Educational Dualism In Malaysia Implications For Theory And Practice

Educational Dualism In Malaysia Implications For Theory And Practice

Author= Rosnani Hashim

Publisher= The Other Press, Kaula Lumpur

Year Of Publication= 2004

Pages= 271                          Price= Not Mentioned

Islam as a religion urges its adherents to acquire more and more knowledge. The first revelation of Holy Quran was “Read!” (96:1), and Prophet (SAW) through his exemplary character illustrated while doing justice to the ‘Prisoners’ of Badr, that if they can’t pay their freedom money while being literate, they were allowed to earn freedom by teaching the art of reading and writing to the ten children of Ansar. In keeping with these teachings Muslims were successful in building a grand Literary Civilization who patronized and added to arts, language, literature, learning and education which could be witnessed from the web of libraries spreading from Mecca to Granada.

In contrast the present times portray a bleak picture as Muslims harbor millions of illiterate among their ranks. Despite scores of rich Muslim countries the correlation between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Research and Development (R&D) is negative. If a country’s national income is more, its spending on research and innovation is also expected to be more. This is called positive correlation between GDP and R&D, most of the Western industrialized nations fall in this category. Why did this happen? The civilization which some centuries was illuminating the whole mankind with the lamp of education and learning is today itself starved and direly needs the light of education to wake from deep slumber.

The topic of the book under review is not to address these how’s, why’s and when’s? Instead it grounds its alma matter and argument on solid concrete facts as to how remedy the educational slag and slump in Muslim countries, and as case study chooses Malaysia for the litmus test.

Author tries to depict the two modes of education prevalent in Malaysia i.e Traditional Pundok where religious education is imparted and the modern schools, colleges and universities where secular curriculum is prevalent. The author is well aware of the fact that “In the Muslim world the Idea of Secular Education came about through the process of colonization and modernization”(P-3), but is factual enough to acknowledge “The factor which made these schools unpopular, even among Malay aristocrats, was the fear that students would be converted to Christianity. Most of the  Malays resented the English schools because they omitted the teaching of Islam” (P-67). The Industrial Revolution and Renaissance in the Europe resulted in the separation of the Church and State and Renaissance was ideologically based on rebellion against religion, which was only because of misdeeds of Christianity and Popedom and abuse of the use of religion, but in case of Muslim countries it was altogether different; Powered by the Industrial Revolution the zealous, ambitious and greedy European nations set out in search of new markets and raw materials for their industries which landed them in Muslim nations; while colonizing and subjugating them they also imposed a new culture, educational system and language on them, against which they resisted. Alongwith the colonizers Christian missionaries driven by the Zeal to spread Christianity, made the native colonized fear more and become more docile in their ways and reinforcing their resistance against their occupiers. The education which could have played  a liberating, revolutionizing force and made the path towards progress less tiring was looked at with skepticism, suspicion and superstition.

Though Islam doesn’t divide knowledge in secular and religious spheres but due to the above mentioned causes it came to be compartmentalized in these two unfortunately in an unruly divide, while dealing with the Islamic Philosophy of education the author while acknowledging the role of Arabic writes “Arabic language is important not only for intellectual development, but also for spiritual development. Understanding or better still, mastery of Arabic will enhance understanding of the Quranic texts and books on the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad” (P-112), but at the same time decries that “there is insufficient original thought and works on philosophy of education in Islamic Tradition, although it is rich with works on Pedagogy”(P-96). The author wrongly alleges that Imam Al Ghazzali was responsible for the decline in Muslim learning of the acquired sciences. “It began with the publication of Al Ghazzali’s Tahafut Al Falasifah which debated the problems with Greek philosophy which had been adapted by Muslim philosophers”(P-115). Though these allegations were initially charged by Orientlists and Muslim apologetics author seems to have fallen prey to this discourse, which have been beautifully rebutted by Prof Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi in his books Emerging From Darkness: Ghazzali’s Impact on the Western Philosophers and Ghazali and Western Thought.

But in the same nerve author acknowledges that “Decline of the acquired sciences and Muslim learning in general received its final blow through ruthless conquest of Baghdad in A.D 1258 and the Reconquistas of the Muslims in Spain in the fifteenth century, where many scholars were massacred and a lot of books destroyed or lost”(P-115). In the chapter entitled “The Contemporary Islam Education System: A Review and Analysis” author desires for changes to be taken up in Islamic curriculum and innovation in the methodology of learning. Keeping in view the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and pluralistic character of the Malaysian society, author is all praises for the Malaysian National Education Philosophy to have moral concern as its focus for religious instruction based on sixteen values that have been agreed to by the different religious communities. The phrase ‘belief in and devotion to God’ needs to be interpreted in the broader manner described above. In this sense it can be argued that the National Education Philosophy is in accord not only with Islam but with other religious believers as well” (P-173).

The author is all for a dialogue and change between the two systems of education that co-exist in Malaysia, and this policy has a universal appeal for Muslims of all nations, especially sub-continent where the religious education is used to fuel extremism and fanaticism, such a policy can prove an effective antidote to these types of malicious tendencies. Though 9/11 had its repercussion even on Malaysian Pundok education, but majority of them have already been taken over by the State Religious Councils or Departments which are funded and controlled by State, where a universal syllabus is taught reducing the internecine strifes between various sects which sprang due to varied interpretations of doctrines of Islam, which in extreme violent exclusive cases give rise to bloodshed. This positive model of having an independent religious department to control, conduct and carryout the activities of madrasas can prove a boon to other Muslim countries where still conservative and orthodox sections of Ulema oppose such a move, though government apathy and dysfunction also instill fear and antipathy towards such steps.

Overall this book is a welcome read, not only for scholars but all those students who wish to understand and reconcile the secular and religious modes of education. The author deserves applause and appreciation for carrying out this stipulating research which offers practical rather than any theoretical  suggestions and generalizations.

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist and presently student of M.A Political Science Kashmir University.

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