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THE WORLD EDUCATIONAL CRISIS AND ITS ISLAMIC SOLUTION
(With Special Reference to Higher Education)
By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar
Amid a virtual explosion of knowledge and a world-wide expansion in education, man is living an educational crisis. This has been viewed in terms of the continued increase in the aggregate numbers of adult illiterates in the world due to economic difficulties that have hindered the expansion in education from keeping pace with the population growth especially in the under-developed countries. However, the crisis shows itself more graphically in the general degeneration of the educated individuals, their general tendency to violence, the corruption of the human society and the vacuity of the present –day culture, which point to the failure of contemporary education.
The roots of the crisis have been viewed to be basically economic, social, professional, administrative and organizational, psychological, ideological, moral, religious, or a combination of all such factors. Nevertheless, suggested reformations on such bases have proved to be partial and futile.
The crisis is believed to have stemmed from the fact that education has limited itself to the passing on of a body of knowledge and the training for a few skills, hence has confined its main role to mere certification. Here, education has deviated its message, the teacher-student relationship has lost its proper framework, and examination has become something that supersedes actual learning. The products of such schooling come out fundamentally uneducated, unsuited for servicing their own good or the good of their societies and unfit for playing their role in life. This is simply because they do not understand their own selves, their relationship to the universe in which they live and the message of their life. Such fundamentals cannot be gained through human senses, reason and intellect alone, but need the divine guidance which was revealed to Adam and Eve on the moment of their creation and has since been the same message of whoever was destined for the guidance of man. It is a complete way of life towards which our Creator has guided man through a long chain of his Prophets and Messengers and was integrated in the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Improvised systems mixing the divine message with various elements of human ideas, philosophies, allegations and legendary has produced a number of beliefs that have failed when put to practice or tested by human reason, and hence have either been rejected or replaced by man-made ideologies. This has resulted in a general divorce between society and religion, or in a blind belief in any ideology without enough reasoning to justify the resulting fanaticism and many injustices. Consequently, contemporary education has become mainly secular, if not nihilistic and disbelieving and this is the core of the crisis.
The only way out of this crisis is the re-institution of the Islamic system of education where the purpose of human existence is clearly outlined; seeking knowledge is a must for every one's education is an integer, humane activity that embraces all the faculties of the human being; caters for man and his society; respects individual differences. Making allowances for it and is by nature a continued process that concentrates more on character-building than on mere transference of information. The Islamic education relies on the leading characters of the educator and the good will of those to be educated; combines knowledge with wisdom and gives a coherent picture of the universe, a proper concept of life and its true objectives and an integrated way of how to live it. Such a system produces a good human being not on a good citizen with a profound belief in the divine guidance, a thorough commitment to high moral values and standards, as well as a living inner conscious. Such educational system binds the student to live up to what he learns and teaches him that everything he does , every word he utters and every penny he earns or spends is recorded and that he will be judged for it. Not only this, but he will be asked about his life and how did he pass, and his knowledge how did he benefit or harm humanity by.
Only such a system of education can produce a good human-being that knowingly seeks the goodness in this life and expects the reward here and/or in the life hereafter. An educational system as such is not only the solution to the contemporary educational crisis, but to all the crises our world is currently facing. It has proved its success in the past and its revival in our time will not prove difficult. This entails the proper education, that encompasses all the faculties of the educated, the Islamization of human knowledge, the revival of Muslims' contributions to the human civilization and the scientific notions in both the Glorious Qur'an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Despite the world-wide expansion in education, the marked advances in its methodology, the continued improvement of its curricula and the piling-up of its literature, the world is living an educational crisis. Quoting Coombs (1968) “This is a world educational crisis – more subtle and less graphic than food crisis or military crisis, but no less weighted with dangerous potentialities ….. The crisis varies in form and severity from one country to the next. But its inner lines of force appear in all nations alike, whether they are old or new, rich or poor, whether they have stable institutions or are struggling to build them in defiance of heavy odds”.
