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Largest Islamic school on way

FRANCE

An Islamic association in Lyon is preparing to open the country's third and biggest Muslim secondary school next month.

The independent school, named Al-Kindi after the 9th-century Islamic scholar, will comprise a lower secondary and a lycee which together will cater for up to 200 pupils aged 11-18. It will follow the national curriculum, which it says will be "enhanced" by courses in rarely taught languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Japanese and Chinese, and options including Islamic cultures.

Al-Kindi, which is already oversubscribed, will prepare pupils for national exams including the baccalaureat. Lack of a dress code means that girls will be allowed to wear hijabs, which are banned in France's secular state schools.

The Al-Kindi association, which brings together Muslim organisations in the region, is now awaiting the go-ahead from the Lyon education authority.

Nadir Hakim, president of the association, told The TES that it would appeal if permission to open the school was turned down and that there was "legally no reason to justify refusal".

Like the other Muslim schools in metropolitan France, Al-Kindi will not qualify for government support - unlike most faith schools which are run by the Roman Catholic church under state contract. These educate more than a million pupils out of about 12.5 million, with the government paying teachers' salaries.

They must teach the national curriculum and undergo state inspection.

Religious education is optional and they charge modest fees. There are also Jewish schools under state contract.

But Al-Kindi, which will charge annual fees of l1,230 (pound;775), will join the minority of private schools with no state contract or subsidy which teach 0.05 per cent of secondary pupils - fewer than 30,000. Al-Kindi will be eligible to apply for a state contract after five years if standards are met.

France's other Muslim schools are a lycee in Lille, a lower secondary in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, and a primary school under state contract in the Reunion overseas department.

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