Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Secularism, Capitalism and our Education System

A few weeks ago two of our students stole a multimedia projector. They were eventually caught and punished. Referring to that incident, the Director of our campus, Dr. M. A. Bodla said, “what are we teaching?” Following article is my response to his question.

There are two types of education, one is value neutral and the other is value oriented. The hard sciences clearly fall in the category of value neutral. It does not matter what are values or belief system of a person are, if he/she has to write a computer program, the program must follow the rules of programming language being used.  Similarly a steam engine will be designed the same way regardless if the designer is a Hindu or a Muslim or an atheist. The engine will work according to the laws of thermodynamics not the belief system of its designer. But a computer program, a steam engine, a suspension bridge etc. exist in a human society, and every society has a belief/values system. This is where the other type of education, the value oriented education comes into play.

There are three important characteristics of value oriented education:

1)   It does not “produce” any tangible stuff like an engine or a computer program by itself, but it guides what gets produced and used. For example it does not develop computer programs but guides the developers as to what kind of programs are developed. In an Islamic society it will prohibit the development of programs which promote gambling, but in a secular society it will not object to such programs. Similarly it will prohibit research related to wine making in an Islamic society but not in any other society.
2)   It cannot be taught the way value neutral material is taught. As stated in the beginning, value neutral education is belief agnostic. It is not biased by the human being delivering it; in fact it does not even require human being to deliver it. Look at the growing trend of Computer Based Training (CBT). Whereas value oriented education is human centric. How successful would a CBT program be in teaching bravery, modesty, loyalty, honesty, respect, sacrifice etc? You need human role models to infuse these qualities. The great scholars of Islam were not just repositories of tafseer, hadith, fiqh etc they were living examples for their students to imitate. Hundred researchers and their research papers cannot produce one brave person, but a simple display of bravery by one person can inspire a thousand persons to follow him into battlefield and change the course of history.
3)   It is extremely influenced by the surrounding society. If the norms of the surrounding society are not conducive to the values being taught then no amount of teaching will produce the desired results. A few months back I was standing outside an academy which was conducting a crash course for O-level Islamic Studies course. The material of this course is quite comprehensive. But when the boys came out of the academy they were talking in most profane manner, which appeared to be their normal mode of conversation. Obviously Islamic Studies did not have any impact on them. Their environment dictated their behavior.

Now you may be asking what does all of this has to do with the topic of this essay, ie. “Secularism, Capitalism and our Education System”? The fact of the matter is that we, like majority of the world, are operating under a secular capitalist system. I know people will remind me that we are “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and that article 31 of our constitution guarantees the supremacy of Quran and Sunnah. Very interestingly when I visited the official web portal of Pakistan http://www.pakistan.gov.pk/ on 6-6-2014 I noticed that the page mentions Islamabad three times but not Islam, not even once, not even in the official name. Similarly article 31 and it’s like are mere appendages added to satisfy the so called religious parties. The reality is that our constitution is a secular constitution based on Anglo-Saxon laws and our society is a capitalist society.
In a capitalistic society market is the god, and this god cares only about what can be bought and sold. As the great proponent of capitalism, Milton Friedman (winner of 1976 Nobel prize in economics ) once said “The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy.” As a result what cannot be bought and sold in market is not important, not valuable and not worth pursuing. As I mentioned in point #1 the value oriented education does not produce any tangible product that can be bought or sold in the market. Have you ever seen some one selling 5 kg of bravery, 10 yards of modesty, or 8 liters of loyalty? Obviously not, and that is exactly why these virtues are only paid lip service, not really valued and taught the way hard sciences are valued and taught.
This is where education comes in. The education in a capitalist society, like all other aspects of such a society, is market driven. What is considered important by the market is what gets taught in schools and universities. The rest is treated as needless baggage that needs to be dumped as soon as circumstances are conducive. (It is in regard that one should see the recent attempt to merge Islamic and Pakistan studies courses into one course, for details please read http://nadeemchaudhry.blogspot.com/2013/12/merging-of-islamic-and-pakistan-studies.html).
As I mentioned in point #3 the value oriented education is extremely influenced by the surrounding society. In a capitalistic society a “culture of personality” as opposed to “culture of character” is promoted. A “culture of personality” is mostly defined by stuff that is bought and sold in the market. You hear people referring to someone and saying “he has a dashing personality”. This dashing personality is usually composed of jeans from Levis, shoes from Nike, sunglasses from Ray-Ban, latest model of mobile from Nokia etc, basically stuff that is bought and sold in market. Whereas “culture of character” promotes bravery, modesty, loyalty, respect, sacrifice etc. stuff which is not bought and sold in market. As a result “culture of character” takes a back seat in a capitalist society.
If we really want to fix our education, and for that matter all other aspects of our society, we have to tear down the capitalist based value oriented system and completely replace it with Islamic value based system. Otherwise our educational institutes will basically continue producing efficient workers and gullible consumes for the global capitalist enterprise. May Allah guide us all to the true path and save us from hell-fire (ameen).