The crisis has been mainly viewed in terms of the continued increase in the aggregate number of adult illiterates in the world due to economic difficulties that have hindered the expansion in education from keeping pace with the population growth, especially in the under-developed countries. However, the crisis shows itself more graphically in the general increase in the wickedness of man, corruption of society, propriety of violence, vacuity of culture, delinquency degeneracy and failure which have become general characters of the present age. This crisis has been taking place amid a virtual explosion of the knowledge and an educational expansion without precedent in human history. Indeed, contemporary education has failed to achieve both its purpose and objectives at a time when the material requirements of instructions have reached a very high standard (especially in the developed countries). Nevertheless, student's unrest, revolt, violence, anarchism, and other uninhibited behaviors have been steadily increasing. This shows itself in numerous negative protest movements that are currently embracing most of the societies, and the unlimited cases of bewilderment, frustration, disillusion, egotism, viciousness, psychological and mental diseases, cold-blood killing and even suicide.
Within the framework of the educational institutions, certification - not education – has become the main role, the teacher-student relationship has lost its noble touch, examination has become something that supersedes actual learning and cheating on examinations has become an international disgrace, the publish or perish race has spoilt the scholarly message of scientific research and the necessary qualities of the educator and of those to be educated have become conditions that are very rarely fulfilled. Consequently, present-day graduates come out fundamentally uneducated and unsuited for carrying out their role as successful individuals, as coherent members of a good society and as proper human beings, who can order whatever is right and forbid whatever is wrong.
Outside schools and colleges, usury has become the basis of modern economics and gambling one of the main fields or statistical research; business has been equated with ruthlessness if not corruption, politics with deviousness, deceit and lust for transgressions and aggressions, justice has been confused with personal interest, human relationship with material benefit, and freedom with laxity, immorality, chaos and encroachment on the rights of others; values have been replaced by adjustment to society; general decadence and debilitating relativism has been pervading life; the words right and wrong have come to be meaningless in our material world and very few intellectuals are now able to act as upright human beings or as informed mediators.
This has been taking place at a time when the number of “educational institutions” and of the “educated individuals” is steadily increasing everywhere. New schools, colleges, universities, technical as well as other institutes and research, vocational training and functional literacy training centers are being built. Simultaneously, extended education in the form of extramural studies, professional refreshing courses, on-the job and in-service training is being encouraged. Special youth programs and education through the various media of information (internet, press, radio, television, cinema, theater, etc) have taken marked strides in their technicalities. Contemporaneously, world, regional and local conferences, seminars and debates on education are regularly being held, and the literature on education is constantly piling up. All such media of instruction and information have only helped man to develop materially (in the limited sense of the word) on the expense of his spiritual and moral needs, and thus have taken him out of his balanced humane nature. This is probably why the educational crisis show itself more lucidly in the so-called developed countries and among the “Supposedly Educated” people. Enough to have a glance at the world's modern history and review the crimes committed against mankind such as the crimes of the two world wars , the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb ardent with atomic weapons, the several decades' old Palestinian tragedy, the Vietnam and other Southeast Asian wars, the South African drama, the Namibian and Rhodesian agony, the Hungarian as well as the Czechoslovak crush-down, both the Southern Philippines and the Southern Thailand homicide, both the Cyprus and the Myanmar (Burmese) turmoil, the tyrannized in many of the third world countries, the recent human butchering in both Iraq and Afghanistan, following the illegal and unlawful Anglo-American invasions of these two countries that are UN full members, the daily Israeli massacres of the Palestinian people and devastation of their lands, the turmoil in Central Africa , in southern and western Sudan, in Zanzibar, Erytheria, Chad, Somalia as well as repeated invasions of Lebanon and non-stop massacres of the Lebanese civilians and devastation of their own country, the scandals committed in the Anglo-American prisons such as Abou-Ghuraib, Basrah, Guantanamo and their flying prisons around the world; the turmoil in Central Africa , in southern and western Sudan, in Zanzibar, Erytheria, Chad, Somalia; etc. It is sufficient to attend one of the international meetings (such as those of the United Nations' Council or its Security Council or of any of its numerous agencies) and see how the world governments' representatives behave, or skip through the life history of contemporary leaders (see for example the White House scandals revealed in number of recent publications such as the Kennedy legend entitled “The Dark Side of Camelot” by Nelson Thompson or the Clinton's – Monica Lewinsky's scandal). Enough to get a glimpse of what is going on in the underworld of intelligence gangsters, have a tour in any of the numerous countries ruled by tyrants and dictators,, or dig into the files of any giant business enterprise. Wherever one goes he can easily see that corruption, dishonour and disgrace, partiality, unfairness, dishonesty, insincerity and falsehood, laxity, duplicity, and suppleness, wickedness, opportunism and treachery, sneakiness, artfulness and fishiness, graft, jobbery, crookedness and deviousness, bribability, complicity, improbity and lawbreaking, scoundrelism, racketeering, villainy, knavery, rascality, and every sort of immorality have become the rule. In this, one cannot exclude even clergymen (e.g. the Jimmy Swagart's sexual scandals), monarchs and heads of states (see for example the Kennedy’s and the Clinton scandals, the Johnson’s offensives, Nixon’s Watergate, etc), or the so-called “Nobilities” and prime ministers (e.g. the Prince Bernard of Holland and the Japanese prime minister Tanaka's involvement in the Lockheed and Northrop bribery cases), members of cabinets (e.g. the Profumo and the John Stonehouse obnoxious crimes in Britain), national representatives (e.g. the recent W. L. Hays' scandal), etc. In the latter scandal, Elizabeth Ray, the mistress of the married, 65 year old, U.S. congressman W. L. Hays (who had kept her on the public payroll for the sole purpose of being one of his sexual playmates) admitted to have had similar contacts with over 13 congressmen and 2 senators. Her recently published autobiography entitled the “Washington Fringe Benefit” is a clear picture of the level to which the educated modern man has sunk, but one cannot exclude a number of exceptions.
