Written by root. Posted in IN PERSON


Published on May 18, 2016 with No Comments

Founder Zaliza Alias of Idrissi, the world’s first Eco-Islamic School, shares her thoughts on building from scratch and the best approach to foster every child’s individual potential.

There are already various International and Islamic-standard schools in Malaysia. What inspired you to conceive the idea of a school like Idrissi?
I always believe that teaching and learning is not just about the technical aspects of academics, like grades and exams. Learning is about how you feel and how you should react responsibly upon yourself, others and the world. It’s all about character development and instilling faith as a servant of the One Creator.

Children need something tangible for character development; something that they can see and do every day. What better than working with the Earth? On a daily basis at Idrissi, for example, kids begin their day by watering the plants before going to class. They also have weekly and monthly programmes such as the Eco-Scouts programme – scouting missions based on an environmental lifestyle, and engaging in community work like river cleaning, forest replanting and such.

How do you see Idrissi’s approach to education benefiting the students, parents and community?
Every parent is made compulsory to volunteer, at the very least to serve meals for the children or plant a tree for the children to care. Getting parents involved allow them to see their children more than just the grades while engaging with the teachers that have been entrusted with their children’s education. By fostering this child-parent-school relationship, we hope to encourage learning that is not limited to the classroom. This, we hope, can nurture children who will maintain best habits as they integrate into their community.

Idrissi’s concept advocates the homeschool environment. In your opinion, what is the appeal in Homeschooling and how is this reflected at Idrissi?
I homeschooled my children. I believe every child is unique and not every child is suited to the same education approach. Our education system in Malaysia is great; in fact one of my daughters is in a government boarding school now. But there are some children who need the homeschool approach, where the school is like home and there is flexibility of various learning programmes to explore individual talents and interests. God willing, Idrissi is here to provide that alternative.

While Idrissi is part of the Eco School fraternity, how do you hope to manifest your own course?
We are the first Islamic eco-school in the world. Every activity is designed for a wholistic character development, with awareness and care for the environment made with references to the Qur’an and Sunnah (examples) of our Prophet (peace be upon him). When we do our river cleaning activity, for example, the children are reminded of references from the Qur’an that describes rivers in Paradise that flow with unimaginable beauty and taste. The lesson being we cannot pollute the rivers here if we wish to have beautiful rivers in Paradise.

What are your start-up challenges, if any?
I remember briefing the teachers the day before we started school: “I don’t know where you come from – from which part of the world; I don’t know how you got here. I don’t know how we can start this school and what will happen tomorrow and the next day. But I know that Allah has sent all of you here and made all plans for this school to happen.” It was indeed a heartfelt and humbling moment for us all. Due to time and budget constraint, we only had less than three months to build and market the school before it commenced in January 2015. God willing, we received our first 50 children intake and the journey began.

Idrissi is basically educating the Gen Zs, those that have predictors saying will be realists, the ones empowered to impact the world and find solutions that are out of the box. What are your thoughts on educating the young generation now and which country’s school education inspires you and why?
I believe no matter what generation they are, all children need love. Children may not remember what we teach or say, but they will definitely remember how we make them feel. If we nurture them with love, they will spread love. First we need love, then everything else will fall into place. Even to empower them to think out of the box Gen Z needs to love what they do, to love the people they work with, and to love the reason for doing it.

No country has a perfect school education; but I love any nation that takes time to nurture their children and mould their character before the academic technicalities and rankings.

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