The benefit of acquiring a good education is something children clearly stand to gain the most from.
Given that 34% of British Muslims are aged under sixteen, as compared to 20% as a national average, (2001 census), it is perhaps understandable that Muslims are particularly anxious in ensuring children gain the most from school especially given the importance Islam places on acquiring knowledge.
It is therefore sad to note British Muslim children fare the worst out of all faith groups in terms of educational achievement, with only 15% of Muslims being educated to a degree standard or higher (the lowest of any group) compared to a national average of 16.4%.
Parents evidently have a critical role to play in ensuring their children perform well at school. However, beyond providing a stable home environment and ensuring kids work hard and do their homework what else can be done?
In the last few years, many public personalities, including Sir David Attenborough have called for young people in schools to increase lessons and experiences taught outside the classroom.
According to the ‘Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’, field based learning provides students with new opportunities to develop their confidence, enhance their emotional and spiritual skills and improve their fitness levels. Children also learn how they can contribute positively to community life.
Such learning occurs through various means, including volunteering in community projects, work experience, physical outdoor activities and visits to farms, heritage sites and sacred spaces.
Children, parents and teachers together can form a powerful alliance which can practically bring faith to life, not only through theory, belief or rituals, but also through combining knowledge and action into a complete way of life.
At 1st Ethical this mindset has led to us developing a ground breaking ‘Ilm2Amal Schools Curriculum’ coupled with our field based Campaign Toolkits.
Alongside academic lessons, we have teamed up with several charities like the RSPCA, Age UK and the Salvation Army to offer pupils a number of practical and easy to implement campaign toolkits which can be implemented outside the classroom in the local community in partnership with mainstream charities.
At a time when unemployment is on the rise, with Muslims already over three times as likely to be unemployed compared to others, many may feel such an approach is very important in developing a generation of Muslims who are both faithful to their faith and confident in knowing how to best benefit others.
However, how many schools and madrasahs are empowering their pupils to do good purely ‘…for the sake of God alone…’ with pupils who ‘…seek neither recompense nor thanks…’ (76:8-9)? How many are being actively encouraged to tangibly give something back to their communities and thereby learn critical life and communication skills?
I totally agree, our youth either can’t be bothered to learn, or they don’t get the right kind of support they need.
Who needs education?
You are asking – why aren’t we educating more of our children, and for longer?
This is the wrong question, and so you will get wrong answers.
A more fundamental question is – what is education?
The answer is – education is a vast and expanding parasitic bureaucracy. The bureaucracy doesn’t say that’s what it is, but don’t let it pull the wool over your eyes: just look at it.
Like any bureaucracy, this one exists purely and simply to sustain itself at any cost it can extract from the rest of society. It does not produce, it consumes, and if it says it produces, just tell it to live on what it produces, and then see what happens! It’s true that you need certification for many many jobs: this is just manifest evidence of the efforts of the bureaucracy to perpetuate itself.
It is said to benefit our children. I and others have proved that children do better without it, and are far happier too. Children know this, and that’s why they need to be forced to go to school at gunpoint. (And if you think it’s not at gunpoint, just think about what happens if you resist the truant officer.)
Is education for the parents? Insofar as it provides a baby-sitting service, maybe. But no babysitter should tell you how to arrange your household, no baby-sitter should demand ever more money from you, and no baby-sitter should stay on stubbornly, long after being shown the door. Cheaper and better baby-sitters are everywhere.
Does education work for the good of society? The educational bureaucracy was invented to produce docile soldiers and obedient cheap trainable factory workers. Soldiers are a curse of society second only to those who order them into war. The need for obedient cheap trainable factory workers is long past – as some of you might have noticed.
But schools do keep children off the streets. They also keep them from learning anything good and useful, and keep them from doing anything good and profitable with the time wasted at school.
Now, do we need something that exists only for itself, at the expense of the rest of us? The answer should obviously be no.
Then the question becomes: how do we change this bureaucracy to work for the parents and the children, instead of itself?
Anyone who knows bureaucracies knows that they don’t change except to become worse. So let’s ask instead – do we need education? What does this bureaucracy do at the consumer end?
It claims to teach children. The question is, does it?
The answer is quite simple. But first you have to understand a very little neurology. When you learn something, a change happens inside your head, in your brain. Connections are made, data are stored, and retrieval mechanisms are set in place. This happens inside your head, where no teacher can go. Nor can anyone else – except perhaps to mess with it, and do harm.
Then we have a right to ask: When I teach you, what am I doing to your head? This is the true Fundamental Question of Education – the FQE.
So if no teacher can do what happens inside your head, then teachers don’t teach – we learn. This is so revolutionary that I call it the Fundamental Principle of Education. You can see that the FPE is a direct answer to the FQE.
Once you can get your head around this, you can look at the question of education in a new light. Then what you need to ask is: what do we need to do to help our children to become effective adults?
The answer is not more education, I assure you. Let me tell you of my own history. Being a Muslim, I was wary of sending my own daughters to public school in the USA. So I undertook to teach them at home, myself, along iwth my young son. Very soon I came to realize – I don’t teach, they learn. I can structure the material, I can explain and guide, but I can’t learn for them. So I ended up in a hands-off situation where they would come and ask, sometimes, what’s next? But more often, I would find them discovering things for themselves: from Plato to Rumi. from Egyptian archeology to Genghis Khan, from calculus to Chinese.
As a result, all did well in their SATs without any coaching, and went on to college. One graduated at age 19 with a degree in psychology, married and had a child, and is pursuing a doctorate. One has just completed medical school, at the age of 22 when many Americans are only starting it; and one took a degree in avionics, found there are no jobs, and started his own software consultancy. They have succeeded with only as much formal education as they needed to acquire certifications for their careers, and only one remains in the career she trained for.
So – who needs education?
Let your son learn the Deen from you, direct him to where he can learn a trade, find him a wife. All this costs very little, keeps your son happy and the family together, and helps to guarantee your future and his in the duniya and the aakhira. Do you have any statistics on the importance of that?