These are only individual cases that happened to come to the public notice from amidst a much more inundating ocean of corruption that is engulfing our present world, but they are enough to raise a number of disturbing questions such as:
What is education for? And what is it meant to do to a human being? Are we wasting our time, money and effort in our educational institutions? Is education a means to an end or is it and end in itself? And if so what is the end of education? Have we left the spirit behind and that is why we are suffering in its absence? What are science and technology for? Are they for more exhaustion of the earth's resources, polluting of its environments, the more complication of life and the piling-up of more and more nuclear bombs (atomic, hydrogen and neutron bombs), chemical and biological bombs, and other horrifying weapons of mass-destruction that are waiting for some fool to press the button and destroy man and all his achievements and heritage?
Such questions embody the world educational crisis and enhance the immediate need for facing it.
The world educational crisis has been clearly recognized by a large number of contemporary scholars (e.g. Moberly, 1950; Fletcher, 1962; Rosenhead and Norden, 1963; Coombs, 1968; Niblett, 1969; Annan, 1971; Bowden, 1971, 1974; Adamson, 1974; Mather, 1974; Wingo, 1974; etc.), but they differ in its diagnosis, in the analysis of its causes and in the suggested remedies for it . Some educationists see that the crisis lies mainly in the continued increase in the aggregate numbers of the adult illiterates in the world due to the fact that the expansion in education cannot keep pace with the population explosion, student flood, acute resource scarcities, rising costs complex technologies and their sociological implications.
Other educationists see the crisis in its social framework as the world is currently involved in a great transition and societies in transition usually suffer a loss of traditional values and this loss abets cultural confusion and social crisis. Quoting Wingo (1974) “The common core of ideals and beliefs that once represented cultural solidarity is dissolving. The turmoil, therefore, that is so evident in American education is reflecting the confusion in American society”.
A third group of educationists, relate the crisis to the lack of moral guidance as contemporary educational systems have – in general – become moral-free, and hence seek the remedy in moral education. A fourth group attributes the crisis to the general divorce between society and religion, hence call for religious education. More queries about the current educational crisis are being thrown in every direction as follows:
- Is it due to the inefficiency of the educational systems?
- Is it a psychological problem, and hence the solution lies in the realm of educational psychology?
- Is it due to the wanting coherence in the very idea of the educational institution as a community of persons engaged in learning and discovery, and hence the solution may be found in bettering the social conditions of learning?
- Is it due to the disparity between educational systems and their environments and hence the unsuitability of the educational systems' output?
- Is it due to the lack of proper leadership? And the fact that contemporary education is not really planned for public responsibility and hence cannot motivate and equip the younger generation to assume the responsibilities of leadership? And that the American thriving for world domination and the imposition of the American way of life on the rest of the world is not and cannot be the solution?
- Is it due to the domination of the purely materialistic outlook of education and hence, the lack of wisdom and the widening gap between knowledge and belief?
- Is it due to the conflict between sciences and humanities, between general and specialized education or between liberal and professional learning, and hence the call for narrowing the gaps between such fields and methods?
- Is it due to the continued fragmentation of human knowledge due to the growing over-specialization, and hence the lack of the much needed integrated outlook?
