Enrollment in Sydney’s Islamic schools has doubled in ten years


Principal Safia Khan Hassanein said the school has a combined waiting list for 2023 of 700 potential students on its campuses.

Its Auburn campus can accommodate an additional 400 students, and the school is asking Cumberland Council to increase its cap.

She said the school is doing its best to at least take students’ siblings, but will have to turn some away unless the caps are lifted.

“We are seeing an influx of many families moving west and therefore greater demand on our
school,” Hassanein said. “We are extremely grateful, lucky and blessed to live in Australia where people can practice their religion and have a choice in how they live their lives.

“There has been an increase in Islamic schools over the past decade. However, not all families who want their children to attend an Islamic school are currently able to do so.

The first Islamic school in the NSW region opened in Young, on the South West Slopes, in 2017 and is already scouting for a larger site.

Principal Sana Hijazi, who moved to the area from Sydney, said the school was initially run by founding members of the city’s growing Muslim community, who moved to the area around 30 years ago.

The school started with 20 students and now has 120 enrolments. It should soon reach its capacity of 130.

“Some parents, they came just to be in the area, and then they find out there’s an Islamic school,” she said. “Now we also have families who are looking for the Islamic school because they want their children to learn the Arabic language to read the Koran.”

Hijazi, who previously worked for the education department and in the IT sector, said the school focuses on engagement with the wider community.

“Being in a small town, the priority is that our children fit in and that we are not isolated,” she said.

Safia Khan Hassanein has witnessed an increased demand for places in her school.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Karolia said Sydney’s Islamic schools are a broad community at different ends of the religiosity spectrum and increasingly cater to Australian-born ‘upwardly mobile’ parents.

“I don’t think parents are looking to leave the public school system behind, but there may be sections of the community who may want to retain their traditional beliefs, traditional religious instruction, and cultural and religious identity that draws them to Islamic schools. ,” he said.

A number of Islamic schools have come under scrutiny from government authorities over the past decade for issues of governance and misuse of funding.

But Karolia said schools in Sydney had rapidly improved compliance in recent years and the schools were not ‘bastions of conservatism’.

“As the community evolves and becomes more mobile and more sophisticated, we now have a higher caliber of responsible people with broader corporate and other backgrounds who are largely either born in Australia or a product of the systems of local secondary and higher education,” he said. said.

“They are much more aware of responsibility and responsibilities, especially when it comes to governance.”

The chief executive of Australian Independent Schools NSW, Dr Geoff Newcombe, said the growth of Islamic schools, along with increased enrollment in Anglican schools, had supported an increase in the number of students in the independent sector.

“As remarkable as this growth may seem, it has in fact been limited by the enrollment caps imposed as a condition of approval for the development of these schools. This has forced many schools to turn away dozens or even hundreds of students each year, including siblings,” he said.


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