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Practical Measures Towards a Better System of Education
Nadir Aqeel


The role of teacher in any education system is central. Children usually emulate their teachers in habits and conduct. It is therefore necessary that in their teacher, the students  find a model of good conduct and behaviour. It must be ensured that a teacher, besides being professionally competent and having an aptitude for teaching, be also committed to the faith and ideology of Islam. He should be sufficiently aware of the fundamentals of faith and should have good moral values. We would propose three yardsticks while selecting teachers:

1.   Professional competence in the relevant subject.

2.   Respect for fundamental moral principles in theory and practice.

3.   Respect, in theory and practice, for the religious emblems and values that symbolise the faith of Islam.

All of them are equally vital for a system of education worth the name in a Muslim society. It is therefore important that the recruitment system for teachers be devised in a manner so as to ensure that all these three guiding principles are not ignored.

Training of Teachers

Since it is difficult to get teachers befitting the requirements outlined above, it is advisable to select the best available teachers and then make arrangements for their professional and ideological training before and after they enter the service.

This entails the establishment of a department that organises such training programmes. It should chalk out syllabuses for the academic and ideological training of teachers of different phases of education in all subjects. This also requires selection of suitable training instructors who not only give academic guidance through workshops and study circles but also give practical demonstrations. Such a training project  must be marked by the following features:

1.   While imparting training to teachers with different backgrounds, they should be infused with the spirit of Islam.

2.   The teachers should be exposed to the national problems and the issues facing the Islamic world so that they may help their students acquire this awareness.

3.   The teachers should be groomed thoroughly in the Islamic objectives of education.

4.   They should be helped to carry out critical study of the western ideas on education and teaching.

5.   They should be trained to employ modern audio-visual aids for effective education.

6.   The teachers should also study child psychology.

7.   The teachers should have a deep understanding of the needs of the country and the Muslim world in general.

8.   They should study the philosophy, theory and practice of their training programme and should be encouraged to get involved in  related debates and to come up with suggestions.

9.   They should be made to work on study projects on various aspects of  education, and their findings and recommendations should be carefully considered and incorporated in the curriculum wherever deemed fit.

The students should be trained to observe all manners and etiquette taught by Islam. These include the way they carry themselves, speak, dress up, greet, sneeze, thank, socialise and deal with their elders. This makes the role of teacher all the more important. Thus the teachers should also be trained to suit this purpose. We feel that it is very important that the students should also be motivated to point out any deficiencies of conduct and behaviour in their teachers so that the teachers may also learn from them and the training becomes a two way process. The teachers should be trained in a manner that they patiently listen to their students’ suggestions and do not let their ego prevent them from admitting their shortcomings and from mending them.

Along with the teachers’ training programmes, the system should also attempt to meet the teachers’ financial needs so as to keep their incentive and zeal alive. The administration should therefore observe immense care and caution while deciding on their remuneration and load of work. We, therefore, think that:

1.   The service cadre of teachers must begin with the emoluments of grade 17.

2.   They should not be given teaching assignments exceeding three hours per day.

3.   The teachers should get minimum work after school hours.

A teacher should clearly see that the administration is interested in addressing his problems and in listening, considering and incorporating his suggestions in the scheme of education. In other words, he should know that he is performing the central and most important role in the institution. In fact, this idea, if effectively inculcated in the minds, motivates the most brilliant minds and the most able members of the society to offer their services to the education sector.

Performance Evaluation of Teachers

The emoluments and fringe benefits of teachers and their increments and promotions should, as far as possible, be linked with their performance. The following methods can be adopted to gauge their achievements:

1.   The teachers’ performance should be evaluated at the end of the year by examining the extent to which the annual targets in teaching his subject have been met.

2.   The percentage of students that passed/failed should be considered.

3.   The average performance of class in terms of marks obtained by the students in his subject should be evaluated.

4.   The teacher should be interviewed extensively at the end of each year by select committees of experts who should carry out a detailed appreciation of his capabilities and convey their evaluation to the administration.

Judging with the help of these yardsticks, the administration may decide to award prizes to outstanding teachers.

Private Tuition

There should be a complete ban on teachers to offer private tuition to the students of their own school and any violation of this ban should invariably lead to the termination of the services of the delinquent teacher. The teachers should be ready to give some extra time, at their convenience, to the weak students. The parents should also be advised to co-operate with the teachers.

