WEDNESDAY was the International day of Educationn celebrating the role of education in peace and development.
To quote United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Audrey Azoulay, the occasion calls for all of us to play a role in making the right to education a reality for all.
It is our responsibility to future generations, she said.
As a responsible institution of higher learning of international reach, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) actively supports the event to ‘position education and the learning it enables as humanity’s greatest renewable resource and reaffirms the role of education as a fundamental right and public good.
It will celebrate the many ways learning can empower people, preserve the planet, build shared prosperity and foster peace’.
In so doing, IIUM has acted on several initiatives to move the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in decisive ways by using the Whole Institution Transformation (WIT) approach.
It is based on a comprehensive 2019-2020 roadmap,to transform the current mechanical approach and structure institution-wide.
This will promote education for sustainable development within the context of IIUM, and also Malaysia where the nexus of people, planet, prosperity and peace (4Ps) is deemed critical.
This is where Learning to Become (LTB) is most relevant.
The WIT approach embraces both the IIUM philosophy and the National Education Philosophy (Falsafah Pendidikan Negara), while realigning them with Unesco’s four pillars of learning for the 21st century.
With LTB, it creates a holistic curriculum, blended with local and global dimensions to provide a well-defined ‘glocal’ framework (thinking global and acting local) that is uniquely IIUM in character and substance.
The IIUM stance is distinctively ‘human-centric’ in its strategic intent and direction.
This is facilitated through universal (Islamic) wisdom and perspectives based on the Quintuple Helix Model, which is values-based rather than business as usual.
This is successfully cascaded down IIUM-wide via 29 flagship programmes, covering all the 17 SDGs, with emphasis on SDG4 (Quality and Inclusive Education).
Needless to say, they are fairly distributed throughout the university involving all sectors - academics, administrators and students, including the local and indigenous communities around the university.
This synergy is refreshing for co-learning and co-creating to inculcate sharing between the two communities that share common values and concepts, but apply them differently in their translation.
In this sense, sustainable development can be traced back to the various cultures, including the early days of Islam some 1,500 years ago.
To date, the impact and outcomes of WIT to IIUM are very encouraging. They can be categorised into five aspects:
BREAKINGdown of academic/administrative silos in transformational ways;
BUILDING of voluntary ‘teams’ and ‘teamwork’ across the academic/administrative structures based on shared aspirations and interests in meeting the overarching SDGs of 4Ps plus partnership;
ALLOWING for greater creativity, mobility and (social) innovation in translating SDGs within local context and relevance for problem-finding and problem-solving;
ENHANCING community engagement in co-problem-solving based on the 17 goals and beyond (that is, whenever the local worldviews are not met); and,
CAPTURING new combinations of data and information from the various flagships, and transforming them into ‘new’ (decolonised) knowledge and wisdom over time. Some of them illustrate well the four pillars of learning with LTB added on holistically to achieve the ‘human-centric’.
Ultimately, all these aspects will be further analysed and articulated into academic programmes and platforms that will embed SDGs as part of the on going knowledge change and advancement in line with IIUM’s mission towards a just and sustainable future for humanity.
With these in mind, the current effort proves to be exciting, by expanding the existing body of knowledge, especially in areas where there are still gaps to be closed.
In particular, it points to ‘spirituality’ and ‘spiritual knowledge’ from a faith-based perspective that is relevant to IIUM, if not the myriads of faith-based institutions globally.
Understanding this from the LTB viewpoint will bring many more active learners on board through not only heightened level of awareness, but also the broadening of the educational vista worldwide.
For example, a ‘new’ SDG (SDG 18 - Spirituality and Spiritual Knowledge) could be envisaged to complement the current framework in order to better realise LTB.
The work and synergies unleashed in IIUM have been phenomenal, meaning that if SDGs are appropriately pursued, the outcome of saving humanity as the key thrust to project a conscious global community (read LTB) can be realised.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times