Building Personality (
Education : Western Perspectives
Good citizenship is the only objective
The basic precept of western education
is to produce 'good citizens' to, mainly, increase or sustain economic productivity.
The whole state-craft and social might is geared to this effect. As a result,
education is always at the centre of public debate in all the western countries.
Buzz words like 'standard', 'excellence' and 'performance' are used extensively
by the experts. Teachers and education providers have to experience immense pressure
to come up with better attainment in schools, colleges and universities. The fear
that, in recent time, many western countries are falling behind a number of developing
countries elsewhere, has created a sense of urgency among the policy makers. The
concern has also risen because of the increasing anti-social behaviour among the
younger generation, such as bullying, juvenile delinquency, racism, drug abuse,
alcoholism, teen-age pregnancy, etc. In some western countries, they are now growing
in an alarming rate and creating a big hole in the confidence of their capacity
to move forward.
A question to think about : What
is fundamental for young people to become good citizens and good human beings?
What is the consequence if this is excluded from education?
Nobody would ever deny that citizenship
concept, such as loyalty, liberty, justice and fairness is less important in disseminating
education to the younger generation. But they can never be balanced and wholesome
if the knowledge of human purpose on earth is ignored and excluded from education.
If that is done, the prevailing materialistic values and philosophy filters through
the education system and directly affects the younger generation.
Leading to Materialism and Capitalism
The modern western society has developed
by leaps and bounds in technological advancement and organised institutions. Life
has become fast, competitive and complex. With the rapid rise of materialism,
the concept of divine purpose and accountability of life is all but lost. As a
result, the western societies are losing many values and norms human beings hold
so dear in other parts of the world. They are entering in an era dictated by the
philosophy of moral relativism. There does not seem to be any absolute values
and norms of life. Everything changes according to the needs and demands of people.
While societies are creating needs, needs are influencing societies. This has
given rise to global consumerism of an unparalleled strength. Human behaviour
is changing accordingly. In the moral maze spiritual bankruptcy is the manifest
outcome. The vacuum created by the weakening of religious influence in the West
over the centuries is deepening. This has now been filled with alternative but
powerful 'religions', such as Secular Liberalism and Market Capitalism which can,
at times, be as proselytising and intolerant as some religions used to be in the
Devoid of Moral and Religious Values
Education is predominantly task-centred
where a learner is not given prime importance as a human being. With rising social
pressure and peer influence, the moral, ethical and spiritual dimension is sidelined.
They are compromised by the needs of the society. In the absence of exemplary
role models around them, the young people are tempted to imitate those who have
made name and fame but have little balance in their life.
A question to think about : What
are the fears and concerns of education policy makers in the western countries?
The situation has worsened after the
second world war when the powerful Secular Liberal camp has succeeded in creating
an environment where individual freedom and self-fulfilment are paramount. Religion
is no longer the 'opium' of the people, because mankind has invented far more
powerful 'opium' to indulge in. So, it is demanded, young people in the educational
institutions should not be overburdened with the age-old 'dogma' of religious
As an outcome of post-modern religious
disengagement of the society, the education system is promoting an indulgent and
value-free philosophy of life. Young people have little opportunity or access
to knowledge leading to accountability and responsibility on earth. Life is governed
and conditioned by the desire to survive and succeed. Human beings are at best
rational animals, albeit an intelligent one.
The long-term effect of sidelining
universal and transcendental values in education has proved counterproductive.
History has witnessed the appalling atrocities carried out by 'good citizens'
of some countries on others, e.g., holocaust in Nazi Germany and genocide in Cambodia,
Rwanda, Bosnia and Chechnya. The list is long. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and leaders
like them were definitely the best citizens of their country in their lifetime.
That is why, Iqbal, the philosopher poet of the East, cried out and reminded the
world (sic) that removal of religion from public life gives rise to Chengis' cruelty.
A question to think about : Discuss
the effects of rapid rise of materialism on the society.
Contemporary Religious and Theological
Education Prevailing in the West
It is evidently clear that the religious
or theological education prevailing in the West is out of touch and inadequate
to face the challenges of the modern Jahiliyah they have created. It has, in fact,
little influence in shaping the life of the young people. Offering bigger chunk
of time for 'Religious Education' in the curriculum is not going to do any miracle.
What is essential is to address the issue from a wider perspective and if necessary
change the lock stock and barrel of the education system. Without a deliberate
and assertive impregnation of moral and spiritual values, derived from revealed
knowledge, into the education ethos nothing is going to change.
