Citing the growing Muslim population of Howard County, Maryland, and the need for “high quality Islamic education”, a group of Muslim mothers this month announced plans for a "ground breaking" new full-time Islamic school in the county, set to open its doors in September 2013.
Tarbiyah Academy, the planned International Baccalaureate (IB) school, will grow to a pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade institution with low student-teacher ratios, affordable tuition, and highly qualified certified teachers. The elementary through high school IB program, used by over 4,000 schools across the world including about 40 public and private schools in Maryland, has a reputation as an academically rigorous, internationally-minded educational program.
“We are excited to launch this school. Our name 'tarbiyah' refers to the ideal approach to developing human nature – the heart, mind, and body, and spirit – and this is what we are trying to achieve,” explained Lailaa Jazouli, President of Tarbiyah Academy and a teacher in the Montgomery County School system. The school will soon be in the process of applying for non-profit status.
The school's six member board will meet with community members interested in the project at three town hall meetings later this month: on Tuesday, May 15 from 6:30-8:00pm at the Ellicott City Senior Center; Wednesday, May 16 from 6:30-8:00pm at the North Laurel Community Center; and Thursday, May 17 from 1:30-3:00pm at the Miller Branch Library
The board is made up of mothers – both working professionals and stay at home moms with diverse backgrounds in fields like education, business, and the sciences – all of whom have young children in Islamic school, private school, or home schooling programs.
The town halls are not being held to decide whether or not to open the new school, said Jazouli, but rather to “help shape the school around [the Tarbiyah Academy] vision and what we hear from [community members].”
The board is working with education consultant Reed Sumida from the Independent School Performance Group to develop a business and marketing plan for the school. Sumida will be present at the town hall meetings.
“[Sumida] has helped start IB schools across America, Canada and the Middle East, helping [schools] build on sound business practices,” said Sarah Gowayed, Vice President of Tarbiyah Academy. “The school has to be sustainable.”
According to Gowayed, there has been a rapid growth in the number of children involved in one Muslim home schooling group in Howard County, almost tripling in size to about 60 children over the last five years. Currently, the board's plan is to start the school with pre-Kindergarten through 5th grades.
Asked what would be different about Tarbiyah Academy compared to neighboring Islamic schools like Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore and Al-Huda School in College Park, Gowayed noted both the community service and project based learning approach, and also the leadership structure.
“Our school will be independent from any masjid, and that is very important to us in order to give priority to what's in the best interest of the school and the education of its students,” she said. "Our goal is to teach kids how to learn and apply their knowledge beyond the classroom.”
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