- Is it due to the absence of continued education or extended education and hence the call for it?
- Is it due to the explicit or implicit command laid upon intellectuals by governments and the fact that our educational life is generally dominated by politicians and businessmen, and hence the call for more independence?
- Is it due to the sense of insecurity among people due to the piling-up of weapons of mass-destruction?
- Is it due to the fact the knowledge which ought to be unconditionally international, is currently suffering from egoistic nationalism and selfish chauvinism and hence the increasing amount of classified knowledge and the prime alliance of contemporary scholars to flag, country and culture and only secondarily to the dispassionate pursuit of an international or rather supra-national pattern of truth?
- Is it due to the existing discrepancy between theory and reality in the pursuit of knowledge?
- Is it due to the lack of justice in the society, the emphasis on the material reward only and the absence of a proper understanding of man's role in life?
- Is it due to all the se and/or to other unknown factors?
THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC BASIS OF THE CRISIS
Some educationists (e.g. Coombs, 1968) diagnose the world educational crisis in terms of the economic disasters which have hindered the educational expansion from keeping pace with the population growth especially in under-developed countries. This has led to a continued increase in the aggregate numbers of adult illiterates in the world and has led to serious sociological consequences. Contemporary education is said to be suffering from shortage of everything except students. Shortage of funds, teachers, classrooms, teaching materials, able administrators, coherent systems, etc., that have almost crippled the process of education in many countries.
The acute scarcity of resources and the rising costs, coupled with the population explosion and the sharp increase in popular aspirations for education, the inherent inertia of the educational systems themselves, the inertia of their respective societies and the unsuitability of the educational systems' output have led to a marked disparity between such systems and their environments world educational crisis. This disparity is one of the alarming symptoms of the scarcity of resources has constrained the educational systems from responding more fully to new demands. The sharp increase in popular aspirations for education has laid siege to existing schools and universities. The inherent inertia of the educational systems caused them to respond too sluggishly in adapting their internal affairs to new external necessities, even when resources have not been the main obstacle to adaptation. The inertia of the societies has blocked the educational systems from making the optimum use of education and of the educated man-power to foster national development. On the one hand, there is an obvious separation between established university principles and what societies want to do and want to go. On the other hand, while many more people want more education, they do not necessarily want the kind of education that under the new circumstances is most likely to serve both their own future best interests and the best interest of national development. This cleavage is apparently one of the roots of the crisis, which obviously needs substantial mutual adjustment and adaptation by both education and society. If such adjustment in not fulfilled, the growing disparity between education and society will inevitably crack the frame of the educational systems and, in some cases the frame of their respective societies.
Coombs (op. cit.) did not overlook the ideological basis of education stating that: contemporary educational systems need, above all, what money alone cannot buy, ideas and courage, determination and a new will for self-appraisal, reinforced by a will for adventure and change. Nevertheless, he did not mention what ideas, or what parameters for self appraisal, what changes should be aspired, or how such qualities can be introduced. Can they be caught through the contemporary secular education? Or do they need a particular moral or religious up-bringing? Apparently he favours the first alternative as he did not mention religious education except when raising the question whether a blind, dogmatic faith guides any particular system, or whether it is a faith enlightened by rational analysis, reflection and imagination? He warned from the danger of clinging to conventional practices merely because they are traditional, lashing to inherited dogmas.
Coombs (op. cit.) carried out a system analysis to display the interactions between an educational system (with both its formal and non-formal sides) and the environment. The resource input from the society included aims and priorities, students, teachers, management, structure and time schedule, content, facilities, learning aids, technology, quality controls, research and costs. He believes that the output will be educated individuals that are better equipped to serve themselves and their society (as individuals and family members, workers in the economy, leaders and innovators, local and world citizens, contributors to culture, etc). This is simply because of his belief that systemized education must have improved their basic knowledge, intellectual and manual skills, powers of reason and criticism, values, attitudes and motivations, powers of creativity and innovation, cultural appreciation, sense of social responsibility and understanding of the modern world.
However, he (op. cit.) came to admit certain difficulties in analyzing the educational process as a system. These include:
- Scarcity of statistical data.
- Swift rise of educational demand for education.
- Rise in enrollments and participation rates.
- Gap between social demands and educational capacity.
- Imbalanced growth rates which deter national development.
- Impact of population “Explosion” in developing countries.
