The Imprtance of Science Essay

The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

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The Importance of Science and Technology
Education in the Muslim worlds

Dr. Arif Zamhari

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The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

About the Speaker
Dr. Arif Zamhari is the director of Kulliyatul Qur’an College of Al-Hikam, Jakarta, Indonesia. Dr. Zamhari, affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest organization of Indonesia, had worked and taught in different Universities and institutions in Jakarta. He is the member of International Division of Indonesian Wakaf Board and Institute for The Study and Advancement of Civil Society (ISACS. Dr. Zamhari had participated in many international and national conferences as a key speaker. He had written books and papers about the rituals of Islamic spirituality.

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The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

The golden age of Islamic civilization during the 8

th

to 12th century was

established by integrating both religious sciences and natural or worldly sciences in the light of Islam. As we can read from the history of Muslim civilization, both religious sciences (ulum al-naqliyah) and natural sciences (ulum al-aqliyah) were part of Islamic education. In other words, religious sciences and natural sciences had a similar position within Islamic education centers. No one particular science had supremacy over another. Therefore, religious and natural sciences similarly contributed to the golden period of Islamic civilization.

During those periods Muslim scholars realized that Islam does not differentiate between religious science and natural science (worldly science). Although they made classification of knowledge, they did not mean that one particular science is worthier than another. All sciences come from the original source of knowledge, which is God. It is for this reason that Muslim scientists made their strong effort to integrate sciences that have been developed by Greek civilization into part of the classification of sciences in Islam. As a result of this integration, Islamic civilization reached its zenith and Muslim became leaders of philosophical and scientific thought. It was in the field of natural sciences, in particular, that they made outstanding advances and achieved the greatest triumph. They even inspired their western counterparts to develop western civilization.

It is important to note here that the glory of Muslim civilization in those periods was inseparable with the advancement of every aspect of sciences and knowledge in Islam. Therefore, the stagnation of Islamic civilization happened when Islamic educations favored the study of religious science, which is only one part of the branch of knowledge in Islam, while they paid less attention to natural and worldly sciences in the Islamic education practices. This contributed later to the fall of Islamic civilization as whole and the Islamic civilization began to lose some of its global prominence. Since then there has been a dichotomy between religious sciences and natural sciences.

Therefore, the root of the decline and the backwardness of science and technology in the current Muslim world can be attributed to the fact that natural and worldly sciences disappeared in Muslim education. At the same time, natural and worldly science has been transmitted to European world Page | 2

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The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

and has been developed by European scholars, contributing to the renaissance and the industrial revolution in the West. This industrial revolution caused the rise of European imperialism and colonialism that conquered and maintained their control over Muslim regions. As a result, European civilization spread over the globe and the large European nation states equipped with overwhelming new power of science and industry expanded to empires throughout the globe.

PROBLEMS
The globalization era has had greatly impact on the development of social and culture of Muslim societies. Needless to say that Muslim society cannot avoid the globalization process especially if the Muslim society needs to survive and succeed within the competitive world. The major source of such a wave of globalization nowadays is the West which has supremacy in influencing global society. Without a doubt, their supremacy and hegemony in the process of globalization is due to their mastery in science and technology. The supremacy and hegemony of the West on economy, science and technology has had an impact on social values, intellectual, and life styles which cause problems among Muslim society. Despite adverse impact, globalization of economy, for instance, also brings about the improvement of social and economical life among Muslim society.

Nowadays, the scientific and technological gap between Muslim and the developed countries is widening with every passing day. The Muslim world constitutes the most backward and the weakest region among other great
religions. Islamic countries are far left behind by North Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand that are Protestant; South Europe and South America that are Roman Catholic; Israel that is Jewish; China, Korea, Taiwan; Hong Kong and Singapore that are Buddhist-Confucian; Japan that is Buddhist-Taoist; and Thailand that is Buddhist. Practically, among other followers of religions in the world, Muslims are the weakest in mastering science and technology. The Muslim world produces disproportionately small amount of scientific output. As a result, instead of being the leaders of scientific and technological thought, they may become a consumer of science and technology. (Madjid: 1997)

Therefore, in order to survive and to lead in the global competition, the Muslim world necessarily needs to have particular excellences. Looking at the internal and global external challenges, one of excellences that the Muslim Page | 3

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The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

world really needs is the excellence of mastering science and technology and the excellence of human resources. The mastering of science and technology as we can see from the experience of such countries as United States, Japan, and Germany and so on and so forth is one of the most important factors that lead these countries to the prosperity and significant progress. One of strategies to achieve the excellence in the field of science and technology in the Muslim world is through education. Islamic education can play important role in preparing human resources that are well versed in science and technology. Islamic education can successfully play such important role if Islamic education is able to reintegrate religious science and natural sciences (science and technology). Because both categories of science are part of Islamic science, they must be given similar attention within Islamic education in the Muslim world. Favoring one category of science and overlooking another is causing a dichotomy between science and religion which in turn leading to Muslim world’s lagging in science and technology.
However, reintegrating religious science and non religious science in the Islamic education can be done if the Muslim worlds able to cope with practical problems with regard to the development of science and technology either in their education system or in their national policy . As we have seen, the Muslim world still faces several practical problems These problems are as follows (Azra: 2012).:

1. Lack of scientific society
One of the preconditions of developing science and technology in particular society is the availability of a minimum number of scientists and experts who are able to conduct continued and guided research. If the number of scientists and experts cannot reach a minimum number, research and the development of sciences will not run well. Those minimum numbers of scientist and experts are the first layers and the backbone for the development of science and technology. They still need to be supported by the second layers of scientists and experts. It often happens that the number of the second layers of scientist and experts is not available in the Muslim world.

