is Wrong with our Education System?
question: Who discovered America? The almost guaranteed answer:
Columbus, of course. The bright student may even know the famous
story that Columbus thought he had reached India and therefore called
the people he found Indians.
providing sound knowledge and developing critical thinking capabilities
are any goals of an education system, the answer highlights the
miserable failure of the education system prevalent in the Muslim
world today on both counts. For no one asks the obvious: How can
anyone be credited with discovering a land that was already heavily
populated? Columbus was the first European to discover America,
not the first man. Hundreds of thousands of other men and women
had reached there before him and had been living for centuries.
The assertion about Columbus reveals a Euro-centric mindset but
the bias goes undetected and unquestioned.
is not the only questionable fact that our schools and colleges,
and textbooks and teachers have been dispensing. In every field
of study, they have been passing on "facts", ideas, values,
assumptions, perspectives, explanations, "truths", and
principles that are questionable, secular and anti-Islamic. All
while sincerely believing that they are providing a great service
by promoting education.
is a wonderful thing. But, what are we really teaching?
science, we are teaching our students to look at the universe from
the viewpoint of a person who does not know God. "And how many
Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn
their faces away from them." [Yusuf, 12:105]. A proper study
of science would make one appreciate both the Power, Majesty, and
Grandeur of Allah’s creations and the humbleness and limitations
of human knowledge and abilities. Today our science education, in
its best form, gives exactly the opposite message. It also fails
to enable students to separate scientist’s opinions from their facts.
Let’s ask: In the wide Muslim world is there any, Islamic school
teaching science whose graduates can challenge Darwin’s Theory of
Evolution on scientific grounds? As we teach science, are we teaching
our children to put science in its proper place, to know its limitations?
Can they competently question the "technological imperative"?
doctor would not be considered competent if he did not know the
limitations of the medicines and procedures he used. An engineer
would be considered unqualified if he did not know the limitations
of his tools. Why then our teaching of science does not include
a discussion of its limitations? Because for the secular mindset
science is the ultimate tool, the supreme arbiter of Truth and Falsehood.
Without even realizing it, we have accepted the proposition and
our science education reflects that assumption.
problem is not limited to science and technology. The best of our
MBAs have learned that the goal of a business is to maximize profits,
the goal of marketing is to create demand, and the proper way of
making business decision is through cost-benefit analysis. All of
these are as solid in their eyes and as questionable in reality
as the assertion about Columbus. The best of our journalism graduates
do not have a different model for journalism than the one presented
by the West. They do not have their own definition of the news,
their purpose for gathering it or their own moral standards that
must regulate its dissemination. In economics we have been teaching
that human beings are utility-maximizing animals governed by Maslow’s
hierarchy of needs. In our teaching of history, we see random events
without a moral calculus driving them. We do not see Allah’s laws
that govern the rise and fall of nations. In psychology or sociology,
medicine or engineering, civics or geography, it is the same story.
In fact, our schools and colleges have been the main agency for
secularization of Islamic societies. They have been effectively
teaching that Islam is irrelevant to understanding this world or
to solving its problems. Many of their graduates develop misunderstandings
and doubts about their faith. But even when they are strong practicing
Muslims, they have not been trained and educated to detect and challenge
the secular dogmas that have been integrated into their curriculums.
great tragedy is of a recent origin and a historical perspective
may be helpful. For centuries our societies, culture, and education
system were free of the secular/religious dichotomy. Our schools
taught all subjects of importance using a naturally unified approach.
As long as Muslims were the leaders in all the sciences (until the
fifteenth century C.E) subjects like medicine, astronomy, and chemistry
had not developed their secular biases.
dichotomy started in the West during its "Renaissance"
as it threw away its religious dogmas—which had become a burden—and
found a speedy path to material progress using a-religious or secular
approaches. The industrial revolution gave it momentum. Colonialism
brought secular ideology and the religion of secular humanism to
the Muslim lands.
this time, Muslims were at a low point on several fronts. They had
surrendered intellectual leadership to the West and had failed to
keep pace with scientific developments there. They found themselves
in a no-win situation. If they accepted and taught the Western sciences,
they would also be teaching anti-Islamic dogmas. If they stayed
isolated, they would be left behind in science and material progress.
response, Muslims developed two approaches. Our Darul-ulooms preserved
Islamic knowledge and values by hermetically sealing themselves
against western influences. It is due to this effort that Islamic
knowledge is alive and well today. (Where they were lax in this
matter --- as in some Arab countries--- the result was a compromise
in their Islamic character without any advantage in the quality
of education.) However, they are not equipped to provide leadership
in most other areas of the society. This role has gone to the graduates
of the Western-style schools and colleges. Unfortunately, these
schools and their curriculum nurture secular ways of looking at
this world and solving its problems. The tensions created by the
two diametrically opposed systems can be seen today in every Muslim
dichotomy must end. We cannot move forward without revamping our
education. We cannot fully establish Islam in our societies without
producing educated citizens and leaders needed for an Islamic society.
The time is now to develop Integrated Islamic curriculums and remove
secular biases from all of our education.
establishing more schools is not the answer. Developing educational
institutions that can teach every subject in the wholesome Islamic
context is. It is a monumental task. But without it we’ll continue
to spread ignorance in the name of education.