Independent schools are a central issue in the school world, the perception of independent schools varies and many people express opinions about them in the media. An independent school is according to the National Agency a school that has a different principal than the county or municipality. Independent schools may not charge fees but their revenue comes from municipal grants from municipalities (Berglund 2007, p. 10). An independent school can be driven by an association, foundation or company and to run an independent school requires a permit from the Education Department.
The purpose of this paper is to see how four principals at independent schools with a Muslim profile are working to strengthen their students’ Muslim identity in relation to the society they live in and how schools work with value issues. We also had the intention of studying the schools environment. To help us, we used the following questions: How does the school principal integrate different value issues? What are the principals’ thoughts on their schools work with their students before meeting with the community? What are the principals thoughts on the schools work to enhance their students’ Muslim identity? What is the purpose of the school profile? What is the environment like in and around the school? We have used interviews and observations as a method to find out how principals producing work at an independent school with a Muslim profile, and how they work with students’ identity formation. In this qualitative study, we have interviews with two principals and two assistant principals and observations from three of the schools. Based on our research, we have concluded that there is little to distinguish an independent school with a Muslim profile from a public school. Both are part of the Swedish school system, so they must follow the national curriculum, the time plan, and the Education Act.
According to the principals that we interviewed, what distinguishes an independent school with a Muslim profile from a public school is that they serve halal food, girls and boys have separate PE lessons, they have one lesson a week for the school's profile subject (Islam or Arabic), schools have a prayer room that students can access throughout the school day and the school is closed during the Muslim feasts.
According to the principals that we interviewed, the main reason for choosing an independent school with a Muslim profile should be because of the work in the schools that is based on building up students’ Muslim identity. They do this for the students meeting with the society they live in, if the schools have built up a solid cultural foundation of the students, the transition to the community much easier. In our social world is the view of knowledge, learning and parenting culture bound. Lahdenperä writes about "learning -through-culture" and with this she means that children learn through their own culture, that shapes them as individuals and through it they learn what is worth to know (Lahdenperä 2003). Our observations revealed various differences between the schools’; the most obvious difference was the religious texts and symbols that were on Sham School. Our observations also showed different connections between the schools’; one was that they were in abandoned buildings, mostly in industrial areas. Another clear connection between the schools was that all had prayer rooms and these floors were covered with a large red carpet. The prayer rooms looked exactly like they do in a mosque.
The conclusion of our study is that despite the schools’ public profile, independent schools with Muslim profile, they educate their students in different ways and their priorities are also different. Thus, one can´t assume that all independent schools with Muslim profile works the same way. Just as in public schools, it is about what the staff at the schools believe that the schools purpose and also their efforts to achieve the schools different goals.