Presentation Notes: Full-Time Islamic Schooling in the West: Problems and Solutions

I was looking through my old files and stumbled upon the rough notes from my presentation on full-time Islamic schools in the West at the first Foundation of Islamic Knowledge and Research (FIKR) symposium in 2009. The presentation concentrated on a survey of Islamic schools in the West. It did not seek to formulate any solid opinions on these schools, their philosophies, or their systems of education.

General Information:

  • In 1989, ISNA published an obscure booklet titled In-Depth Study of Full-Time Islamic Schools in North America: Results and Data Analysis. In it, the number of full-time schools was established at approximately 50. No detailed study was carried out afterwards until recently, by the Islamic Schools’ League of America.
  • Today, there are more than 235 full-time Islamic schools in the US and US Virgin Islands alone. (2004-05)
  • Estimates of 400-500 are exaggerated or based on faulty research (doubled names, changed addresses, etc…)

Limitations of Data Collected:

  • Self-selected (schools not interested in sharing information do not do so)
  • Connectedness (being online or interacting with the educator community)
  • Self-reported (information is reported and not personally observed)
  • Limited scope (data being collected covers only a few aspects of schools)
  • Membership fees (data collectors require fees)

Private Schools in the U.S.:

  • Approximately 5,953,000 students attend 27,223 non-profit schools. This means 11% of all students in the U.S. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000)
  • 80% of these schools enroll less than 300 students. Approximately 93% of private Islamic schools enroll less than 300 students.

Islamic Schools:

  • Most Islamic schools are young. 85% are 10 years or younger and 55% are 6 years or younger.
  • Slightly under half of schools are in fairly young buildings of 10 years or younger.
  • More than half of the schools are in buildings older than 10 years and 25% are in buildings 30 years or older.
  • 66% of schools are either involved in building improvement or have plans to do so


  • 45% of schools are independent from masjids.
  • 29% are connected to the masjid but make decisions autonomously.
  • 21% are governed by the masjid.
  • Overall, 75% of schools operate independently or autonomously.


  • 55% of schools have less than 100 students
  • 85% of schools have under 150 students
  • Average number of students: 121


  • 66% of schools are expanding their buildings or have plans to do so.



  • In 10% of schools, all teachers are certified.
  • In 36% of schools, all academic teachers are certified. (46% of schools, all academic teachers are certified).
  • 36% of Arabic/Islamic studies teachers are not certified (plus completely non-certified school staffs adds up to 49%).
  • In 13% of schools, no teachers are certified.
  • In 60% of schools, 80% of staff is certified
  • In 25% of schools, most to all of teachers are not certified
  • Interestingly enough, in other private schools, only 48.8% of teachers are certified
  • Studies suggest that other factors outside certification are more predictive of student learning. Simply put, a teacher’s certification status matters little for student learning.

Non-Muslim Teachers

  • 50% of schools hire non-Muslim teachers.
  • 23% said they are considering it.
  • Most schools say that 10-30% of teachers are non-Muslim
  • One school even indicated that 100% of their teachers were non-Muslim


  • Total number of students studying in Islamic schools is approximately 31,490 and definitely between 26,000 to 35,500 students.
  •  Approximately 93% of private Islamic schools enroll less than 300 students.
  • Percentage of Muslim children attending Islamic schools is 3.8%, based on a conservative estimate of 850,000 Muslim children under the age of 18. This is below the national average of 10% of children privately schooled.


  • Not much information has been collected on what curriculums are being used in schools
  • Islamic groups working on changes in curriculum:
  1. Islamic Schools’ League of America
  2. The Tarbiyah Project (Dawud Tauhidi)
  3. The Center of Islamic Education in North America (CIENA)
  4. Foundation for the Advancement and Development of Education and Learning (FADEL)
  5. International Board of Educational Research and Resources (IBERR)
  6. The International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT)
  7. IQRA International Educational Foundation

Islamic Educational Organizations:

Council of Islamic Schools in North America

School of Islamic and Social Sciences

Islamic Schools Department (Part of ISNA)

Muslim Education Council

National Education Board

Council on Islamic Education

Muslim Home School Network and Resource

Islamic Resources and School Services

IQRA International Educational Foundation

Dar al-Islam Summer Teachers Institute

Islamic Education Resource

International Institute of Islamic Thought

Islamic School’s League of America

Bab al-Ilm

Universal Institute of Islamic Education


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