shahbaz khan said...

Sir first of all our education system is industry not education. student came to institute and he invest .3-.4 million rupees only in shape of fee and in others may be same so he and his family expect to get return. so he is investing money. from first day this capitalism start.
Professors came in class only to deliver a lecture and make attendance they do not bother what student get or not who followed them or who not they came only for lecture because they are paid for this only. so teaching ethics is more more away.
Unfortunately in Comsats is education factory where students invest money and Teachers came for only to deliver lecture they are not willing to transfer knowledge and ethics and directors and head of department only sitting to think how to finish this year budget weather to change all lab computer or install some thing useless or buy all staff laptops with discount price. i spent two years in comsats and i learn nothing from this institute regarding education yes regarding ethics i learn that how teachers are getting lato on female teachers and students how head of department and director want to save money how he is finding ways of corruption and how the accounts department is justifying in bill the expenses that i learned. other than this i did not learn any thing comsats was for me only institute for a certificate that i did MCS. when i join my BCS i dont know before what is computer i have never use it i see it in shops but never use it and in that private third class institute i found teachers who want give me knowledge and deliver there knowledge as much they can from that day till now i am running on there knowledge even they teach ethics they did not teach only computer science teacher some time talk about social life and culture and they try to deliver these teachers were not getting salaries like comsats teachers they are getting less money and on hourly basis they care that they must teach good otherwise someone else will come and take there place not like comsats.
I dont know how to make change in Education industry but you belong to an industry which have to shutdown to make education institution when you create institution then you will create ethics and nation then you will see bright nation and country.
not with this industry
Shahbaz khan
Yours ex-student

Tayyab said...

I agree with you sir but I do not agree that the higher education institution such as COMSATS can build or should build the characters of students. The parents are the first teachers who are supposed to build the ethics of their child. If a university student blames his university for not teaching him any ethics, then he should blame his parents as well for making him such a loose character person. The school teachers have the second level responsibility. Till the age of 18, a child is under the influence of his parents and high school. What we get at university level is a pre-built human whose views are already set. I am deeply feeling sorry for all such students who blame their university and never thank it for teaching them the skills to earn bread and butter for him and his family.
Secondly, regarding the "market oriented society", I am here in Malaysia for the last 3 years and I see the peak of such a free-trade country where everything form water to education MUST be bought and EVERYONE should do JOB to make a living. If you can not do a job while in Malaysia then you may not survive as everyone here is so MEAN about money. May be it is the influence of Chinese here. Yet the Malaysian society has built the basic ethics of
1. Respect for others
2. Patience
3. Loyalty
4. Self respect
5. Abidance of Law
6. Respect for women
7. Preferring traditional food
8. Preferring traditional clothes
9. Confident to follow the points 7 & 8
Now how do they do this ? What I observed so far is:
1. the key role of PARENTS, MOSQUES, CHURCHES, SHRINES and SCHOOLS in early education of children.
2. Application of fair and justified system for payment of wages.
3. Public display of following a religion.
4. Abidance of law in case of serious crimes

Thirdly, Pakistani society has been under the foreign influence for war against Russia and then war against Al-qaeda. The former made us ultra-Islamic and the later made us ultra-Secular. We do not have:
1. Any training of parents for how to raise their children as positive members of society
2. Knowledge regarding how to become and how much to become Islamic
3. No syllabus in schools that covers the character building

