Sixth Phase: Education
Education in Muslim Contexts
Education is depicted by Socrates as “the kindling of a flame and not the filling of a vessel.” It is remarkably linked to people’s emancipation and plays an important role in changing their views and improving their chances in life.
As it is one of the top priorities of the Aga Khan Development Network, education comes as a natural thematic choice to the MCA project. Much needs to be investigated on education in Muslim contexts, and as a matter of fact in the rest of the developing world. Since each region faces particular challenges when addressing the issues of education, the MCA encourages researchers to locate publications produced on this topic in the different parts of the Muslim societies.
The project is supporting a broad approach to this subject and is interested in all the different facets of education, whether philosophical, pedagogical, historical social, cultural and organisational. Education is both affected by and contributes to the dynamic world in which we live, resulting in various trends and policies. The focus of the project is therefore not limited to the different stages of education (such as secondary and higher education); furthermore, both formal and informal education is being taken into consideration.
Access to formal education is the norm in North America and Europe, where the educational organisations or institutions implement a set curriculum. On the other hand in the developing countries, informal education can sometimes be more prevalent due to socio-political unrests, religious and cultural sensibilities, or simply lack of resources. As such, publications on this spontaneous forms of education have to be granted particular attention as they capture the least uniform and diverse styles of education that might be peculiar to a specific region.
Whereas education in stable countries is perceived as a powerful tool which increases people’s chances in society, in war stricken regions education is geared towards teaching survival and quest for basic peace and security. Hence, the purpose and type of education available can change dramatically according to circumstances which are not necessarily related to culture and tradition. Many of the African and Asian countries have been suffering from violence and warfare and unfortunately much has gone unrecorded regarding the status of education in these places. Over a fifth of Muslim majority countries are presently engulfed by war. By seeking publications from both the disrupted and more conventional regions we hope to bring to the centre of debates issues which would otherwise remain undisclosed to students and researchers in other parts of the world.
Besides armed conflicts, there are other major factors such as poverty and socio-political barriers which have hindered access to a form of education that empowers individuals in the society and enables to develop their intellect. Although appearing as an innocuous topic, education is a sensitive matter particularly in societies where women’s education has been curtailed and where education is closely monitored by governments with ideological or religious agendas. There are today many international and national organisations working to improve women’s lives in the world; however, there are groups such as ethnic minorities who receive less attention but whose access to education in some countries is equally curtailed due to persecution.
As both the formal and informal component of the theme of Education and the vast geographical span of the Muslim World is taken into consideration, this topic brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines. This subject indeed overlaps with topics already covered by the MCA, such as Law, Governance and Gender, but is linked also to other disciplines such as Religious Studies, Anthropology and Sociology.