I thought you might be interested in an article I’ve written about an Arab college of education called Al-Qasemi. An excerpt of this will be featured in ICCI’s March email newsletter. Enjoy!
Al-Qasemi Academic College of Education
Al-Qasemi, the first institution located in an Arab town in Israel to grant an academic degree, espouses a unique philosophy and methodology for educating future teachers. Not only does it provide the necessary tools for becoming a teacher, but it also enables its graduates to function as agents of change in the Arab sector and Israeli society at large and disseminates a humanistic outlook that stresses tolerance and respect for the other as well as intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
Founded in 1989, the College provides teaching degrees in Islamic religion, Arabic Language and Lliterature, Hebrew, English Language and Literature, mathematics, computer science, early childhood education and special education. But professional expertise is only one part of the program at Al-Qasemi. The college educates students about their Islamic heritage as well instill in them humanistic values. This is reflected in the curriculum which requires students take courses in Arabic, Sufism and Islamic study as well as coursework on multiculturalism, critical thinking as well as peace education.
According to Al Qasemi’s President Deputy, Dalia Fadila, the school encourages students to find the balance between being a Muslim as well as a citizen of the world. “We want our educators to be capable of coping with a constantly changing environment, take advantage of the technological innovations of the 21st century and deal with the challenges of being both a Muslim and Israeli citizen. They need to find the balance between a life of contradiction and a life of meaning.”
The program has spurred a significant transformation of student attitudes toward such hot topics such as religion, the status of women, being a Muslim in Israel and Israeli citizenship. The college has demonstrated this in measuring student perspectives first when they enter the program and then when they are about to graduate.
Dalia notes that they are sometimes faced with resistance from the community. Some people will tell them that they are not abiding by the true Islam. However, the school has won over many admirers through its visible achievements in the community. Not only does Al-Qasemi train teachers that are well respected, but it has also created cultural centers for community advancement.
One such successful program focuses on empowering Arab women in Israel. Al Qasemi believes that unless women are empowered, the whole community will not advance. The College provides centers that help educated and uneducated women of all ages to advance academically, economically and socially. Group forums focus on a range of subjects such as female leadership and are often led by educated women. As a result of the program’s effectiveness, more women are joining the program and more women feel that they can play an active role in society.
In addition to its work in the community, Al-Qasemi participates and organizes conferences that focus on Arab-Jewish dialogue, the image of Muslims and partnership opportunities; in February 2008 the, the college held its fourth conference of “Technology Bridging Cultures”, and in March 2008 the college will be hosting its third annual conference about cultural dialogue. Participants from different educational institutions are invited to join in workshops around issues of dialogue and partnership in art and education, religion and language.
Al–Qasemi also participated in a recent Islamophobia conference in Turkey and is working with Seminar Hakiputsim in Tel Aviv on two initiatives: a seminar addressing the role of the early childhood educator in a multicultural society as well as a program where Arab educators teach in Jewish schools. Other cross-sector, cross-cultural initiatives are also being planned. For the college, these conferences and seminars represent important opportunities to build a culture based on equality, mutual respect and appreciation of one another’s identity and culture.