What do we have:
1. A system that allows the son of a land lord to be preferred in all matters.
2. A system that allows the criminals to get free with a victory sign
3. A system that is based upon lies, frauds, injustice, snatching of rights and feeling proud on guilt.
4. Pakistani fathers teaches their sons to always speak the truth but themselves tell a lie to traffic sergeant for wrong parking in the presence of their children.
5. Media: which shows no programs regarding ethics. No dramas no commercial no series.
6. A system that allows an expensive car to cut the traffic signal but catches a biker for the same.
7. A system inwhich the person who tells the truth; will always suffer.
8. A system where the brave one are shot dead on the spot while snatching mobile phones.
9. A system which allows anyone to steal, snatch and do fraud and still be the leader.
10. A system inwhich one Muslim sect is blaming the other sect and both declaring each other as Kafir.

So, our young people who are at the age of 18 or above are:
1. Not satisfied with their parents' knowledge
2. Not trusting anyone
3. Making their own understanding of the society
4. Have no moral ethics because they do not see them happening around them
5. Media and internet influenced.
6. Lingering towards females
7. Consider the crime as bravery
8. Living like savages
9. Not ready to give space to others
10. Have absolutely no Islamic knowledge, no historical knowledge, not offering prayers

So the blame should be on Pakistan's "special" system which keeps our youth ready to be molded according to the policies of any super power. Yes the most of us are just like that and we seldom realize this game. Where as other societies that have the "free market" system, take good care and spend resources for character building of their youth.

Nadeem Chaudhry said...

Dear Shahbaz, AoA,
You made some very strong, but unsubstantiated, accusations against CIIT and portrayed an image which is not true. As owner of this blog I can very easily delete your comment, but I won’t. Instead here I am pasting part of a job advertisement which was posted by Zaeem Asif. Zaeem did his BS-CS from CIIT Lahore and his MS from LUMS ( where he received gold medal).

We are a web development company named as Developer Incorporates (www.devsinc.com). We specialise in web development using the cutting edge frameworks of PHP and Ruby. We are currently looking for fresh graduates and experienced (2 years) from Comsats.

Based on our experience, we know the graduates of Comsats are among the top in Computer Science and we only prefer Comsats or LUMS for Computer Science graduates. So if you want to work in a casual environment but professional environment where you can have several of your university fellows around then contact us at "Zaeem.asif@devsinc.com"

I am sorry if you had some bad experience(s) at CIIT Lahore but as you can see there are many others who have very good things to say, at least about the technical knowledge being imparted at CIIT.

Anjum Mahmood said...

Dear Nadeem
I liked your essay which has very strong arguments on Capitalism and the education system. I agree with most of your points though I feel you have been quite extremist in some examples.You have not suggested any measures to correct them.

Hadi Mahmood said...

Dear Mr Nadeem.
The gist of this essay if i understand it correctly is that our moral values are being destroyed by captilist system.If that were true then America (the biggest advocate and champion of captilism) should have no moral values and a society as corrupt and unfair as ours.However that is not the case.People from all over the world go to America , not just for the money (as they do in Saudi Arabia/Dubai etc) but for their fair justice system as well.I personally know of many people who could have been very rich in Pakistan but they live a mediocre life in Western countries but do not come back.Please comment.

Hadi Mahmood said...

Dear Mr Nadeem.
The gist of this essay if i understand it correctly is that our moral values are being destroyed by captilist system.If that were true then America (the biggest advocate and champion of captilism) should have no moral values and a society as corrupt and unfair as ours.However that is not the case.People from all over the world go to America , not just for the money (as they do in Saudi Arabia/Dubai etc) but for their fair justice system as well.I personally know of many people who could have been very rich in Pakistan but they live a mediocre life in Western countries but do not come back.Please comment.

Hadi Mahmood said...

Dear Mr Nadeem.
The gist of this essay if i understand it correctly is that our moral values are being destroyed by captilist system.If that were true then America (the biggest advocate and champion of captilism) should have no moral values and a society as corrupt and unfair as ours.However that is not the case.People from all over the world go to America , not just for the money (as they do in Saudi Arabia/Dubai etc) but for their fair justice system as well.I personally know of many people who could have been very rich in Pakistan but they live a mediocre life in Western countries but do not come back.Please comment.

Nadeem Chaudhry said...