Outline of the Proposed Education System

The syllabuses of different classes of the primary and secondary education should dove tail with the successive stages of the student’s mental, physical and emotional development. Therefore, we need to study the different phases of development of human mind and intellect. In the beginning, when he is only a child, his mental and physical faculties are at a rudimentary stage of development, but as he grows they rapidly develop, reach their zenith, and then start declining with age, tracing the path of a classic hyperbola. When newly born, he is only a lump of flesh: a weakling -- unable to stand up, to sit, to meet his wishes or to inform anyone about his needs. He is dependent on others even to get a few drops of water. He needs help and support for everything. Then his childhood gradually blossoms into youth. Youth  also progresses through a number of stages till he achieves manhood.  His ageing process does not allow him to stop here. Time moves on through days, weeks months and years. Then youth starts waning and so do his physical and mental faculties. His physical strength, once a source of pride for him, starts fading out in the wake of degenerating powers of sight and hearing, and his hair turns grey like silver.  In short, he starts declining almost as soon has he reaches his full bloom. His memory is lost in some unknown nook of mind. He is so helpless that he is unable to see or hear. In this way, he is reduced to childhood once again. In many cases he is so incapacitated that he cannot fulfil his petty desires, just like an infant.

The Qur’ān has drawn the picture of this ebb and tide of human life in the following words:

It is God who created you weak: after weakness He gives you strength, and after strength, infirmity and grey hairs. (30:54)

Equally dismal is the story of his mental vigour. In the beginning he is unadorned with any mental abilities. He can neither understand nor explain. Gradually his mind gains strength through different levels. Initially he gathers some apparent and obvious information from his surroundings and learns to react to them. Then tries to unveil the causes, reasons and principles behind the phenomena. Then sifts his information. At the apex of his mental progress, he reviews and critically appreciates his reactions, behaviour and traditions, and decides either to uphold them or to revolt against them. In many cases he pulls down what he had constructed himself and lays the foundations of new thought systems. Then gradually his mental capabilities start weakening. His attitude is that of contentment with his state of life. The mind that once dreamt of revolutions, now shivers with fear at the idea. His speech that once drove others to change the world now preaches compromises. Finally he is so worn out that senile dementia sets in and he is deprived of the understanding and intelligence that he once boasted of !

At each stage, God equips man with mental abilities commensurate with his requirements. He gains in understanding and power of expression as he reaches maturity. The boy who used to dread mathematics may, later on, challenge Newton’s Principles. The child who could not differentiate between ‘c’ and ‘k’, subsequently criticises Shakespeare and Milton. The student who found it difficult to memorise mathematical tables at school, can now discover new formulae of computation.

During each period of his mental growth, man can comprehend and learn only what he has been enabled to grasp through the abilities characteristic of his age. He cannot hope to learn more and if he is taught less than his capacity, it leads to his estrangement with education. Obviously a five year old cannot become a doctor. To try for that would be foolish. So would it be to teach a graduate the fundamentals of a language. Therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind the different stages and abilities of human mental growth while devising a system of education. We have to evolve a system that synchronises with the stages of his mental development. This leads us to the following principles:

1.   A student should be taught only that which he is capable to comprehend.

2.   He should not be assigned a task that is below the level of his mental development.

3.   He should never be overburdened.

4.   The system should help and encourage his mental progress.

5.   The curriculum should steadily move from general education towards specialisation. This provides him a firm foundation, offers a variety of choices and grants him ability to choose the field for which he has the aptitude.

Keeping in view these principles, we are inclined to divide the entire curriculum into three phases -- primary (eight years), secondary (four years) and higher education (five years).

Primary Education

Primary education actually starts informally at pre-school age at home. A child is admitted to the school when he is four, and after Nursery and Kindergarten he enters the first class when he is six. From his sixth year to the fourteenth, that is from class one to eight, he is in the primary phase which is the first period of his formal education.

While designing the syllabuses for the primary schools, we have to attend to the abilities and inclinations of the children and the desired objectives and targets of primary education.

The children aged four to fourteen years have the ability to learn a few specific skills; if only these are taught during this phase, it will greatly contribute towards his mental development.

1.   During this phase, a child is usually quick to learn from his environment. He learns the language spoken by the people around him, curiously observes the manners, habits and ways of the people and may use this observation to frame his attitude in different circumstances.

