Educationists have to be innovative with their pupils to achieve both the practical and ethical purposes in life.
LESS than a week ago, the Education Minister announced that 24,053 teachers would have the opportunity to be promoted to higher positions.
This is indeed welcome news for those serving in one of the biggest professions in Malaysia.
Apart from other benefits enjoyed by teachers in recent years, including salary increments and creation of new positions and schemes, this recent development pleases others since almost no one can detach themselves from teachers in one way or another.
The decision reflects a concerted effort by the Government to put teachers in their rightful place that commensurates with their invaluable contributions in building the important foundation for the future generations of the nation.
The primary role of teachers in society is beyond doubt. They have been very influential not only in educating children but also society in general, becoming the point of reference on various issues whether in a small kampung or in a big city.
They have been appointed as leaders in many organisations due to their credentials.
Some of them such as Abdul Hadi Hassan, Buyong Adil and Tan Sri Aziz Stapa were teachers who actively lead the people in their fight for the independence of Malaya.
Similarly, teaching institutions such as the Sultan Idris University of Education have produced many leaders of great calibre from among the teachers. In other words, they are the real transformers of society.
In Islam, teachers are accorded a noble position mainly due to their role as bearers and conveyors of knowledge which is regarded as one of the highest virtues due to a number of reasons:
First, the Quran and the many sayings of the Prophet continuously emphasise the importance of knowledge and those who contribute in spreading it.
So significant is knowledge to man that God raises the position of believers and those who gain knowledge at many levels.
A strong reminder on the importance of knowledge in the Quran comes in the form of a question, “Are they equal those who know and those who do not know?”
Another verse relates to knowledge with true piety to God, “Indeed, the one who fears Allah are among the knowledgeable persons.”
Emphasising the same concern, a hadith of the Prophet places knowledge as something obligatory to every Muslim, man and woman.
Imam Shafi’ie, one of the renowned Imams in Islamic jurisprudence, in his famous poetry, says that, “Knowledge is light and the light of God will not penetrate the heart which is full of sins.”
Secondly, knowledge as elaborated by al-Ghazali, serves two purposes, the pragmatic and the ethical.
Through pragmatism, knowledge can be a means to an end, while through ethics, it can be an end by itself.
For the former, one can have practical gains such as a good job and wealth especially in this modern world. It can even be a means to control and conquer others as implied in the saying of Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power”.
However, knowledge also serves an ethical purpose in that, even without directly being a means to other practical ends, having knowledge itself is already something virtuous.
This is simply because knowledge is something that is enlightening. True knowledge will bring certainty, erase doubts and bring about tranquillity in the soul, and ultimately produce a truly virtuous person.
This is what has been emphasised by the sages throughout time from as early as the Greeks with their saying, “Knowledge is virtue”.
In fact, it is this second purpose of knowledge that becomes a challenge to all teachers today.
We may produce through our educational system a multitude of students who will continue their studies to the highest level, then climb the career ladder towards the highest position in the society, yet whether the knowledge they bear will also transform them into ethical and virtuous people is something to be pondered over.
Many cases involving unethical conduct among students reported daily is very worrying.
Thus, it is now back to the teachers to play their role. Teachers have to be innovative in their real role as transformers of the society in teaching pupils to achieve both the practical and ethical purposes in life.
The theme for the 2012 Teachers Day is already indicative of this role, “Innovative Teachers Accelerate Educational Transformation”.
We also hope that with the high cost the Governnment has invested in teachers, they will be able to come up with the best results.
By DR MOHD FARID MOHD SHAHRAN SENIOR FELLOW, CENTRE FOR ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL STUDIES
Source: The STAR Online Home News Opinion Tuesday May 22, 2012