Dear Hadi, AoA,
I hope repeating the same comment thrice is a mistake not a way of emphasizing your comment :-). In America bottom 80% of people have only 11.1% of the wealth while the top 1% has 35.4% wealth http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html ). At the moment 19 out of 50 states allow same sex marriage ( http://gaymarriage.procon.org ) and my guess is that soon it will be legal in all states. The percentage of out of wedlock pregnancies is 40.7% (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarried-childbearing.htm) . These are just a few examples. Now if you think that these are not moral problems than we live in parallel universes and as such no point in discussing the issue. Regarding why people go to America, trust me, apart from very few exceptional cases, a vast majority go for money. The Saudi’s don’t give citizenship and eventually people have to leave SA, so people prefer USA.
Regards & AH

Awais Tariq said...

Mashallah,Each and Every word is Calculated.The writer has sound knowledge about his Topic.It feels Good to read this type of Material.It is like touching the Hot electrical wire and That's a Complement.
Muhammad Awais Tariq

Nauman Malik said...

Dear Sir,
AOA!I agree with all points but also told us the ways to correct the whole system.

Ahsan Nasir said...

Great article. "Took the words out of my mouth". The muscles that knowledge produces are surely the most powerful. But sir, even knowledge now a days is only available to the ones who are able to shine with that levi's jeans and rayben. The ones who actually want to learn, and come to institutes not wearing levi's but shalwar kameez are not given a chance to do so. Now, a person's whose total family income is just average 15,000PKR is surely not able to buy a levi's but the sad part is, same goes for him when it comes to get quality education. No doubt scholarships are available but they're nearly negligible.
During childhood, those persons just find a chance to get to those government schools (where they just go, and learn HOW TO CRAM and come back home) but not to unaffordable schools like (Beaconhouse) that promote learning more than cramming. I'm taking the topic to another perspective but sir i request you to concern about writing a blog about this.
Let me share something here. I was being taught from one of those "Cram promoting" schools. And literally i tried my best to cram but could never do, ended up failing from 5th class to 8th continuously. Later on tried to cram at my best and passed out matric with 64% marks. Same went for Intermediate. But when i came to undergrad level, i found out what i was cramming all those years. Suddenly i started enjoying Coding and grades started to improve a lot! Now i'm pretty better and satisfied by what i was and have finally learned what i was cramming all those years. But you know? I was only able to do that because my family could somehow manage to afford, but what if they couldn't? I would surely have been a motorcycle machenic and cleaning out cars or something. Because the universities that could be afforded were only the ones that enroll those who have crammed their 12 years of their life (MOST OF THEM) and they were good at it!
The universities that could take in low grade students like me were the ones i couldn't afford to pay for them.
Either government schools should be constitutionalised, more practicals. OR "universities should start enrolling more knowledge lovers and levi's haters."
your current student, Ahsan Nasir.

Nadeem Chaudhry said...

In a combined response to Nauman and Ahsen I would say that in order to produce change first step is to spread the message and let people know what the real problem is. Unfortunately this is more difficult than it seems. Just as an example, I sent the link to this article to about 120 people who are my students, have 15 years of education and can read English easily. Based on the stats that I have seen only about 50% percent of those visited the site. How many actually read the complete article is difficult to say. Other than one or two persons no one even clicked on any other related article. Lastly not a single person shared it on their Facebook page. If I had put a funny clip or a cricket trivia I am sure it would have received more attention than this.

Hassan Qasim said...

Respected Sir,
i think Our Education system is only focused on Exams,Grades,cgpa Numbers etc. Gaining knowledge in not a priority.
and its totally wrong.Now a days,students are completely professionally-oriented and they take examinations for the same rather than to gain knowledge,or to do research in the subject. In our institutes, we have infrastructure and good faculty, but there is no motivation to do research. Even in the field of computer science, no one is motivated to do research because everything is so examination and job-oriented.Our education system looks at commercial gains only and students focus mainly either to take good grades in exams or to look at their monetary future. The curriculum is also built around clearing an exam and getting into particular professions. Learning is not a priority.Those regulating and those making policies are equally responsible. If the system has deteriorated to this level where learning has been substituted by a race to clear an examination, regulators and policymakers are to blame for not acting on time to correct this anomaly. It’s also not enough to have rules and regulations, Important is how they are implemented.

Ajaz Arshad Qureshi said...