2.   He attempts to schedule his everyday life in the light of his atmosphere.

3.   Instead of censuring or critically evaluating different behaviours, he tends only to gather information about them and uses this information to formulate his behaviour patterns.

4.   He enquires about his physical surroundings and tries to comprehend them.

5.   He does not get weary of doing things repeatedly.

6.   He has a special taste and liking for sports and fun.

We think that in a Muslim society, the objectives of primary education should be:

1.   To prepare a child for higher education in academic disciplines and skills.

2.   To inspire and encourage a student to acquire knowledge.

3.   To instil Islamic beliefs and respect for Islamic way of life in his personality.

4.   To mould his everyday life according to Islam.

5.   To kindle in his heart the zeal to serve mankind.

6.   To develop his habits, manners and morals on correct lines.

Outline of Syllabus for Primary Education

Teaching Languages

Man is endowed with the ability to speak, which led to the evolution of languages. Languages have given birth to different civilisations, different societies and cultures. They have also made possible the preservation, survival and progress  of sciences and arts. It can be safely argued that language occupies the most vital role in the education of sciences and arts. Education cannot be imagined without it.

What is the rationale of teaching sciences, geography, history or mathematics to a student in English when he is unable to read, write or speak English? This is the major fault in our system of education. It is the single most important reason why our students tend to memorise things instead of comprehending them. They are actually not sufficiently aware of the English language to understand and express an idea in English. Obviously it is absurd to teach a subject when the students do not have an understanding of the language proposed as a medium of instruction. It should therefore be conceded that instruction in languages should be the cornerstone of primary education.

Before proceeding to formulate any education system, we must first try to get answers to certain basic question about the nature and content of language itself. One is about the meaning of language education, or to decide as to when a student qualifies to have learnt a language. Secondly, what is the correct way to teach a language, and, thirdly, which languages need to be taught to a student. We would like to answer these questions in the light of our views on education.

The Meaning of Language Education

Every child, who is not deaf and dumb, exhibits the ability to learn the language spoken in his surroundings. Then why do we teach the language formally in the schools? Does an Englishman not know English and needs to be instructed in it in class? Does a Chinese or Japanese remains unaware of his language if he is not formally instructed in school? Does an illiterate Pakistani remain silent throughout his life? Obviously this is not the case. On the contrary a three or four year old child has so much command over his language that he can understand what others say and can also convey to them what he wants to. An illiterate citizen of England or United States can speak English fluently. The Chinese and Japanese people comfortably speak their languages without any school or college education. The illiterate people of Pakistan also speak their language and generally observe the grammar and employ suitable vocabulary to express themselves.

Therefore, generally speaking, a person can be said to know a language if he can understand it and speak it. But when we talk of a formal education system, knowing a language signifies the ability to read and write in addition to the powers of speech and comprehension. It would not be unfair to say that formal instruction of a language means  training to read and write. This is because no education system aims at teaching language as an end in itself. Language derives its utility from being the medium of comprehension of sciences and arts. One can only access sciences and arts through the media of languages. Therefore, if a school does not arrange for the training to read and write languages, it cannot hope to achieve the objective for which language education was introduced.

Therefore, by language instruction we mean that the student should be taught to read it without difficulty and should be able to freely express himself through written and spoken word -- only then a student can be testified to have learnt that language.

Method of Language Instruction

Every child is led by nature to learn the language spoken in his surroundings. Like all systems of nature, the way a child becomes familiar with a language is a magnificent arrangement in which any attempt at fault finding would be frustrating. Before evolving the system of language teaching, let us first consider the natural method.

How do we learn a language as a child?

When a child opens his eyes to the light of the world he finds himself in an atmosphere in which one or more languages are being spoken. He is brought up in it. In the beginning, voices round him are no more than a myriad of different sounds. Gradually these sounds start conveying meanings. The child starts following what other people are saying. Now he not only hears the sounds constituting words but also gathers some meanings from them. Not only the word becomes meaningful to him but the fluctuation in the volume, the softness or harshness of the delivery and the bitterness or anger in the voice is also understood. Then he gradually starts employing sounds to express his feelings and desires, which are not exactly akin to words but do give a semblance of meaningful words. Then he assumes full command over his tongue and vocal cords and starts making successful attempts to deliver difficult words.

