outside the classroom, we design the learning to emphasize a lot on the contextual learning. The taqwa and character development unit organize programs from time to time, and we dedicate a short non academic semester (3 months, while academic semester is 4 months) for students to participates in programs they desire based on their interest and parents financial capability. This year, the students are currently participate in programs as follow:

  1. ‘FarmVille’ : Students are sent to appointed farm and learn from a retired professor in agricultural biotechnology vaccines about ecosystem, learn how to rear chicken etc.
  2. ‘Marine Adventure’: Students learn scuba diving and obtain license with the idea of “having the license to serve others”, learn about marine life, turtle management, crisis in pollutions etc.
  3. ‘Arabia de Sumatra’: An Arabic intensive course in a form of a student exchange program: Students are sent to our sister school in Indonesia for one month to learn Arabic in a non Arabic surrounding which the sister school has the best Arabic program in Indonesia.
  4. ‘Malaysiana Jones’: based on the adventure of the ‘Indiana Jones’. Students participate in history and archaeology activities involving excavating archaeological sites, visiting museums and libraries, archive study, to promote historical thinking consciousness.
  5. ‘Avengers’: A philanthropy program teaching students how to make proposal for fundraising and organising volunteerism involving visiting hospitals, cleaning mosque and beach, feeding the needy, distributing iftar kits for people leaving office etc.
  6. Master Chefs:  a culinary course where students learn about safety in kitchen and catering unit, knowing all the tools in kitchen and learn to cook, bake, and many other culinary skills.

All these activities are connected each other with the idea of being Khalifah.

In summary, being Khalifah to us means: exploring your uniqueness, strength and talent given by Allah, nurture and expand them, and use them to serve mankind, to please Allah.

“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” [Dâraqutni, Hasan]

As for teachers, we are consistently reminding each other and I share ITEP videos with our teachers and discuss them on weekly basis.



ITEP C103K: Module 2 – Teaching in an Islamic School


Assalamualaikum WBT. Alhamdulillah, Solatan wa salaman ‘ala Rasulillah. Amma ba’du.Alhamdulillah, like everyone else, I benefited a lot from watching Sheikh Ramzy Ajem’s lecture, plus the handbook on Islamic Pedagogy which after its completion and perhaps made available into public, will definitely fill the current vacuum in Islamic Education.

From Sheikh Ramzy’s lecture, he outlined 4 important characters that we should considered when dealing with the Prophetic method in teaching:

1. Muhammad PBUH is a Messenger and he also introduced himself as a teacher.

“The Messenger of Allah came out of one of his apartments one day and entered the mosque, where he saw two circles, one reciting Qur’ân and supplicating to Allah, and the other learning and teaching. The Prophet SAW said: ‘Both of them are good. These people are reciting Qur’ân and supplicating to Allah, and if He wills He will give them, and if He wills He will withhold from them. And these people are learning and teaching. Verily I have been sent as a teacher.’ Then he sat down with them.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Sunnah, Hadith no 229, Classified as Daeef By Allama Albani)

Teaching is noble. Associating teaching with the Prophethood is essential to develop a good esteem among teachers teaching in Islamic Schools, especially in dealing with underpaid issue. Teaching is perceived as not only a profession but a jihad which ‘unfortunately’ requires  the person to live in modest.

2. The Prophet PBUH has the quality of fatanah.

Fatanah is defined in arabic (al-Mu’jam al-Wasith) as the (قوَّة استعداد الذِّهْن لإدراك ما يَرِدُ عليه) which means the strong readiness of thinking in its ability to see a subject or problem foresight.

It is a high form of intellectuality which teachers should possess to make them proactive in detecting the needs and deciding the appropriate responses. Perhaps countries like Finland took an action aligned with this requirement, when putting a very high benchmark for a candidate to apply the teaching post in primary schools.

A Muslim teacher is a smart teacher who is proactively always in a standby mode.

3. Unspoken pedagogy contains a spiritual barakah that will last.

The element of barakah is not easy to be quantified, but obviously seen in quality. The word barakah itself means (الخير الكثير) ‘the infinite goodness’. Barakah is the sign that Allah is with us. The Prophet PBUH did not say or do anything from his own lust or desire, but from Allah’s revelation. Following the Prophet’s path in teaching means, we are intended to have Allah along our teaching path.

4. Tremendous amount of narrations, resourceful pedagogy

Every single detail of the Prophet’s life (PBUH) is available through the traditions (al-Sunnah). This huge resource gives a 360 degree access for us to understand the complete picture of what Prophetic pedagogy is all about. This is a unique character characterising us as Muslims. We should not abandon the treasure.

QUESTION: How should Islamic school teachers be introduced the approach and nuance of teaching in an Islamic School?

Islamic Schools need a research and development unit to continuously work on developing the teachers training. It could be part of the school itself of like in my school, the R&D unit is under the Khalifah Education Foundation who owns the school.

I like the framework suggested by Lee Jenkins that a transformation in a school must take place in a form of “from systems thinking to systemic action”. It means that, the transformation must not be done in random and patchy but should be harmonized in a system. (Lee Jenkins; From Systems Thinking to Systemic Action: 48 Key Questions to Guide the Journey).

My suggestion is, the first think that we need to tackle in terms of introducing the Islamic School teachers to the Prophetic approach, is to build a good understanding and faith in Islamic Worldview. Without the ‘world view’, a Muslim teacher might silently have a secular mind and a materialistic value which will fundamentally contradict with the Islamic pedagogy derived from the Prophet’s tradition.

Secondly, the routine in teaching among teachers is dangerous. I recently read a PhD dissertation wrote by Kimberly E. Matier titled, “A Systems Thinking Approach to Educational Reform: Addressing Issues Surrounding Teacher Burnout Through Comprehensive School Change” (Oregon State University). I am worried with the high turnover rate among teachers in Islamic Schools, which makes any form of transformation nearly impossible. So, we need to keep our teachers in high spirit. In our humble school, we allocate Friday as a non academic day, which students will have their halaqah among themselves (the seniors lead the halaqah) and teachers will have our weekly halaqah. So far, almost every week, I share the ITEP contents I learnt with our teachers to make sure they are always in a constant learning process. The knowledge must also be perceived as ‘rizq’, apart of the salary.

By having an Islamic worldview, the teachers will become auto navigators who always check their teaching and learning if they are following the right path or not. The contemporary ideas on pedagogy will also help the teachers to sense and identify the silent pedagogy in a hadith. We cannot see what is not in our mind. So we need to instill the pedagogical senses in our mind.

For example:

Narrated Malik bin Huwairth: I came to the Prophet with some men from my tribe and stayed with him for twenty nights. He was kind and merciful to us. When he realized our longing for our families, he said to us, “Go back and stay with your families and teach them the religion, and offer the prayer and one of you should pronounce the Adhan for the prayer when its time is due and the oldest one amongst you should lead the prayer.”  [al-Bukhari]

This hadith is common to be found when we discuss about Fiqh of Salat regarding who is more preferred to become the Imam. But when we look from the pedagogical point of view, we will see how Rasulullah PBUH being kind and merciful, alerted with the decline of attention among his ‘students’ due to their longing for family. He did not accuse them for being chinless or weak. He acknowledged their emotional conditioned and opted the learning to be switched into practice, at home. I always remember Dale Carnagie’s How To Win Friends when reading this hadith.

Wallahu a’lam


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