Education---like democracy, free markets, freedom of the press, and "universal human rights" --- is one of those subjects whose virtue is considered self-evident. So is the superiority of the industrially advanced countries in attaining them. Consequently, any package that arrives with one of these magic labels on it, automatically qualifies for the "green channel" at the entry ports of developing countries. No questions asked. This uncritical acceptance has severely crippled their discussion of all these vital topics. For example in education the discussion remains centered around literacy rates and graduation statistics. The central issue of curriculum, and even more fundamental issue of the purpose of education normally do not attract attention; they have already been decided by the "advanced" countries and the job of the rest of the world is only to follow in their footsteps to achieve their level of progress.
In the "first" world, education has become an extension of the capitalist system. Its purpose is to provide qualified workforce for its machinery of production and eager consumers for its products.
This linking of education to financial goals is extremely unfortunate. It degrades education and through it the society.
To bring home the forgotten role of education we need to recall that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals. Instincts and physical needs alone can bring ants, bees, or herds of beasts together to live in a perfectly functioning animal society. Human beings do not function that way. If they are to form a viable, thriving society, they must choose to do so. What drives that choice is the sharing of common goals, beliefs, values and outlook on life. The education system of a society produces the citizens and leaders needed for the smooth operation of that society, now and into the future. Its state of health or sickness translates directly into the health or sickness of the society that it is meant to serve.
Today we find many internal problems --- corruption, injustice, oppression, crippling poverty --- everywhere we turn in the Muslim world. These problems are largely traceable, directly or indirectly, to the education system that produced the people who perpetuate the problems. The rulers who sell out to foreign powers and subjugate their people; the bureaucrats who enforce laws based on injustice; the generals who wage war against their own people; the businessmen who exploit and cheat; the journalists who lie, sensationalize, and promote indecencies, they are all educated people, in many cases "highly" educated people. The problem plagues all layers of society. Muslim societies are sick because their education system is sick.
Before they began blindly importing from the Colonial powers what was current and popular, education in Muslim societies was always the means of nurturing the human being. Moral training, tarbiya, was always an inalienable part of it. The ustaz, (teacher), was not just a lecturer or mere professional, but a mentor and moral guide. We remembered the