The only Islamic institute in Abu Dhabi emirate is working to revise its curriculum and obtain international accreditation in order to encourage more Emiratis to pursue religious education.
The Islamic Institute follows the Ministry of Education curriculum with advanced Islamic courses in the higher grades. But it is struggling to attract pupils because its syllabus is outdated, educators say.
"All the Islamic books have been written in the '80s and the material used to teach children has not progressed," said Dr Karima Matar Al Mazroui, head of Arabic-taught curricula at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
"Also, even though pupils do advanced courses, they do not get recognised, so that is something we are working to change."
She said the institute is looking at other well-established Islamic institutes in the Arab world and beyond to determine what accreditation would be most suitable.
The authority organised a two-day workshop, ending today, with Islamic scholars from Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the US to look at ways of updating the subject.
Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, set up the Islamic Institute in Al Ain in 1967 to promote Islamic culture and values among youth. It currently has 241 pupils - Emiratis and other Arabs.
Pupils take standard classes until grade five, after which they take four or five advanced courses in religion as well. In grade 12, they revert to the ministry curriculum.
Adec hopes to have a system in place by next year that takes a consistent approach through all years of schooling.
"We need to enhance the institute to get more students and give it its prestige back," said Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, the director general of Adec. "We have to produce pupils with the right calibre who are open-minded, flexible and respect others."
The institute was important, he said, in guiding pupils towards the right religious sentiments. "We need to introduce them to the right Islamic values so that can be clear from the different movements that are not linked to our religion."
Dr Yousef Al Balooshi, the head of the institute, stressed the need for more modern teaching methods. "We need to change the way we teach Islam and give them the latest technology."
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