26 MAY 2000
THE HONOURABLE JIM FLAHERTY,
ATTOURNY GENERAL OF ONTARIO,
CHAIR OF THE EDUCATION POLICY COMMITTEE OF CABINET
TORONTO DISTRICT MUSLIM EDUCATION ASSEMBLY (TDMEA)
Sound Education Sound Society
IN CONJUCTION WITH
THE NATIONAL EDUCATION COUNCIL OF CANADA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Cover Page .......................................... 1
Introduction ........................................... .. 3
Preamble to Muslim Concerns . . ............................................ 3
General Board Guidelines ......................................... 4
Failings of the Board ... ......................................... . 4
Specific Muslim Concerns ........................................ 5
Recommendations ......................................... 5
Concluding Remarks.. ......................................... . 6
Ladies and gentlemen, I greet you all with the universal salutation of peace, mercy and blessings of God.
On behalf of the Muslim community of Toronto represented by the TDMEA, we are as pleased as we are grateful to be here to participate along with other concerned citizens, groups and organisations with the hope of making a positive contribution to the policies, progra 1mmes, practices and operations of the public education system that have direct and far-reaching consequences for ourselves, our children and the interests of society at large.
Every day we witness, sadly, that something is being done, directly and indirectly, in the mass media and even at the schools with the effect of undermining the quality of public education, more especially on issues regarding traditional values and morality. More and more our children are put at risk. More and more society is disintegrating and decaying. Delinquency, rebelliousness, disrespect for parents and authority, pre-marital sex, abortion, the consumption of intoxicants, drug abuse, and youth crimes are only some of the stark maladies that continue to manifest themselves more prominently and with greater frequency and intensity in society.
This state of affairs is not only dangerously unacceptable but it has to stop immediately and urgent remedial measures must be seriously considered to build, maintain and promote a truly civilised society. We from the Muslim community are here to contribute positively to this desirable end. Thus, we hope that this process is not simply one of motions that serve only to appease but one that will bear lasting fruits. It is our philosophy that only a sound education could lead to a sound society. We would therefore like to share this vision with you.
PREAMBLE TO MUSLIM CONCERNS
In Islam, certain vital issues are not hinged on the deliberations of public pulse, the power of lobby or special interests groups, the question majority or democracy. These are fixed as ordained in the Quran and the exemplary Sunnah of our Beloved Prophet, Muhammad, upon whom be peace (see Basic Beliefs).
Thus, for example, whatever we teach our children, practice ourselves and promote in society must be in accordance with the Shariah (Islamic Law). Public mood or weal cannot contravene the Laws of God. While non-Muslim individuals, organisations, institutions or agency need not subscribe to it; likewise, a Muslim cannot be subjected or otherwise taught or made to contradict the Shariah either in letter or in spirit.
For this reason, practising Muslims or those who take their religion - Islam - seriously find objections to particular policies, programs, agenda, and practices of the public schools, because they contradict the teachings, practices and values of our faith. Our children cannot be made to follow any school curriculum or extra-curricula activities that would violate the teachings of Islam. Since the public school is meant to be inclusive and progressive, we should hope that our rights and preferences are respected in full, as is the case of others as well.
GENERAL BOARD GUIDLINES
Canada, the Province of Ontario, the Ministry of Education and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) all have an obligation to provide access to quality education to all its citizens without exemption. This is a basic Human Right that is internationally recognised.
On the basis of equity, the curriculum should accurately reflect the interests of all peoples without prejudice.
The Board is responsible for fairness, inclusiveness, equity of access to programmes, services and resources necessary for the achievement of proper education for our children.
The Board is responsible to foster a healthy, safe and positive learning environment in which staff, parents, students, and the communitys needs would be reflected without prejudice in a barrier free public education system.
Public education is a shared responsibility in which the Ministry, the TDSB, parents, students, and the community are all together necessary and sufficient components. In this mutual partnership, all work to achieve the same ends the improvement of our schools and the achievement of both academic and moral excellence in society.
The Board, in the event of breaches, failure, conflicts, complaints or grievances, is responsible to provide unobstructed access and available resources to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and to the satisfaction of the aggrieved parties.
The Board must be held accountable for its actions and this must be made transparent.
FAILINGS OF THE BOARD
There are very serious grievances with the Board regarding historically disadvantages groups, peoples, and individuals in the public education system. Some crucial ones are noted below:
· Lack of proper communication and consultation with and disregard for parents, the community, and school councils, regarding matters affecting childrens education. Often times parents and students are being intentionally deceived by school officials.