Ma sha Allah, keep up the good work, may Allah swt relieve us from the scourge of practices, policies, dogmas & paradigms that are deluding us away from paradise.

mubasher chaudhary said...

AOA Sir.
I have listened to your lecture on capitalism that you delivered in our class. Actually sir we are living in a confused and egocentric society, we force our children to go to school at the age of 3 years so that we can tell our relatives and colleagues that our child is going to a very expensive school. According to me this materialism comes in our way due to number of reasons. Every region has his own teachings and customs besides religion. Every region or community follows their motherland's culture like truth, bravery, honesty, hospitality type things.
As a south Asian Muslim I am confused I am just a football like thing that is kicked by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both use us but both do not accept us. We cannot change our identity, Saudis call us inferior Indians and you better known that during Arab Iran war Iranis didn’t burry the non Persian Shias in their Persian’s graveyard. So this is the attitude they both are showing to us for centuries. As religion is transferred to us by Arabs so we don’t say that we do not know which version is better. Lets suppose the Islamic teachings are taught in this society and all are living according to it so what you say on which rule, the rules defined by a Ahle hadis, Deobandi, brelvi or shia. If today someone impose shariah here of his own version then there will be a huge bloodshed in our society that will lead to chaos and anarchy. So the point is here we as a south Asians only lived in discipline way under British rules, otherwise all Arabs, Afghans and Persians has just destroyed our values and customs of our motherland, They were not here to preach Islam they were here to stole the golden lands of India that were rich in irrigation, warm water seas and good weather. Islam was preached here by the saints by whom our ancestors converted to Islam and thanks to them but what the invader Muslim rulers did here is all are a part of cruel history. So point is here that now we own Pakistan we have to make our own Muslim identity and free our self from the property of Saudis and Persians to teach the true teachings of our religion. It’s a long process but we have to do this otherwise we will be an orphans with no identity.

FreakyMaryShaheen said...

Aoa Sir, Thank you for sharing this article with us.
For me , every discussion in my life being a Muslim ends at the question
When we are going to be ready to accept the rules and regulations of Allah Subhan wa Talah created for us to actually realize each one the rule Allah created for us is for our betterment . Just like a child trust his/her parents on each and everything in childhood. As like in Islam , at age of seven parents are supposed to teach them how to pray and at age of ten they should be forced to develop a habit. Where now parents force their children to go school at age of 3 or 5 not caring how that would effect on child's relation with parents. Parents are concerned with degree to show , students are concerned with how they can pass their student life in enjoyment and fun and society is concerned with who can earn how much money without caring about in which way. At the end of day every one of us need to account their own actions. With current expose to everything unlimited , we need to fix our priorities to make education produce humans not machines! Every change comes from in the house not by any outsider.
JazakAllah for sharing this article. May we are guided to the right path.Ameen

nabeel said...

It is a very interesting piece of article. I agree to your point of view that cultural values should be imparted within our education system and no amount of paperwork can replace the human beings which are responsible for imparting these values to the youngsters. However, I believe that every culture has always preached the basic teachings i.e honesty, modesty, bravery etc but few individuals altered them according to their own needs and that lead to people following a different kind of history. We do need to realize that any human being would want peace with their other counterparts. A few people who have always revolted and throughout the history have only desired power more than anything. Take an example, Jews realized long before Prophet Muhammad (SAW)'s arrival but they did not want to accept the religion because that meant to leave the hold they had from centuries.

In our current system, we lack is a common type of education system that can be taught at all kind of institutions and transfer these values from the very beginning. If you teach a young child about learning, creativity, and cultural values, surely that child is going to implement them all his life. The environment where you study can only be improved if you appoint people on the basis of their values too along with the qualifications. After all what good are those qualifications if you are just going to stick with the ways that are already in play and not think out of the box.

Nabil Ashraf

Sana Shaukat said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I want to add one more thing,Our society is becoming more and more materialistic over the period of time. I want to know why and how this happens to us. What can we do, to revive our values? Our children don't respect their parents, students don't respect their teacher. Everyone just care about themselves regardless of basic moral values that our religion teaches us. We have become so fearless that we are not even afraid of GOD. I think rather then blaming the government or our system; we should take steps at the individual level, only if we can correct ourselves, we are able to change the whole face of our nation.
Sana Shaukat