The classroom provides an environment conducive to learning. Pix by HASRIYASYAH SABUDIN.
Eco-Science is backyard science where the garden is the science lab. Pix by HASRIYASYAH SABUDIN.
“Meals are prepared while arithmetic and Arabic are taught and we farm while we teach an Islamic education. We want the children to feel at home,” says Zaliza Alias, Idrissi Islamic International School founder and house director.
Nurturing a love for outdoor activities. Pix by HASRIYASYAH SABUDIN.

JUST like home, the children leave their shoes at the door and run in their socks or barefooted into their classrooms. Their daily ritual includes caring for the house plants in school before their class starts. They also perform congregational prayers in school.

Dubbed the world’s first Eco-Islamic school, Idrissi Islamic International School is registered under World Wildlife Federation’s Eco-School programme, an international environmental and sustainable developmental education initiative.

At the heart of the programme is a structured change management process called the seven steps used by schools to work towards continuous improvement in environmental action.

Idrissi School is taking it one step further by instilling Islamic values and building character through caring for the environment.

Founder and house director of Idrissi School Zaliza Alias said it has been a part of Genius Aulad, a chain of fun preschools, for more than 15 years and it wants the setting to continue in primary school.

“Idrissi School believes that teaching begins at home and therefore we want the school to be like home. The whole concept of the school — from the study rooms to the garden and the teacher-parent relationship to activities — is family-based.

“Meals are prepared while arithmetic and Arabic are taught and we farm while we teach an Islamic education. We want the children to feel at home,” said Zaliza.

WORKING COLLECTIVELY

Idrissi School is a community within a community. It inculcates a three-sided partnership where teachers, parents and pupils assume a shared responsibility to make the school a success and the adults work together to raise wholesome children.

The school’s just-like-home environment is the backdrop to a curriculum that is both formal and informal.

It has a unique approach to its curriculum. Dynamic and varied, it combines the rigour of education with programmes that address multiple intelligences and individual learning styles.

“We’ve designed a curriculum that is both practical and meaningful to prepare pupils for a balanced education that engages them, rather than focus on rote learning, memorisation and regurgitation.

“We nurture a love for learning and a desire to explore, and integrate these interests across the curricula.

“A range of subjects provides pupils with the fundamentals to flourish in a competitive world.

“It takes a village to raise a child. The success of our curriculum extends beyond the parents to the communities of the world,” added Zaliza.

“Active parents’ participation in volunteering and their engagement enhance teaching and learning, including the teacher-parent relationship. Working collectively with parents allows us to build a stronger school programme that is the blueprint for the grooming of successful citizens of tomorrow.”

The Cambridge International Examinations programme is the core of its academic framework while experiential and eco-based, hands-on learning offers flexibility to develop each child’s interests and talents.

At the same time, the Idrissi Islamic Curriculum takes the learning model one step further. Rooted deeply in each lesson and activity is character development guided by the Quran and Sunnah (prophetic traditions).

“We enrich the curriculum and activities with Islamic ethics and values to further achieve our aims of an Islamic education in the realm of a western curriculum.

“All these elements — active participation, learning by doing and community orientation — prepare our pupils to be well-rounded, successful Muslims and global citizens,” she added.

Idrissi Islamic Curriculum is developed in collaboration with Al Madinah International University and is approved by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

The five core areas are Aqeedah, Quran and Science, Seerah and Islamic History, Ibadat and Morals and Manners.

SUPPLEMENTARY EXPERIENTIAL ECO-MUSLIM PROGRAMMES

Experiential Eco-Muslim programmes supplement active learning in class. These are designed to pique pupils’ innate curiosity about their natural surroundings and foster a link with the Creator.

The subjects incorporate Islamic values through the Quran and teaching of the Sunnah while stressing nature-related values in every activity.

“Experiential means active, practical, hands-on learning instead of inputs from books and teachers only.

“For example, the children cook the produce that they harvest and they learn to count portions. This is a complete eco-system of science and maths.”

