Farabi school: educational practice in the service of Ethics

Farabi School was declared to the educational authorities in February 2011. It existed in another form since 2005. This made it possible for the team to implement several pedagogical practices that have emerged from the classic French and North African systems. Since neither was successful, the association that began the project decided to change direction. It was from this new direction that our collaboration with the Farabi School began. Our mission therefore was to provide to this Muslim model school an educational plan coherent with Islamic ethics. How does one work in an educational structure concerned about ethics?

I The role of the adult

The school aims to take everyone into account and to achieve success for each one. To ensure the translation of this paradigm, the first link in the chain is the adult who most often accompanies the child at school: the teachers. Thus we had to start by training the teachers. During these training sessions, we presented the pedagogical tools that we hoped to apply (planned pedagogy, new education, differentiated pedagogy and their different forms), then we worked on the role of the This is the keystone of the system, as the best tools are useless for a refractory worker. We carried out a long practical analysis which made it possible to measure the “advantages” provided by the new methods in the teacher/student relationship. The teacher is no longer master of the temple but a transmitter of knowledge.

Afterwards, we study together the pedagogical plan (document provided on the zoho platform). It is discussed, analyzed and accepted by the teaching team. Each contract implies respect for and implementation of the educational plan. Visit and advice are provided once or twice a year to ensure that the plan is being implemented well.

The pedagogical coordinator remains available to the teaching staff and dispenses training during the entire year.

II From theory to practice

Once the adults are recruited and trained, les main elements of the pedagogical plan should be translated into operational objectives. This is the longest and most complex part. In effect, announcing the preservation of fitra and ensuring conformity with ethics is one thing, but making it possible is another. How can we meet this challenge?

The entire school operates around the principle of respect for the individual. Respect for each person’s rhythm, body, soul… It is difficult to provide a complete overview of all our practices as our tools are broad and numerous. We will therefore limit ourselves to three tools that are representative of our pedagogical practices.

1) Places for communication

Each class allows time for communication. This is a social gathering for the youngest and a class council for the eldest. Organized, these discussion periods make it possible to regulate the social problems among children, to share feelings, to propose projects and to allocate rights in proportion to the duties that must be performed.

Once every two weeks, all the children in the school gather together: this is the school assembly. It is held on Fridays and makes it possible to work in chourra. Each child has a voice and each is consulted on the affairs of the school. Children settle their inter-class differences, present their plans, propose ideas for outings and other suggestions.  This tool makes it possible for children to experience consultation and to learn that blessing is to be found in the group. This reflects the Quranic provision provided to the Prophet (Peace and the Blessings of Allah be upon Him) in Sürah 3, Verse 159. They also discover the value of the prayers at the opening and closing of an assembly.

2) The personal work sheet

In each teaching area (Arab block/general teaching block), the teachers must necessarily rely on an essential tool: the personal work sheet.

This work sheet makes it possible to respect the pace of each student and to encourage the child’s independence. Each child has their own sheet that is different from that of the others. Each child has a clearly defined period in which to finish this sheet but is entirely free to decide on the order in which the exercises will be completed. Thus, children who have difficulties receive assistance while those who are ahead can be left on their own. Children can use the resources available in the classroom, thus encouraging independence. Children learn on their own, they are not left to manage all by themselves.

Finally, this tool makes it possible to allow the heterogeneous nature of the class to become an advantage rather than a difficulty. “Surely, with every difficulty, there is relief” S94/V5. All the difficulties of teaching should therefore be turned into an advantage. With this tool, some children can help others and thus develop new skills.

3) The assessment of competencies

Farabi school does not evaluate its students on the basis of marks, letter grades or any other method that classifies and grades students. We evaluate students according to their skills. What does that change? Everything.

In effect, children who work for marks, neglecting the benefit of the effort and knowledge for themselves is over. Doesn’t the Holy Koran teach us: “there is no other benefit for good than good itself” S 55/V60? Let us allow children to experience this. Let us abandon the idea that everything has a price tag.

Exit heavy competition, enter cooperation! Children understand that no-one can be omniscient except the Almighty. Each of us is a repository of science and thus each can share it and nourish themselves from the others. With grading, children cannot come to this conclusion and will end up with the opposite idea: I jealously keep my knowledge for myself in order to remain first. No demonstration is necessary to understand that this conclusion is contrary to Islamic ethics; we have only to observe the Creation and to understand its mechanisms of interdependence. “There are signs for those who reason”.

Finally, assessment by competencies is much more just than a grade. To be convinced, one has only to consult the many articles produced by researchers in docimology. Justice and the child’s feeling of justice are very present as they are integral parts of their fitra. Everything that helps to limit arbitrariness in an educational structure is for us, eminently Islamic. In effect, did the All-Merciful not tell us in a Sacred Hadith: “I have forbidden injustice for myself and I have forbidden it for my servant”.

The results of this new approach were visible from the first year. All of the adults (parents, teachers, management team) and the children were won over. The school is full and the waiting lists are long. The parents are pushing to have a junior secondary school of the same kind so that their children continue to develop their skills and personalities.

This is a brief look at the basis of the identity of the Farabi school. This is the spirit that inspires us to work together to build responsible adults who are concerned about each other and above all who are conscious of ethics. May our work be accepted and guided by the All-Merciful, without whom we are lost.

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