Fri 28 November 2014
5 Safar 1436 AH  



LECTURES

Man is in Loss

Parenting

Building Personality

Muslim Personality

Marriage

Muslim Family


Ingredients of a Blessed Family

Journey to Parenthood

A New Arrival in the Family

Infancy and Pre-school Nursing

School Exposure

Adolescence

Issues of Social Ills


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Building Personality (Click here for multiple questions on this Lecture)

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 past.

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 teaching!

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

Prime Objectives

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 his:

  • 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.
Curriculum and Teaching Education, Ed. M.H. Al-Affendi and N.A. Baloch, Hodder and Stoughton, p16 1980.

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 diverse societies.

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 education?