His journey from single and disjointed words to complete sentences is a gradual one. Usually he starts by using nouns such as mother, father, water, food and naming other articles that constitute his environment. Then he starts adding verbs to his vocabulary. First he speaks incomplete sentences about the acts of eating, drinking, going out, walking etc. Finally he learns making complete and meaningful sentences. It has been observed that a child who is talked to by others more often and regularly, learns to speak earlier.

If we reflect on this natural process of learning language, we can discover a few principles. For instance we may note that the child does not get separate training to learn a language. Instead the family environment teaches him to speak and understand the language. In other words the instruction in spoken language only requires providing an atmosphere in which the language is in use. After living in the environment for some time he starts speaking it himself.  The second principle that can be deduced is that the process of learning the correct pronunciation of words and construction of sentences is gradual. Thirdly, the child should not be overburdened by an impatient desire to get early results. Nothing can be more helpful than frequent communication with the child in that language. These three principles should be kept in mind whenever the syllabus of language education is devised.

As we have explained earlier, language instruction in a formal system is essentially an effort in training to read and write. We should appreciate that the relationship between reading and writing a language is the same as that between ‘listening a language with comprehension’ and ‘speaking it’.  The atmosphere in which a child keeps on listening to a particular language teaches a child to speak it without any formal and determined effort to teach him how to speak. Similarly, if a child is taught how to read a language, he will also learn how to write without having received training for it specially.

However, by writing we do not mean the craft of handling the pen or the art of calligraphy. By writing we mean constructing sentences, formulating articles and creating stories. In other words, by writing we mean the art of written articulation and essay-writing. No doubt, before all this the children would need to learn the craft of handling pen and the art of calligraphy and this training should not be underestimated. But if we examine the issue deeply, the physical handling of pen and students control over the muscles and joints of his hands has nothing to do with language education itself. It is only a technique for the expression or preservation of what he has produced. Thus, the art of writing with hands may initially be divorced from the art of producing literature. This dichotomy is quite manifest in case of the rustic poets of the rural areas, who are illiterate (that is they are not trained in the art of writing with pen on paper) and yet produce beautiful pieces of literature. It is the latter which should be the first priority. We feel that at the moment a lot of time of the primary school students is wasted in teaching them how to use pens and make shapes and figures of which the alphabet is constituted.

As far as writing simple sentences, narrative paragraphs, short stories and letters are concerned, they probably need no special training. Regular reading exercise and profuse conversation in a language is sufficient for that.

It may be kept in mind that all of the arts that one learns in the long span of his life, the art of reading and study is most important. Reading ability is a decisive factor for success at various stages of life. It is necessary for getting along in school, office and any other secular or religious activity. Without knowing how to read, a child’s academic future is marred with a definite failure and doom. The rest of his student life predominantly depends on reading, consuming eighty percent of his academic life. Psychologists and experts in primary education concur that it is impossible to teach a student who cannot read. It is a world wide experience that majority of the unsuccessful students, who fail to learn and are a source of problems and nuisance for the school administration are those who find difficulty in reading. When they find that they cannot read and study and the sources of information are not accessible to them, they lose heart and stop working for it. We feel that, in case of a difficult student who is not happy about his school and is finding difficulty in coping with a subject, the teachers should immediately look into his reading habits and ability to study. Usually they will find that his basic inadequacy in reading skills is the root cause of his poor performance.

Language education is therefore to be imparted in two phases:

1.   By creating an atmosphere in which a language is being spoken. By spending time in such environment, the child first starts understanding the language and then gradually learns to speak in it.

2.   By reading a large number of interesting and moral oriented stories in correct and good language. Consequently, the child learns how to write good language.

Which languages should be taught?

The task of developing the curriculum of an education system in Pakistan immediately brings us face to face with the question of the choice of languages. To answer this question, we need to refresh in our minds the goals and objectives of our proposed system of education. We wrote in the first second chapter of this dissertation:

The goal of our religion is to get a pious soul at the individual level and the constitution of the Ummah testifying the Truth before the world at the national level. Consequently, our education system should also have the same goal. It should have the following two objectives:

1.   It has to groom people who are outstanding in their character, conduct, morals and habits and at the same time make them rising stars in the field of sciences and arts.

2.   It has to lead people to the stage when as a nation and Ummah we shine forth as a lighthouse of piety, correct  conduct and truth before the entire world, and thus become Islam incarnate.

Therefore, we have to devise an education system tailored for these objectives. We have to include everything that may assist in the realisation of these objectives and at the same time we have to scrape away everything that may be detrimental to these targets.