- Alterative strategies for dealing with the educational gap.
- Shortage of qualified teachers.
- Difficulties of measuring educational outputs, as figures on graduates and dropouts, though useful indicators of an educational system's output do not - in themselves - provide a sufficient basis for evaluating its performance.
- Greater rise in number of unfinished products as a result to failures and dropouts, as well as the consequences of different policies of admission.
- Education's fitness for the manpower requirements of economic growth and the disparity between manpower needs and market demands and the following mounting problem of “Educated Unemployed”.
- Influence of attitudes and social changes on educational and career preference.
- Hard choices involved in establishing priorities and facing the expansion of educational aims.
- The problems of quality and content and its evaluation. Quality of students, teachers, administrators, etc. and curricula contents in the light of the flow of new knowledge and how to bring it into the classroom.
- Clashing views about new educational technologies, teaching processes educational research and innovation.
- However, money seems to present the cornerstone of the crisis in Coombs' analysis as he writes “The crucial matters of financial inputs and cost trends has led to a disturbing picture of the future, especially as it applies to developing countries ….. Only with a vast cutback everywhere of present high military expenditures and their redeployment for peaceful uses, a quickening of economic growth, great improvements in the efficiency of educational systems, a sharp rise in external assistance to developing countries …. etc”. And adds: “But given the looks of the things at the present time, such happy conjunction seems only a distant dream”. Consequently he sees the key to meeting the crisis in international cooperation. Through a form of education’s world-wide common market, mutual benefits of educational commerce among nations can take place. The importance of individuals in fostering this commerce cannot be overlooked and so is the importance of external assistance. Similarly the role of universities cannot be ignored although older universities may not be designed to present challenges as many of them have failed to stop the two world wars, or minimize national and international conflicts, or to help poorer nations to overcome any of their difficulties. On the contrary western intellectuals were- in their majority in favour of imperialism, military invasions, colonialism and exploitation of all the natural wealthes of the poorer nations under many falsified slogans. Nevertheless, there are urgent needs for universities to help both the primary and secondary schools, as well as higher educational organization, in the planning and implementation of educational systems, the development of research capabilities, the strengthening of the dialogue among universities, taking the leadership in educational innovations at all levels, encouraging the cooperation between higher educational organizations, reducing the drainage of needed talents from developing countries, and in encouraging collaborations among scholars in various countries.
In brief, Coombs (op. cit.) outlined the crisis factors in the student flood, acute resource scarcities, rising costs, unsuitability of output inertia and inefficiency. The inherent inertia of the current educational systems was said to have deferred them in adapting their internal affairs with sufficient speed to meet a fast changing set of circumstances. Consequently, he adds that “the old arrangements that had served them well before the systems of administration, the syllabi, curricula and teaching methods, the self-contained classrooms, the means of teacher training and recruitment, these and all those other things that have characterized traditional education processes – have proved no match for the new situation …. as attested by echoing protests against quality deterioration”.
Coombs (op. cit.) suggested to focus on the relationships of things, stress heavily on innovation, modernization of educational management of teachers and of the learning process, strengthening of educational finance, emphasis on non-formal education, international cooperation and on the consideration of the world educational crisis as everybody's business.
This masterpiece of professional writing on education has, however, failed in diagnosing the crisis fully, because it is mainly a human crisis and one of the deepest causes of inhumanity in our time. Coombs' analysis has only rotated in the physical sphere of the problem, which is a true reflection of the purely material outlook of our time. This does not mean that we belittle the material side of the problem, but concentrating on it alone can be equally as dangerous as completely overlooking it, if not more. This is simply because in such materialistic approach to the crisis the focusing is on the devising of the institution and the implementation of its regulations which come to be regarded as more important than the formation of character, the main goal of education. Originally, education should be concerned with the souls of the youth before being concerned with the machines of their bodies. This is simply because it is the personal conviction that determines a youngster's behavior more than any other single factor. Coombs’ system of analysis does not take such factors into consideration and hence, cannot be complete. Again, it lacks critical attention to assumptions about the nature of the learning process and the purpose of human existence. It works towards changing the educational institution into a community of learning but does not explain the values it advocates. It only concentrates on the physical needs of the educated and overlooks the higher purposes for which such needs are to be used. It puts much emphasis on knowledge, but forgets that knowledge is not separate from either wisdom or goodness and that facts are not isolated from higher values.