Through the Eco-Muslim Scouts activities, the school continuously assesses its pupils’ performance.

“Working with our partners, the scouts take part in games, hikes and community programmes, for example.”

The Eco-Muslim Assessment evaluates these enriching activities that provide opportunities for personal growth, self-achievement and a better relationship with the world.

“Furthering our mission to nurture the next generation of successful Muslims, our Eco-Muslim Lifestyle module forms the basis of moral education.

“Pupils spend 30 minutes on patch farming that helps them understand sustainability, cooperative learning and community relations.

“We give children the chance to explore the world they live in, whether taking turns to care for the school’s house plants, running out to the yard to play futsal or climbing the indoor rock gym.”

The curriculum includes a supplementary experiential programme where the outdoors is a classroom for learning experiences.

“Pupils learn from everyday chores: farming, recycling waste, composting and caring for our environment.

“From the simplest task of recycling waste to more complicated ones such as creating a useful farming device out of scrap materials under the guidance of experienced trainers, these activities enrich pupils’ experience.

“Parents who volunteer, teachers and non-teaching staff share responsibility for educating our pupils, creating a curriculum that goes beyond rote learning.”

PEKA AWARD ACHIEVEMENT

In recognition of the school’s efforts in conserving the country’s natural heritage and promoting a greener nation, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA) has awarded Idrissi School with the Eco-Primary Education Award 2016.

“It is a compliment to the children. They are the ones who inherit Earth, so they must know that people out there care about the environment as much as they do.”

An environmental partner of the school, PEKA shares the same vision for the young generation and the two institutions jointly organise activities such as cleaning rivers, replanting the forest and collecting duck eggs.

Idrissi School feels the environment is the best platform for pupils to work together with all races and religions to make the world a better place for all.

“It is important that pupils are aware of ecological balance. They think twice about throwing plastic wrappers into the drain and they know that worms are helpful for the soil and plants.”

The school also partners with Shah Alam Botanical Gardens, National Botanical Gardens, Zoo Negara and Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

LOOKING AHEAD

Zaliza wants Idrissi School to remain as a homely kampung school in town.

“We don’t only want to maintain good academic results but also good pupil character and the nice physical buildings of the school.

“The school and the parents must continue to work together. This is the true spirit of sending children to a madrasah or an Islamic school.”

Blend of Islamic values and nature


Sharfiza Abdul Aziz, 34, housewife, mother of Abdul Hafyz Huzairy (Year 5), Nur Khaleeysa (Year 3) and Nur Hadeeyla (Year 2).

“I LOVE the Islamic component of Idrissi Islamic International School. Islam is part of every subject as Islam is a way of life.

“Learning takes place not only in class but also away from it when the pupils cook, sew and plant. Life skills are just as important as academic studies.

“My children think more critically and are more creative. They take part in projects and presentations.

“They are more independent and do their best to earn stars and badges in school. They pray on their own although I have to remind them sometimes. They sit together to recite or memorise surahs.

“Their homework includes cleaning up their rooms and preparing breakfast. And they look forward to school everyday.”


Zai Karno, 37, teacher.

“YOU feel safe and part of the family as soon as you enter the school. I see a tremendous change in my children since they started school in Idrissi. Exposure to an Islamic environment creates a desire to follow practices such as wearing the hijab and fasting.

“They memorise the surahs independently and recite them beautifully.

“They learn to appreciate nature. They don’t litter, they recycle and grow plants.

“And the best part is they now limit their time on gadgets.

“These practices are very important as the child grows into a teenager.”


Rafidah Muhamad, 40, government servant and mother of Adam Akmal (Year 6), Alia Alisya (Year 5) and Amir Akram (Year 1).

“I LOVE the concept of blending Islamic values with nature. It motivates my children to go to school. The teaching method and pupil-teacher relationship are informal.

“My children have improved academically and they are more self-confident. My eldest child is the imam at congregation prayers with his siblings. They help with simple household chores. Idrissi School has helped my children a lot holistically.”

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