Postmodern Education

Does postmodern education have any room for the family?

The writer, Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of reform till today. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.

Prima facie, it would appear that the modern system of education has resolved pretty much to total control and independence of life, devoid of family or family interference. The learning that takes place in higher education institutions or the like, purports to equip individuals towards a life that is totally self-reliant and self-confident. Right as that may be, it would be a worthwhile venture to escapade into a clear understanding of whether this is wholly true or is there room for the family after all.

The well-read readers of this forum are probably familiar with how the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution (that transformed economies that had been based on agriculture and handicrafts into economies based on large-scale industry, mechanized manufacturing, and the factory system) included the disintegration of the family. In truth, the lacklustre male-dominated workforce needed the wake-up call to see their positions being taken by women, who were hitherto confined to few entitlements and were at best condemned to being chattel or property owned by men. Since the central idea of this topic is not the struggle that women have gone through, it should suffice to grasp that once women were attracted to job opportunities, families started breaking up. The resistance of men on one side to accept that women were equal to the task, and the defiance of women on the other, to transform their lives and ameliorate their state, was obviously a compounding factor. One would be labeled a conspiracist if he or she assumed that all this was by design, rather than after the fact, but the truth remains that one thing followed another and then families became more and more alienated.

In the research entitled ‘The Role of Family in Islamic Education in the New Normal Area’ (October 2020), the researchers affirm thus “Family is the first education for children. In the neigbhourhood the child gets the influence because that the family is the highest educational institution. It is in this family that the child gets care from the parents heading in the direction of its development. Before a child knows the environment, the society, the school, and the outside world. He was first influenced by his family environment, especially his parents. This research method uses a qualitative approach, with the purpose to obtain data related to Islamic education within the community. This research more focuses on the role of the parents themselves in Islamic education in the new normal era. The basic conclusion obtained from this research is parents have a significant role in educating their children. The first thing that is very important in the process of education is planting religious values.”

In ‘The Relationship between Family and Education in Islam’, Naser Khodayari Shoti (Faculty member and Assistant Professor, Department of Basic Sciences, School of Paramedical Sciences, Ph.D. of Sociology, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences) states “Education is an activity that encompasses all the actions and efforts of the older generation for their skills to the younger generation as an effort to prepare them in order to fulfill their life functions both physical and spiritual (Poerbakawatja, 1981: 257-258).
The essence of education includes the following characteristics: First, the potential of education is a
conscious effort to achieve the desired goal. Second, the educational process involves a qualitatively optimal development effort on all aspects of human personality and capability. Third, the educational process takes place in all living environments, within the family and household, school and community; Fourth, the process of education takes place in all stages of lifelong development (lifelong education – learning no end). (Matondang and Dja’Far Siddik, 2017).
Looking at the importance of home and family from the perspective of its place in the education of
Islam, it can be concluded that in the heart of home and family, what rules and arrangements have been
considered to strengthen the family that by employing or rebuilding them, we can once again see families with new functions and effective interactive capacity among its member. In the first volume of the Oxford Review of Education Jerome Bruner (1975) showed how the upbringing of the very young is influenced by poverty, and how different kinds of upbringing shape human development. He called the paper ‘Poverty and childhood’ and boldly stated ‘With respect to virtually any criterion of equal opportunity and equal access to opportunity, the children of the poor … are plainly not getting as much schooling, or getting as much from their schooling as their middle-class age mates’ (p. 43).[Volume 26, Issue 3, Series 5 (March. 2021) 01-10]”

If we are now all on the same page and in agreement with the family’s role in grooming for and in education, then let us turn to what the whole dilemma is. What dilemma you may ask? Well, if we look at the outcome of the Pew Research, we will be compelled to answer this question considering the onset of our book of universal guide, Al Qur’an started with the word “Iqra”. The study gives some very bright outcomes when it says “Among the world’s major religious groups, Muslims have made some of the greatest gains in educational achievement in recent decades. The share of Muslim adults (ages 25 and older) with at least some formal schooling has risen by 25 percentage points in the past three generations, from fewer than half (46%) among the oldest group included in the study to seven in ten (72%) among the youngest. The Muslim gender gap in educational attainment worldwide also has narrowed.” Then comes the bombshell “Nearly four-in-ten (36%) Muslim adults, however, still have no formal schooling at all. That includes 43% of all Muslim women and 30% of Muslim men. At the other end of the spectrum, 8% of Muslim adults – including 10% of Muslim men and 6% of Muslim women – have a post-secondary education. There were a total of 1.6 billion Muslims of all ages in 2010. Educational attainment among the world’s more than 670 million Muslim adults varies widely depending on where they live, revealing a picture of high achievement in some countries and regions and a pattern of educational disadvantage in others. Globally, Muslim adults have an average of 5.6 years of schooling. But, regionally, the average ranges from 13.6 years among Muslims in North America (a population projected to increase from 3 million to 10 million people by 2050) to just 2.6 years in sub-Saharan Africa (where the number of Muslims of all ages is expected to expand from 248 million in 2010 to 670 million by mid-century)” Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling, according to this global demographic study that shows wide disparities in average educational levels among religious groups.”

In recent years, we have witnessed a steady growth in the number of boys and girls entering the realm of higher education, but the struggle of a dichotomous conflict endures, making the situation worse than it ever was. The Muslim world’s attention was first drawn to this quagmire by Abdullah NashihUlwan at the 1st International Conference on Intellectuals’ Global Responsibility (ICIGR 2017). He illustrated how the implementation of secular learning systems was becoming an impossible task due to the constant validation sought from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The fear that modern education will ultimately dissolve Islamic teachings and values is unfounded, as we now know. In fact, what is more determinant of the erosion of Islamic teachings is the absent role of the family, or if present then their obstinate stance on many cultural and traditional thought processes that create huge barriers to growth. He contends that more than speaking of modernising Islamic teachings, we should work towards modernising our ways of thinking, while still grounding our value systems in the Holy Book.

So the predicament our communities also face today is the lack of direction or discretion amongst families, and therefore communities. Hence, while the rates of formal education are on the rise on both fronts – religious as well as secular, individual leanings are towards dogma and ultra-modern thinking, respectively. Whereas Islam is the Education, we seem to have posed it to be working against progress in education as a whole. And up until the time we learn to appreciate that Education is nothing but Islam, we will continue haggling over the semantics of social, cultural, and imperial ways of thinking, and in the process completely eclipse true knowledge as it were.

When the epitome of knowledge Imam Ai (AS) taught us to question (ref saluni), we are today threatened by questions because we have not learned the answers to them, or because we are rooted more in cultural bonds rather than in Islam. When the same high personality leads a very simple life in spite of his phenomenal worldview, modern-day education and certification train us to bloat, to be proud, and to be arrogant, and the latter is the path we are choosing as a pair with qualification. What is a greater tragedy than to antagonise the same legendary historical personality by chanting his name from the rooftops, but leading a life exactly apart from his?

In the end, the single most critical unit that can make this difference is the family. If value systems in the family give more dominance to Islamic values over cultural heritage and emphasise more on the attainment of knowledge as a means to securing nearness to Allah (SWT), rather than the temptation to dominate others in the food chain, for self-gain, this divide between an ever-changing world, and an ever regressive form of institutionalised hegemony, will widen further. And in so doing, we will be doing the greatest disservice to the very creed that we ascribe to.

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