Australia

Victorian students flock to Islamic schools as Muslim population grows

vic schools

by Craig Butt, Henrietta Cook. Source: The Age

Victorian students are flocking to Islamic schools in record numbers, with enrolments increasing by almost 70 per cent in the past eight years.

Ilim, Al-Taqwa and Minaret colleges have recorded some of the largest student increases in the state as Muslim families settle in Melbourne’s growth corridor suburbs.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said families sent their children to Islamic schools because they wanted to honour their culture and beliefs.

Bachar Houli

Tiger Bachar Houli with his daughter Sarah. Photo: Getty Images

She said this was more difficult to achieve at state schools.

“There’s a strong wish to educate children and to makes sure they become a  part of Australian society and we can only applaud that.”

In 2007 there were seven Islamic schools in Victoria with 5343 students. This increased to 10 Islamic schools with 9040 students in 2014.

When Ilim College opened in Dallas in Melbourne’s north in 1995 it had just 63 students.

Now the Islamic school has two campuses, an early learning centre and is attended by 1600 students.

Principal Aynur Simsirel said turning away students was one of the most difficult things about her job.

“We get well over 200 applications for prep and we can only accept 95,” she said. “That’s what I find most difficult, saying no.”

Ms Simsirel said the increasing Muslim population in Melbourne’s northern suburbs was behind the school’s growth.

“It’s an answer to an ever-growing population and parents’ desires to send their children to a school that meets their cultural and religious needs.”

Victoria’s largest Islamic school, Al-Taqwa College, had 1696 students enrolled last year, 653 more than in 2007. There are 1950 students enrolled at the popular school this year.

The school’s principal Omar Hallak said the Truganina college appealed to so many families because of its unwavering focus on discipline.

“Discipline is more important than education, if you have education and no discipline you can’t learn in the classroom,” he said. “If students respect the teachers then that education comes along quickly.”

He said 95 per cent of students who graduated from the school went on to study at university.

Richmond footballer Bachar Houli is one of Al-Taqwa’s most famous alumni.

Faith is also a big drawcard. The school has a full-time imam and a mosque, which can accommodate 1000 worshippers and has a mezzanine floor for women.

“We teach them to be good Australian Muslims.”

Enrolments at Minaret College have surged 67 per cent to 1478 students since 2007.

Of the 9040 students enrolled at Islamic schools last year, 5874 were primary school aged and 3166 were secondary school aged.

The schools cater to 352 more girls than boys.

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