Articles of the year 2006

The Power of Education
Published on May 19th, 2006

The importance of education in a Nation can never be underestimated, infact I would go further and say that in the clash of civilizations that we now speak of was lost in the latter part of the 18th and the 19th century—by the Muslims. Around 1800 the Ottoman empire was still very powerful and wealthy. Then the Europeans started amassing their fortunes through their colonies, and the difference between the two religious orders were that the Muslims did not invest in education, but the Europeans started putting in a lot of money into universities. Even though the Oxbridge colleges were in fact eight hundred years or older, it was in the 1800s that large amounts of monies started going into higher education, in Europe and the US. This also led to the explosion of knowledge in science, which was rapidly applied into engineering, hence the birth of the industrial revolution. Education and the Industrial Revolution are directly related.

The University of Pennsylvania was established by Benjamin Franklin ' recognized as America's First University' one of the oldest in the US in the year 1751. Only 250 years ago. The number of Universities established since then has catapulted the US into the largest educational industry in the world, the spinoff has put America far ahead of the rest of the world, in all fields including Medicine. Coupled with the research facilities, and the money being channeled into research, it will be a long time before anyone else can catch up. In fact the Chinese recognizing this fact of life are encouraging their youngsters to learn English, and the American and British universities are full of Chinese students.The Muslims on the other hand paid no attention to higher education, and kept themselves busy studying only their religion to the exclusion of all else. When the collapse of the Ottoman empire came, there was precious little that was left of educational institutions, or indeed that had been established. With the Muslim Empire having crumbled, one would have thought the discovery of oil could have provided a bonanza for the Arabs to use in the furtherance of Education. But it was not to be, instead the Kingdoms were advised to keep their populace as ignorant and backward as possible. It is shocking to see the educational facilities available in the Arab world compared to the funds put into US institutions by the same Arabian countries.

Any student of History can see the progress that has taken place in the west only with the practical application of these theoretical discoveries. It is remarkable the Wright Brothers made their first flight only a hundred years ago. I would like to suggest to our Arab friends that education in Pakistan would be doubly worthwhile for it would give the students both local and Arab, an atmosphere fairly liberal, and not as claustrophobic as when policed by the Shurta--- but we are getting there slowly but surely, unless the Government realizes that freedom and democracy starts at school itself. All this at a fraction of the cost of living in the west without the temptations rampant throughout the US or Europe.

Mahatir had the good sense to realize this very important building block in a Nations character, and he has built Malaysia into a shining example of a progressive Muslim state that can live with other religions, AND offer high quality education.

I am not an educationalist, but we have the necessary building blocks, ie a huge pool of unemployed teachers. These could be put to use if the Government gives the right incentives, I am sure the sugar Barons would put their profits to good use. I would rank education higher than hospitals, because the benefits are far greater in 'effect', and these benefits multiply as we have seen the Americans and Europeans do. The Automobile, the steam Engine, the telephone, these are all products of English and American applied education. When was the last Muslim invention ?, and given the trillions of dollars earned and frittered away by our OIC, I as a Muslim hang my head in shame. The Jews have outperformed us in every intellectual pursuit, and deserve plaudits for the benefits reaped by mankind from their hard work, and skills. We should realize that the basis of their success is education, and strive towards that. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) exhorted us to achieve knowledge at any cost. It is still not too late….