IFT. Given your experience in Islamic Finance Education, is the knowledge so imparted adequate to meet the evolving needs of the industry. If not how do you propose to address this?
S.K.: According to some of the industry experts from both academia and practitioners and according to our research data, the answer is – ‘no’. It has to start from setting clearly communicated and widely accepted and inspiring vision for the Islamic Finance industry, which should translate into a different approach, which then should help formulate a better strategy for human capital development. The current strategy that first accepts the status quo in prioritizing objectives similar to conventional financial industry may not help in the long run and this is just from my humble perspective.
IFT. Do you think that in today’s rapidly evolving Islamic Finance landscape there should be specialized Islamic Finance Educational Providers covering different sectors?
S.K.: I think the whole approach to education needs to change starting from redefining its purpose. We are stuck in the beginning of the industrial era in our approach to education, but things are changing rapidly around the globe. If Islamic Finance industry doesn’t see the changes coming in the education sector, it will find hard time catching up with rest of the sectors. Too many providers are doing the same thing duplicating efforts. Each one of them needs to be focused on one specialized area to complement and work collaboratively to benefit the industry.
IFT. How are Islamic Finance curricula produced and who are the leading contributors in this connection?
S.K: There is no central body for producing or governing the curricula yet, but a few initiatives are underway. As far as our research shows currently each organization formulates their own curricula with the help of respective academic committees.
IFT. Can the existing curricula provide the necessary tools for innovation and entrepreneurship in the industry?
S.K: If we look at the number of promising innovation so far, I think we get the answer of that question. Again in my view it’s because of the approach in vision and lack of creativity in the process of knowledge dissemination. The education sector needs radical change. If we know what exactly we want, then how to do it becomes easy. But when there is back and forth arguments about the ‘what’, it’s very hard to move with a strategic ‘how’. We need to break away from this cycle.
If we look at the major game changing innovations in modern times starting from the invention of computers to now the mobile world, social media tools etc., none of these were direct results of academic research or curriculum although academic and research were the backbone to bring out the body of knowledge. The implementation of the body of knowledge came from individual creative ideas which were nurtured through resourceful environments and supported with risk endured investments and funding. What does it tell us about innovation and what is Islamic Finance industry doing? The answer is right there.
IFT. Many young people are choosing to follow Islamic Finance courses. Will all of them be assured placements in the industry?
S.K: A course or certification does not assure any placement unless it is a process or system that is set up between educational institutions and the workplaces. It is an unfortunate reality that the industry is losing its energetic youth who bring fresh perspectives, fresh ideas, creativity and commitment to strive – all essential ingredients for a healthy growth of an industry. This loss is reflecting on the job market where mistrust will increase if these young people don’t find enough placements. One argument is there isn’t simply enough space to recruit. If so, then how the question even come of lack of human resources? This is a puzzle that we need an urgent resolve.
I would encourage the youth to come forward and keep their enthusiasm strong, keep learning and not giving up on Islamic Finance, rather take bold and creative steps on their own to make changes. It can be through small entrepreneurial projects which fill gaps in the financial and/or other needs of people in a Shariah compliant manner based on what they learned from Islamic Finance. Nothing is impossible and the youth has the power to change the course.
This interview of Yurizk Founder Sadia Karim was orginially published on Islamic Finance Today Magazine’s January 2015 edition. The interview has been edited for this blog post.
To read other interviews, visit Islamic Finance Today magazine