dr fatima rehan dar
November 9 marks the birth anniversary of Allama Mohammad Iqbal; a celebrated poet, philosopher, barrister and scholar for all times. His inspirational poetry has enthused millions of Muslims to wake up to the reality of the times and to carve out a distinct niche for themselves. His ideas and philosophy emanated through an exquisite poetic expression, shed light on various principles of life. His vision of education and his concern for the youth are also remarkably woven through a beautiful poetic expression. According to Iqbal, the objective of education, on one hand, is to effectively transmit the cultural heritage, belief systems and competencies from one generation to the other and on the other a way to empower and strengthen human minds. Through education, Iqbal wants the youth to reach self-realization through a process of critical reflection, deep analysis and persistent inquiries. For Iqbal, the attainment of intellectual freedom is the ultimate destination of the youth. Iqbal encourages the youth to nurture a questioning mind so that thoughtful deliberations can take place. Education, according to Iqbal, should inspire the youth to realize their creative potential which can be used for the greater good of the society. It is this attainment of individuality or ‘EGO’ which makes Iqbal’s youth unique and special.
Furthermore, Iqbal rejects the stratification of education as it calls freedom of thought and to quote Abbas, Iqbal believes in the “rejection of all those elaborate, foolproof, strictly logical and graded methods of teaching which eliminate initiative and ingenuity. The method which does not allow making mistakes and learning from them is no good.” He, therefore, is against the over-intellectualization of the human mind and supports an educational experience which has a balance of cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains.
It is interesting to note that what Iqbal proposed in the early part of the 20th century was reiterated by western educational thinkers in the later part of the same century. For example, thinkers like John Dewey in the United State of America in 1933 came up with his famous concept of democratizing education and visualizing a human mind as fully capable of independent thought. Similarly, the Gestalt school of thought around the same time in Germany stressed the need to render an educational experience that enveloped the effective and the cognitive domains for more meaningful and wholesome learning. Further, Vygotsky in Russia towards the later part of the 20th century viewed linguistic, social, emotional, and cognitive development as complementary processes that ultimately worked together to shape a student’s literacy growth. All of them restated what Iqbal in South Asia had already envisioned for his youth. Against the backdrop of Iqbal’s philosophy of education, it is pertinent to analyze the existing educational structure of Pakistan. We experience an educational arrangement which is highly stratified and believes in ‘one size fits all’. The academic institutions, mainly target skills which focus on the recall or recognition of specific facts, and concepts that attend to the development of intellectual abilities. This is basically identified as a cognitive learning experience. This is no doubt the central purpose of education but taken in entirety the only cognitive specific approach may not fulfil the overall aim of education. Education aims to prepare individuals for the society and for this all domains as Iqbal has emphasized, i.e. cognitive, affective and psychomotor need to become equitable parts of the academic curricula. On the contrary, the educational experience is reduced to the attainment of satisfactory academic scores or grades by students as a fulfilment of the cognitive objective. This experience may make our youth ‘degree holders’ but will they make them sufficiently educated? Our students may stand ill-prepared to merge well in society and become its thoughtful and viable members. The need is to re-envision the educational experiences we may want to give to our youth.
Iqbal harbours extreme faith in the vitality, acumen and vigour of his youth. At the same time, he stands deeply concerned and worried about the youth of his times. He wants them to play an active and dynamic role to steer the Muslims of united India out of the danger of moral and societal degradation. He wants them to shun the slavish tendencies of mind and emerge as powerful thinkers to reach their ultimate destiny.
Furthermore, Iqbal encourages his youth to emerge as creative thinkers. He believes in the power of the human mind and more so in the dynamism of his youth.