For example, 'sex education' is dealt
primarily in the light of 'safer sex'. In most cases, they are either embarrassing
or provocative to the recipients. With a confused ethos and uncomfortable environment,
it becomes a recipe for sensual life pattern. Although, the focus is primarily
to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, the result is
opposite. Sex related crimes and teen-age pregnancies are on the rise everywhere.
Nobody ever denies the importance
of knowledge in this area, but what needs to be emphasised is a balanced understanding
and responsibility in sexual behaviour. This needs to be taught under the broad
topic of parenting, Once this is done, a fresh air of sanity can blow in the society.
Likewise, all other areas of knowledge could be re-focused in the light of man's
responsibility and justice on earth.
A question to think about : How
should muslim parents address the teaching of sexual morality to thier children
if they attend non-muslim schools
Lessons from the Positive Aspects
Although devoid of spiritual dimension,
the West's material success lies in their education system which is creative and
imaginative. It prepares the young people with social qualities and life skills.
It is important to note that pre-university education has been given prime importance
in the West, as they provide the foundation of a nation. They also continuously
address the problems of under-performance through improving literacy and numeracy,
reduction of class size, ensuring equal opportunities for all, improving school
leadership and teacher training, inspection of schools and education providers
and use of ICT in effective and efficient manner. There is the urge to maintain
standards and accountability and that is essential for success. Essential are
also the partnership with teachers, parents, businesses, voluntary and statutory
bodies as well as their implementation with proper planning, sensitivity and funding.
Education : Islamic Perspective
The main focus of education in Islam is child-centred and bent
on preparing a young man for a role compatible with the purpose of his creation
on earth. As man is put in-charge of the affairs of this world, it is an immense
responsibility on him. Education, in Islamic framework, is intrinsically linked
with this vision. As a result, there is a clear unanimity of opinion among the
Muslim scholars that education should aim at familiarising the individual with
Curriculum and Teaching Education, Ed. M.H. Al-Affendi and N.A. Baloch, Hodder
and Stoughton, p16 1980.
- individual responsibility in life.
- relationship to other creature.
- responsibility towards the human community.
- social relations.
- relationship to the universe and universal phenomena
and exploration of natural laws in order to utilise and exploit them.
- Maker's creative wisdom apparent in the creation.
Education should, therefore, be a
continuous process of transmitting knowledge and values in order to promote the
intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical development of the young people enabling
them to cope with the challenges of the modern society and grow up as balanced
and motivated individuals. There should be a harmonious development of mind, body
and soul. On the one hand, education should help equipping Muslim children with
the required skills and experiences needed to meet the challenges of modern competitive
life. It should prepare them how to live as 'Muslims' by serving man beings in
Responsibilities of the Muslims
in the West
Muslims cannot expect this happening
in foreseeable future in the West. But this is a process, a big challenge. Muslim
parents and educationists can take lead in forging links with other people in
the moral majority. People having common grounds concerning human values can join
hands together to encourage their followers to work in harmony with others. The
Qur'an is explicit about the necessity of this joint challenge and harmonious
co-existence between people so that they explore commonality in order to build
a peaceful world. (al-Qur'an, 3:64).
A question to think about :
Should more time be removed from the core subjects (English, Maths and Science)
and allocated to concepts such as citizenship and personal/social education, to
produce balanced and wholesome adults?
The physical world has become quite
small now. Man's natural diversity of race, colour, religion and geographical
location is now taken as richness, rather than weakness. But it looks that the
gulf between man is widening. Man's survival and prosperity is now a collective
endeavour that needs good human beings. Should education not aim to produce this
sort of people? Should the Muslim parents not attempt to educate their children
in their homes and communities? Should they not strive to influence the education
system of the societies where they live?
It is difficult and challenging,
but not impossible. Most western countries are now plural and multi-cultural.
Diverse and rich religious and cultural values are increasingly becoming ingrained
there. As a result, people with moral and spiritual stronghold can influence the
education system with moral and spiritual dimension. Gradual but consistent penetration
in the system is important. Only then a generation will grow up with a sense of
responsibility rather than recklessness, conviction rather than doubt and humility
rather than arrogance.
Young people need stability in their
life. Those, born and brought up with physical and emotional care as well as love
and warmth in stable families, have the unique potential to deliver the same to
the wider community. On the other hand, those born to irresponsible parents in
unstable environment suffer most and can contribute very little to the society.
All the more, they become burden on the society. Deprivation is not purely economic
and social, it could be moral and spiritual as well. The former creates chaos
in the society, whereas the latter brings confusion and eventual destruction.
No nation can prosper with social impairment and internal instability.
In short, what is needed is the will
and courage of the moral majority in the education and political establishment.
In this, Muslim parents have challenging role to play. It is a big stake.
A question to think about : As
a parent, what changes would you like to see made to the governments' aims for