The creation of scientific society that can conduct research not only depends on the development of human resources but also depends on a national policy enabling more scientists and experts to develop their skills and expertise. As far as human resources are concerned, the proportion of students in the Muslim world who enroll in the field of science and technology is limited. They Page | 4

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The Importance of Science and Technology Education in the Muslim worlds

currently prefer to choose the field of social sciences. In addition, social sciences have been a prominent choice for students in the Muslim world. In Indonesian universities for instance, the comparison of social and science students is 76:24. As a result, the university output of science and technological graduates tend to be low. Indonesia only produces 5.583
graduates, while the need of the science and technological graduates in this country has reached 263.795 people.

2. Less integrated National Policy on Science and Technology Almost no Muslim countries have policy and a clear, comprehensive, integrated, and targeted national planning on the development of science and technology. In those countries science and technology have been a neglected area of national policy as countries focus on other aspects of economic development. In contrast, many other developed countries make a strong effort to pay more attention to national policy on science and technology than policy on military and foreign sector. This is partly because the failure of developing national research on science and technology will impede the progress of national development.

It is true that there are many research centers that coordinate the development of science and technology in Muslim countries. However, these centers have been considered as complementary for policy on economic planning. Therefore it is important to coordinate continually between centers of science and technology research and economic fields so that comprehensive planning can be formulated.

3. A lack of research funding
A lack of research funding has been a major barrier for development of science and technology in many Muslim countries. Research funding within the national budget of the Muslim world is less than other sectors. Usually military budgets take bigger proportions of the national budgets in many Muslim countries. Whereas developed countries spend 2 percent or more of their gross domestic product (GDP) annually on research, no Muslim country spends more than .50 percent of itsGDP on research. Some of those developed countries even spend 4 percent of their GDP.

If Muslim countries want to cope with their lagging in science and technology, they preferably spend their budget on science and technology more than budget spent by those developed countries. However, they find it difficult to Page | 5

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increase their budget in science and technology because most of the Muslim countries are economically backward. These countries also possess national budgets that are dependent on those developed countries.

4. Less awareness among economic policy makers on the importance of research on science and technology
Most of Muslim countries place emphasis heavily on the economic growth in their national policy. Economists who have less interest on science and technology are instrumental in succeeding the policy of economical growth. In order to boost the economic growth of the respective countries, economists prefer to import and buy ‘ready-to-use technology’ from overseas rather than generate technology within their countries. By doing so, they hope that they will be able to transfer technology easily to their own country but the transfer of technology is not an easy process. Therefore, the development of science and technology in the Muslim countries necessitates the assessment of material resources and human resources available in the respective Muslim countries. In addition, the utilization of both resources requires continuing research projects that examine the characteristics of those resources and formulate the best methods for making use of those resources. The dependence of Muslim countries upon imported experts and scientists cannot be tolerated particularly in the context of developing science and technology and political and economic interest of respective countries. 5. Lack of reliable library, documentation, and information center facilities. Without a doubt, scientific research requires the availability of constant and complete information. Unfortunately, research facilities owned by the Muslim countries are limited. This is one of the main weaknesses that hamper the development of scientific and technological research in the Muslim countries. The number of scientific books is also limited. Most researchers in the Muslim countries have little access to scholarly journals and references, and as a result, do not have
enough materials and sources they need to update the development of scientific fields. If these materials are available, they face a problem of understanding the materials because most of them are written in foreign languages. This also limits their ability to access information on scientific research conducted by other scientists.

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6. Isolated scientists
Another situation that hampers the development of science and technology in the Muslim countries has to do with the isolation of Muslim scientists from global scientific and technological development. They rarely have a strong amount of interaction with their counterparts in the developed countries to conduct joint research, seminars, and publication. In fact, in order to develop their expertise, scientists need to participate in the regional and international seminars, symposium, and workshops. Moreover, they also need to have personal contact with their counterparts in developed countries. No less crucial is the fact that every university in the Muslim countries must have partnership with universities in the developed countries so that the exchanges of experts between universities are possible. However, it is often that financial difficulties become a major barrier to having partnerships with those universities.

7. Bureaucracy, restrictions and lack of incentives
Science and technology can only be developed in the situation in which scientific freedom is guaranteed and restrictions are limited. Complicated bureaucracy only kills the creativity of research centers in the Muslim countries. In addition, a lack of incentive financially and morally is one of major barriers to developing science and technology in Muslim countries. As a result, almost 80 percent of Muslim scientists live in the big cities and one third of them move overseas due to incentives.

These are the problems faced by the Muslim countries. If the Muslim countries want to seriously cope with their lagging in science and technology or if they want to reconstruct Islamic civilization, these problems need to be solved soon. Otherwise, the reconstruction of Islamic civilization only becomes a slogan.

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