Achieving Academic and Moral Education

Browsing through the major news outlets, you would face with the bizarre picture of the fact that in many parts of the world, civil society suffers because of conflicts, corruption and lack of pace. It is an inevitable relativity to recognize the crucial role of education in contributing to building a culture of peace and condemning instances.

A culture of peace and non-violence goes to the substance of fundamental human rights: social justice, democracy, literacy, respect and dignity for all, international solidarity, respect for rights and moral values. And, it is well known fact that education is a key tool in combating poverty, in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, democracy, and cultural diversity.[1]

There is no question on the fact that, providing education in the most needed sections of the world is urgently needed to prepare much needed peaceful venue.  Will the international community commit the necessary economic, human, and political resources? The main challenge is not financially oriented but rather on the leadership side. The challenge is to have people to dedicate themselves on this cause which is  inspiring and formidable  and far more likely to enrich and improve life on earth.  And, this is what  Gülen inspired schools achieved so far.  Fethullah Gülen emphasizes the significance of educating younger generations with the idea of peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding. The educational perspective of Gülen is the illumination of the mind to science and knowledge, and the lighting of the heart in faith and virtue. And, according to Gulen,  it  can be accomplished though teachers who are committed to devoting their lives, time and knowledge to teach the younger generations in these educational institutions. There are currently more than 1000 Gülen inspired schools in more than 110 countries around the world. In the European countries, there are at least a dozen Gülen inspired schools, and more than 150 smaller educational and cultural centers.  Having an exceptional track of success in the different section of the world, Gülen schools have been perceived to be elite schools around the globe. Most of these outstanding schools are private schools where students have been selected on the basis of academic performance.  The students in the schools tend to score high in different national and international competitions.  The schools generally follow the curriculum of the host country, combined with some elements from the Turkish curriculum and the curriculum in other countries.  In these schools majority of the subjects have been taught through English, and on secondary level, education is also given through Turkish. In order to bring the students’ academic skills to the international standards, the schools weekly hours is generally longer than in the state schools.

With regard to the teaching of religion, the Gülen schools generally follow the policy and curriculum of the host country.  In terms of teaching of religion as a subject, the Gülen schools cannot be placed within any one of the traditional models, because they generally follow the curriculum of the host country. Therefore, in some Gülen schools religion is taught according to the multi-denominationalist model. In the Gülen schools in Albania are remarkable example of this approach, the schools follow the non-denominationalist model; religion is not taught as a separate subject at all.  There is no significant difference in terms of how religion is taught as a subject in the private Gülen schools, and the state schools. Rather than teaching religion, the Gülen schools stress the transmitting of ethical and moral values. As the discourse has developed over the years, partly as a result of global developments and the movement’s own involvement in this world-wide education project, Islamic values have been reinterpreted as universal values.  And these great values are the ones that Muslims, Christians and Jews have in common.  There are more common points that unite the various religions of the world, than what separates them, he argued, reiterating a point often made by Fethullah Gülen himself.  Rather than advocating one religion in particular, the Gulen inspired schools place value on faith in itself. Gülen regards both morality and identity as founded in religion. The students in Gulen inspired schools are therefore encouraged to hold on to their faith, of whatever denomination they may be.

Some parents may be suspicious that as these schools are run by a faith-based movement, they may have a missionary program where they actively try to convert their students to Islam. Rather than attempting to convert students to Islam, teachers and managers generally attempt to reinforce the religion of the student, whatever that religion may be. Gülen movement emphasizes the common values that different religions share, and Gülen schools’ commitment to religious tolerance is genuine. And this excellent approach can be seen as praiseworthy in the most of the countries.

This remarkable educational approach to religion in the Gülen schools can be understood partly within the concept of multi-denominationalism, with elements of what has been referred to here as the radical approach, namely the connecting value system. [2]



[2]The Gülen schools: A perfect compromise or compromising perfectly?

By Anne Solberg

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