A school that is associated with a particular faith or religion and/or is integrated with life in a faith community is one of the schools referred to as sectarian schools. Schools that do not meet this criterion are sometimes called secular schools. All public schools in the United States are secular schools, but there are many sectarian schools as well.
Sectarian schools promulgate the faith tradition or a belief system that they are associated with, as well as teaching academic subjects in the light of the faith’s values. There are three main faiths in the United States that have associated sectarian schools: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Sometimes sectarian schools may be recognized by their names. Christian schools often have a saint’s name as part of their name, although be careful with schools like St. Lawrence University, named for its proximity to the St. Lawrence River. Jewish schools may be called yeshivas. And Islamic schools may be referred to as madrasahs, of which there are many English transliterations.
Sectarian schools differ in the ways that they incorporate faith-based concepts and values into their instruction. Christian school departments and course offering titles often look very much like a secular school when it comes to math, science, English, social studies, and foreign language. But there is often an extra department for religion and a yearly course in that subject area added onto the usual course load. Bible study is also often provided.
Jewish schools may integrate Jewish studies with English, math, science and history, sometimes called general studies. Alternatively, they may focus entirely on Jewish studies, which includes courses focused on the Talmud, Tanakh, Hebrew, and Jewish history.
Islamic schools may be attached to a mosque, but this is not always the case. While there are non-denominational Islamic schools, there are also schools identified with specific Islamic sects, including both traditional and Salafi Sunni, Shia or Jafari, and Sufi. Islamic sectarian schools often offer the same subjects as secular schools, with the addition of courses in the Quran, Islamic studies, and foreign languages that are not characteristically found in secular schools, for example, a choice of Arabic or Persian.