Sunday, August 07, 2005

Muslim Schools to Come Under LEA Control

One wouldn't wish Local Education Authority control upon anybody, what with this organisation mainly consisting of a useless bunch of busy-bodying bureaucrats, but the ramifications of the current proposal by Tony Blair to bring Muslim schools under state control could potentially be much wider and more serious than the simple, obviously unpleasant consequence of having to deal with an LEA official knocking on a school door.

From The Sunday Telegraph:

"The controversial plan would bring thousands of Muslim children now taught in independent Islamic schools - many of which operate in shambolic back-street conditions - into mainstream education.

An estimated 120 to 150 independent Muslim schools will be offered Voluntary Aided status, bringing them into line with the 6,850 Roman Catholic, Church of England and Jewish schools. It will bring them under the full control of local education authorities, which will determine policies on admissions and school timetables.

Mr Blair is said to be determined to end the current system which sees private Muslim schools operating behind closed doors, offering a religion-dominated education little different to the madrassas of Pakistan.

An important condition of state funding will be that Muslim schools operate an open admissions policy and take children of other faiths."

Firstly, one wonders whether this semi-compulsory enrolment is proportionate. Afterall, an education may quite acceptably be religion-dominated, so this is not prima facie evidence that the state should intervene at all. There would, on the other hand, be clear reason to intervene if the education included incitement to violence, but this is far from established.

Which brings me to the first reason to be concerned with regards to the implications of this proposal. It is yet another example of the fact that the government clearly believes that people cannot be trusted to educate their children as they see fit, and that we must be checked and cross-checked, all in triplicate, before we can be allowed to get on with things.

The second likely ramification, it seems to me, is that there is a strong chance that rather than submit to state control and dissipation of religious teaching, many Muslim families may choose to Home Educate. All well and good, you may be thinking, and in many ways I would agree. But the problem is, that if the main reason why the state seeks to control the schools is so as to keep a close eye upon the *content* of education, because of a supposed fear of incitement to violence, then it is hard to see how they are going to be happy with letting HE children off lightly.

Could it be that HEers in the near future will all have to produce much more carefully delineated curriculums in order to demonstrate that we are not spouting jihadist dogma?

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