What does education in the Muslim world look like in practice?
While adult Muslims are educated during homilies in mosque, their children are schooled in one of three ways: in government-run schools, in mosque schools – called Madrassas, or in a combination of the two.
Muslim majority nations seek the upward mobility of their youth and model their national curricula on successful Western educational systems. Government schools are largely Western in course content although the objectionable ideologies of secularism, cynicism, humanism, individualism, and sexual libertarianism are strongly curtailed. Courses in Islam, Islamic history, and often Arabic, are usually added.
Primary education is mandatory in Muslim majority nations. Where parents cannot afford the annual fees, less expensive local mosque schools are chosen. Sometimes children beg during lunch time to cover their costs. Children’s schooling is often stopped when they are needed for their family’s work.
Private elite Muslim schools compete successfully with Western counterparts, and secondary school graduates frequently qualify for good universities.
While governments in Muslim countries require children to attend elementary schools, parents are often also expected to enlist their children in the local mosque school. In certain nations these schools are combined. In all but the most conservative regions, both boys and girls are welcome in state schools.
Public schools struggle acutely from inadequate salaries for teachers, overcrowded classes, and a shortage of teaching supplies. Parents have high hopes for their children’s improved future through education, but their hopes are often dashed and they become accustomed to poor results.
Overcrowded government universities await those who succeed through secondary school. However, the lack of employment options and the low global rankings of these universities inspire many to try to transfer to Western institutions. The 57 Muslim nations in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation rank the lowest in scientific research, creative innovative studies, technological schooling, and job-placement standings.
The Muslim World has the fewest invention copyrights and Nobel Peace prizes. Far less literature is published in Arabic, for example, than in other major languages. The only competitive private education in Muslim nations are expensive private institutions and colleges and the local mosque schools. Government education has few quality competitors.
Sayyid and Umar’s parents cannot afford the fees to send both boys to the state school, so Sayyid goes to government school and Umar to apprentice as a welder. Sayyid must wear a prescribed school uniform made from costly blue khaki cloth.
His classroom is so overcrowded that three boys must share each double bench. They attend from Sunday to Thursday. Textbooks are costly, so Sayyid’s parents ‘rent’ books for one night to make photocopies. Since so many children are failing, Sayyid must take tutoring lessons.
His parents dream of Sayyid becoming an engineer, but he dreams of being a soccer star. In the small welding shop where Umar is apprenticing, there are too many apprentices for one welder. Umar labours from dawn to dusk. He competes with other apprentices, avoiding inferior tasks and competing for the harder assignments.
If Umar damages any tool or produces faulty work, he must repay the welder. He doesn’t know how many years he’ll work without pay for the welder before he is able to finish his apprenticeship. Umar dreams of going to a state school but his parents expect him to become a welder. If he fails, he’ll return and work in their vegetable stall.