Once these objectives are fixed, the system will immediately demand the following:

1.   Development an intimate, strong and direct relationship with the Qur’ān and Sunnah in every Muslim.

2.   Active promotion of  solidarity, brotherhood and fraternity at the national level and to discouraging mutual hatred and dissension.

3.   Cultivation of an atmosphere of solidarity and unity among the Muslim world to fuse them into an organic whole.

4.   Generation of wealth and human resources for the development of the Muslims and thus their preparation for the leadership of the entire human population.

We feel that in order to achieve these objectives, we shall have to teach Urdu, English and Arabic languages to our  students.

Urdu is our national language. It is the contact language between the people of all the four provinces. It is therefore essential that Urdu should be accorded a high status in the society so that the people should readily own it. They should feel proud of using it. If a nation is not proud of its language and dress, it stoops very low in terms of esteem. This weakens virtues as prestige, self respect, determination, pertinacity and the urge and zeal to excel and to vie for lofty motives. Such a nation then emulates others, echoes others’ ideals, mimics others’ jargon, plagiarises others’ ideas, adulates others, and adopts the aspirations and hopes of other communities. The people of such a nation are left with no mind or heart of their own. Their minds and hearts are converted to paganism in the process. It becomes very difficult to link with them a higher motive or to convince them to yearn for a noble objective. Keeping in view this predicament, promotion of Urdu language should not be viewed as the furtherance of a language. It should be seen as the issue of the survival of our cultural tradition and national identity.

Arabic is the medium of communication of Islam. The Qur’ān was revealed in Arabic. Every member of this Ummah has to read and comprehend the Holy Book. Obviously, it is not be reasonable to demand from every Muslim that he acquire deep and scholarly understanding of the Qur’ān. But it is expected that every Muslim be able to extract the simple purport of the Qur’ān when he recites it. Therefore, each Muslim should have a rudimentary understanding of the Qur’ān. As long as a Muslim is unable to have a certain degree of direct access to the text of the Qur’ān, he will remain dependent on the clergy, which being in a state of complete anarchy and dissension, will keep the Ummah divided into hostile sects. Unless he develops an intimacy with the Qur’ān, he will continue to be plagued by heresies, pagan rites and rituals. It is also important to note that unless the multitude is not familiar with the revealed book, it will not be possible to carry the message of Islam and prove its veracity to the world. The study of history of the propagation of Islam in the era of the Holy Prophet (sws) reveals that he usually did not address the non-believers in any particular words. Instead he would read out to them a portion of the Qur’ān. This text, with its moving message and inspiring call, won over the minds and hearts of people from Morocco to Indonesia, which constituted more that half the known-world. The Qur’ān is the basic book for presentation before the non-Muslims. But it can only be effectively used for this purpose when a common Muslim understands its meaning and sense.

Besides being the language of the Qur’ān, Arabic is also the lingua franca of the entire Muslim world. Its inclusion in the curriculum would also help promote solidarity and unity among the Muslims of the world. If all the Muslims could understand and converse in Arabic, it would go a long way towards uniting all the Muslims irrespective of the country they live in.

Our third need is to produce experts in the secular subjects. In the present world, the West has a monopoly over physical and social sciences and arts. If we want to regain the lost glory of the Muslim Ummah, we will have to train Muslim experts in these disciplines, for which we have to teach our students English, French, German or any other language of the developed countries. Although proper planning at state level can relieve us of this burden by having all the seminal texts in science subjects translated into Urdu. Therefore, there are two important conclusions:

1.   We can only expect good results in modern sciences and arts if they are taught in the native tongue of the students. It becomes paramount to translate books on sciences and arts into Urdu as early as possible.

2.   When a western language such as English is taught, it should be ensured that only the language is taught and the tinge of the western way of life and culture should not be allowed to reach our students.

When the students attain a reasonable proficiency in the languages, they should be taught Islamic Studies in Arabic, while tips on general information should be incorporated into English and Urdu text books so that they become part of the students’ academic intake without recourse to separate technical books.

Thus, in our proposed system of education, the medium of instruction for Islamic Studies is Arabic, for social sciences it is Urdu and the medium of instruction for sciences and other modern disciplines (till they are translated to a reasonable extent) is English. Once the information available on sciences and modern disciplines and arts is translated into Urdu, the compulsory subject of English language may be abolished.

(to be continued)
(Translated  from Moiz Amjad’s dissertation on education)

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