Imam Farhan Ashari serves as the principal of Johor Bahru Islamic High School. He is also a member of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) education system, which was established in the 1970s as one of the more organized forces in Islamic revivalism in Malaysia. His background in examining best practices in school management in the United States resulted in an invitation to participate in the December 2019 IVLP program, School Management and Pedagogy System for Madrasah Educators administered by Meridian International Center.
During his time in the U.S., Imam Farhan Ashari examined public, private, and faith-based school models, observed classroom norms and values, and studied civic and faith-based initiatives and extra-curricular activities that promote cross-cultural dialogue and engagement. His group met with a variety of professional resources including the Utah State Office of Education, the Khadeeja Islamic Center Mosque, Salt Lake County Library Services, and the Montessori Community School.
Imam Ashari’s group had the opportunity to travel to the Khadeeja Islamic Center, the largest Muslim facility in Utah, offering a variety of services to Utah Muslims. Participants learned about the Muslim communities in Utah, educational outreach on behalf of the Islamic Society, and classes and programs offered during the weekends. The group was even invited to participate in Friday prayers at the mosque.
Another memorable moment was Imam Ashari’s visit to the Montessori Community School where his group received a tour. The group discussed how reading and literacy are taught through the Montessori method, which emphasizes the development of children in a carefully prepared environment.
Imam Ashari reports that his spirit was lifted after his visit to Utah. He shares, “I believe my experience there was very valuable and beneficial to my organization. Now, I adopt and adapt the norms and culture in certain institutions...for example in teaching our kids, we prefer to talk in positive words rather than say no or negative words.”
As an educator, Imam Ashari has faced challenges as mandatory COVID-19 lockdowns have forced teachers to move their classrooms online. He explains, “COVID-19 affected our institution and all schools in Malaysia because it cannot operate at the first 3 months MCO,” the Malaysia movement control order. Fortunately, the skills he learned during his program have helped Imam Ashari navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, skills in online teaching have helped facilitate his transition to online learning.
Imam Ashari is an example of the incredible innovation and flexibility displayed by educators around who have had to adapt to changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We express gratitude for all educators who have taken steps to ensure a positive learning environment for students as the world faces dramatic change.