Six-year-old Amirul Rashad speaks perfect English, enjoys reading Joy Cowley books and loves Popeye cartoon shows. He is one of the 150 students who go to Sekolah Islam Adni in Taman Sri Ukay, Ampang, a private Islamic school dedicated to providing holistic education for children aged four to 17.
Amirul’s language proficiency is the result of the use of English as the official language spoken in school.
“We encourage both students and teachers to converse in English as knowledge is now in English,” says school chairman Sarbudeen Mohd Kiyastheen.
Amirul and his best friends are already learning the syllabus that is on par with national school’s Year One curriculum. “Mathematics is my favourite subject because I love to count,” he says. At 8am, the entire school which consists of 600 students, from pre-school to Form Five, and 97 teachers gather for an assembly followed by morning prayers.
The majority of its students are from neighbouring areas such as Ampang and Hulu Kelang. Students from Sudan, Japan, China, Arab countries, and Algeria make up about 5% of the school’s enrolment.
Sudanese Shayma Adil travels to school daily with her friends in a hired taxi. “I love Art and English. In my free time, I read story books and play on the swing,” says the six-year-old who accompanied her parents to Malaysia last year.
Founded seven years ago, the four-storey school is built on a two-acre site and is named Adni, which is one of the seven levels of paradise in the Quran.
“Islam or the Diniyah curriculum is integrated into the national syllabus and not made into a separate subject they learn after school hours.
“We want to make Islam alive while they study and we aim to inculcate good values, and develop good behaviour and etiquette in these students,” says Sarbudeen.
He adds that if a child has a good attitude, then his academic performance will be good too. “If we do not look at the holistic development of the child, the child will not know how to handle himself in the future, even if he has a string of As, he may not know how to present himself.''
Apart from their studies, students attend compulsory martial arts classes and participate in various sports and extra curricular activities.
“Our sporting facilities include archery, horse riding, and swimming; co-curricular activities are essential in developing a child’s personality and character,” says Sarbudeen. Every Friday, students will gather for their respective activities at the different venues rented by the school.
Having taught in the school for six years, Nor Dahlia Idris says she will never consider the option to teach elsewhere.
“I’ve learnt everything here, even to converse well in English. It’s the satisfaction I get when my students are able to read, especially those who have learning disorders,” says Nor Dahlia who teaches kindergarten children.
The school caters for students with learning difficulties like Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia. The special class currently has five students.
“At present, we have special classes for such students whom we are trying to help assimilate into society; hopefully they will be able to join their peers in the normal classes,” says executive director Nik Zaidah Mohd Zain.
A pilot project, called Khalifah, conducted by 10 Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) professors, sets out to recognise good behaviour among the students at Sekolah Islam Adni. “Instead of focusing on bad behaviour, we praise students, emphasising their good character; this has had a positive influence on the students,” says Nik Zaidah.
The project, which started over a year ago, aims to correct children's worldview and places emphasis on “the law of learning.”
“The outcome has been fantastic so far. It works even with my children. Using force to discipline only works temporarily whereas this technique instils the qualities in the child hopefully for life,” adds Nik Zaidah, who has two sons aged 10 and 12 at the school.
Fees per month are RM300 for pre-school, RM350 for primary, RM400 for lower secondary, and RM450 for upper secondary students.
“For an additional RM80, students are served healthy food daily, which includes a variation of chicken rice, tomato rice, kurma chicken, and sweet and sour fish,” she adds.
School hours vary according to the level. Primary school dismisses at 3.30pm and an hour later for the secondary school level.
Although pre-school classes end at 1pm daily, day-care is available until 6pm. “It's more convenient for working parents who can only pick their children up after office hours,” says Sarbudeen.
A special facility for teachers includes a nursery housed in the school for their children. “We are currently caring for 24 children ranging from two months to four years old; the nursery helps to give our teachers a clear mind, knowing that their children are well taken care of,” says Sarbudeen.
Gaining popularity among middle-income families, the school plans to be more selective of its students beginning next year. “Prospective students and even their parents may have to attend a special interview with the school,” adds Sarbudeen.
For students who do not meet the grade, the school does not automatically promote them to the next level. “They will have to repeat the year or be provisionally promoted; so students have to do well in their studies,” he says. On the school’s 10-year plan, Sarbudeen says: “We hope to build a campus outside Kuala Lumpur which will house students from Form One and above.”
He adds that the school hopes to produce working professionals who will incorporate Islam into their daily lives, for example, “We hope to have doctors who say a special prayer before attempting a surgical procedure.”
Did you find this article insightful?