· Many board administratives and staff members systematically ignore parents and dismiss students concerns when it comes to meeting the needs of students from diverse backgrounds.
· Systemic unequal treatment and marginalisation of historically disadvantaged groups and communities through policies, practices, programs at all levels in the public education system.
· Failure to eliminate structural barriers in the system that systematically discriminate against non-Whites in all areas of selection, hiring and promotion.
· Lack of acceptable educational alternatives and accommodation when a conflict arises in the curriculum or extra-curricula activities, especially for visible minorities and faith groups that force students not to attend school, with consequences for their education and general wellbeing.
· The curriculum, human rights policy, and certain practices still contain biases against particular groups.
· The Board (trustees) are insensitive and unresponsive to the public, and do not ensure policy implementation, transparency, and accountability. They have been given a free hand to do whatever they want.
· School councils are not being taken seriously because the Board considers them as mere advisors whose opinions are not binding.
· The presence of grossly unacceptable behaviors among students - violence, sex, drugs, gangs, offensive clothing, and coarse language all lacking firm disciplinary actions. The school does not seem to have solutions to these problems.
· The existence of inappropriate posters and materials in schools that promote a poisoning environment.
SPECIFIC MUSLIM CONCERNS
Following from the preamble of Muslim concerns and the failings of the Board, in light of its responsibilities, the following specific issues can be highlighted:
· Disrespect for parents and childrens needs as determined by their faith lack of accommodation.
· Unequal treatment at all levels and virtually on all issues specified above.
· Systemic, systematic and inherent biases against Muslims on all issues noted above, especially in selection, hiring and promotion at all levels in the public education system.
Given the list of concerns noted, it should become easily apparent what should be done to correct the situation. We propose immediate steps to rectify the situation as follows:
· School councils being closest to parents, students and the community are therefore best qualified to play an effective role in informing, shaping, directing, evaluating, and scrutinising the Board in all aspects policies, programmes, practices, and operations. They should have the power to veto the Board because the Board has become an unresponsive, insensitive, lethargic, irresponsible, and incompetent entity for its own political agenda and bureaucratic survival.
· Undertake a full public inquiry and consultation with all the concerned parties, be they individuals, groups or organisations to ensure that full public debate and discussion occur on all public education issues of considerable magnitude. Closed-door meetings and engineered selectivity of participants should give way to full public consultation and even a plebiscite on crucial and sensitive issues.
· Board officials at all levels should be made accountable for their actions and appropriate disciplinary measures should be enforced without hesitation against breaches to the public trust.
· Immediate remedial steps to correct all the failings of the Board without delay and transparent implementation should occur system-wide.
· Failure of the Board to fulfil its obligations to the public should at once constitute grounds for its dissolution and replacement by more responsive and accountable school councils. In this way, scarce and vital resources would be freed-up for the necessary and urgent improvement of the quality of public education in the system.
We hope that the efforts of all the participants here would go a far way in helping the authorities to better understand the hard challenges facing public education in our country and accordingly prompt movements that would rectify the situation henceforth. There is simply too much at stake here to just leave things as they are or attempt half-spirited or partial solutions. Something concrete, serious and comprehensive has to occur soon. We in the Muslim community through the TDMEA continue to show an abiding interest in all aspects of public education and hope to make a positive and timely contribution as well. Just to remind you of a small effort toward this end, I would like to present a copy of Basic Beliefs and Practices for your interest.
I thank you once again for the opportunity to be here in this import discussion that has far reaching consequence for ourselves, our children and of course for our society at large.
"ESSENTIAL EDUCATION REFORMS" proposes a public education reform agenda that is based on the contribution of ideas and suggestions from many grass roots organizations concerned with public education reforms in Ontario. It is a presentation prepared by The National Education Council of Canada in participation with Canadian Communications Coalition, Montgomery Tavern Society, Teachers for Excellence in Education, Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly, and Voice of Canadians Committees. These participants represent well over 100,000 Ontario voter/taxpayers.
The AGENDA of reforms has been arrived at through consultation with the following organizations:
Canadian Communications Coalitions, Inc.,
Christian Coalition Canada,
Christian Coalition Ontario,
Halton Taxpayers Association,
Montgomery Tavern Society (14 organizations),
Organization for Quality Education,
Teachers for Excellence in Education,
Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly,
Voice of Canadians Committees