Redefining the Purpose of Education and What It Means for the Future of Islamic Economy

Sadia Karim Current Issues in Islamic Finance, Human Resources in Islamic Finance, Islamic Economy, Islamic Finance, Islamic Finance Education Leave a Comment

Have you ever wondered  – “What is the purpose of education?” Or did this ever come into your mind – “How did the modern schooling system emerge, in what circumstances?” Or “Is education serving its purpose in the modern world?” Or “What is the new reality of our time from old times that may require a different approach in the method of education?”

I have been thinking about these questions since I have started researching about the challenges and issues with Islamic Finance education. It is interesting to find how every question is related to the answer I have been looking for. Couple of years ago, while doing research on education system and its history, I came across this talk by Sir Ken Robinson (see the video below). It blew my mind. I started to make connection with several questions that were popping in my head.

Since the industrial revolution, we, the human species bought into the idea of education for getting a good job.

Now unless someone earns his/her qualification in specialized fields such as medicine, engineering, law etc., the subjects in higher education in generic fields are not much relevant to the job one performs in his/her work life. Imagine wasting so much time from your life only to do something that has nothing to do with what you studied. It’s not really imagination; it is the REALITY of the so called ‘eco-system’. How could we take the precious times of our lives so worthless to be experimenting like that?

As you may get the idea from the talk of Ken Robinson (video below), the higher education system was designed as such for a specific economic reality at a specific period of time. The economic reality changed, the education system did not. It is going through change, but still the basic education system remained as it is starting from elementary education. The result? So called ‘education’ is not fulfilling its purpose of getting even a modest job anymore let alone solving real problems of the societies.

During the same time I was doing my research, Khan Academy emerged with a new idea of flipping the classroom and customizing the entire learning process based on individual needs rather than inefficient batch processing. It made so much sense. All human being are not created with equal interests or equal aptitude on a subject matter, how flawed is it then to batch process teaching and learning method?

Today we don’t need information from the teachers or educators because information is everywhere. What we need is ‘understanding’, and ‘exploring new ideas’ which require asking questions, discussions, fruitful engagements between the educator and learners, and even among the learners. The next obvious step is to ‘apply’ the understanding and ideas. But where and how do we apply that? Here comes the mismatch between what we are doing with our education and the purpose of education.

My contention is the purpose of education should be ‘solving human problems’ which collectively solves ‘societal problems’ and as a result that solves ‘global problems’. Wouldn’t that be a great purpose?

Now so far the problem solving part has been addressed by efforts from governments, large companies, and many non-profit organizations through designing policies, creating products, and services. But if we try to look into the future, this whole process may appear a bit different. As we progress into a new economic reality, we may see the power of crowd rising to a level with technological innovations that individuals will be equipped with resources and abilities to solve critical problems of communities and societies that in earlier days were quite difficult to solve even by the governments.

What does it all mean for Islamic Economy and how is it related?

If we pause for a moment and observe the current state of Islamic Economy and compare it with the rapidly changing world, I think even a middle school student may say ‘Man! We are so far behind’. Now a frequent excuse given is ‘we are only xx years old and there is a long way to go and we are doing a lot already’. That’s true, but if we see how the youth are doing things, how fast they are adapting to the new realities, how fast they are creating and innovating new solutions to age old problems, Islamic Economy – especially Islamic Finance seems like an old man struggling to walk and find its way in the crowd. It is reflected on the way it is promoted and marketed, the way it is communicated, the way it is taught, the way human capital challenge is approached and so on so forth.

However from the beginning of 2015 I see a change which gives hope. I see change in ‘realization’ or ‘awakening to the new reality’ and a renewed understanding of ‘the same old won’t work’. This is the realization which was much needed, now what comes next and how fast, will define the new direction for Islamic Economy, especially Islamic Finance. Redefining the purpose of education and changing the method of human capital development would be the first action step to build on because it is the people and their minds that are required to shape the future of an entire economy.

Author: Sadia Karim, Founder & CEO, Yurizk

“I am convinced that teaching our children in the same way we did yesterday is in itself perpetuating a new kind of illiteracy that no longer has a place in any society that wishes to join the global race.”H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum

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