Educational and Cultural Cooperation: The Ethical Foundations

Educational and Cultural Cooperation: The Ethical Foundations

The post-cold war era has brought to light a complex of strategic global challenges. Pakistan and China as members of the global community are no exception to it.

Policy Perspectives, Vlm 2, No.1


The post-cold war era has brought to light a complex of strategic global challenges. Pakistan and China as members of the global community are no exception to it. According to some American intellectuals the existing unipolar situation, sooner or later is going to be changed and China as a global emerging economy is expected to assume the role of the other pole. Thanks to its profound historic, cultural and strategic friendship with China and its concern for stability, progress, moderation and peace in the region, policy planning in Pakistan is to be based on a clear and realistic understanding of mutually shared interests and goals of both strategic partners and neighbouring countries.

The scope of this paper is limited to two crucial areas namely education and culture, which the present writer considers perhaps no less important than normally talked about areas such as economy, technology and defence production.

The dilemma of the post-modernist man is not lack of advanced high-tech military hardware and access to nuclear and biological weapons. With his full mastery over the modern technology, the post-modernist man, whether in the East or the West suffers deep in his soul from a lack of sense of direction, purpose and goal of life or loss of normative space. A serious crisis of values, ethical norms and conduct has inflicted a deep sense of insecurity, identity and personality crises, which cannot be resolved alone by economic power or total political control over the developing world by a unipolar imperialist power. It is only education and culture which can fashion and construct a civilized person with deep commitment to norms and values such as humanity, honesty, selflessness, fidelity, justice, moderation, boldness and most importantly a unified personality.

Construction of a mega military hardware production complex can not be a substitute to social construction of reality and development of a truly human and humane society wherein justice, peace, mutuality and security prevails. This is one simple reason for contemporary materially advanced societies for having a high rate of suicide, family violence, and in many situations total loss of the concept of family. Two extreme attitudes follow this situation. A self imposed celibacy on one hand and same gender relation, on the other, continue to violate the basic building block of a society, civilization and culture. This extreme strikes at the very roots of the social existence of man and social construction of reality.

Education and culture remain two sides of a coin. It is education which cultivates norms and values through a process of discovery, study and analysis of facts leading to knowledge of what is truth and reality. It facilitates the social construction of space and time. Education consequently, assumes the most authentic medium for knowledge of the past and for development of strategy for the future.

While imparting knowledge of skills, tactics and strategies, it is education which informs a new generation about its heritage in cultural and civilizational achievements. A cultural tradition while educating and informing a generation about its historical roots and manifestation of its norms and values in concrete traditions and ways of doing things, also creates a natural attachment to traditional ways.

The inherent desire in man for modernity and modernization considers this attachment to traditions a stumbling block in the way of modernity. In the West European scene, the age of enlightenment represents a classic example of this phenomenon. Distancing itself from the immediate past or Catholicism and Church authority, those in search of enlightenment humanism and rationalism, with a desire to move forward and modernize, tried to construct social reality on the building blocks from the Greek rational tradition. Liberating themselves from the dogmatic, mythical and a fossilized religious world view, they tried to build their world view in the light of the Greek rationalist tradition. The age of reason also became the age of substitution of the spiritual with the material and displacement of the holy and divine by the profane and the secular.

This paradigm shift was normative, ethical and moral. It was a triumph of individualism over the normative-social foundation of human existence. The roots of imperialism and capitalism can easily be traced back in this humanism and narcism or a self created approach of the modern man. The post-modernism, at a doctrinal level has further reconfirmed ultimacy of the individual judgment thus it pleads for a situational or relativistic ethics and morality.

The European Capitalist mindset was translated in its educational strategy as a major player in the age of colonialism. Substitution of universal norms and values with utilitarian, ethical relativism and empirical interpretation of social reality became the bench mark of modernity. Modernity and the urge for modernization also lead to concentration of control rather monopoly over the resources for the so-called scientific development, in biological, micro-biological, nuclear, laser and high tech areas. Consequently a scientific imperialism of the west over the rest has become a global phenomenon.

The age of globalization which, perhaps, is a euphemism for global monopoly of the powerful over the economic, political, social and cultural space of others, has once again brought into focus the role of education and culture in sustainable development of humankind.

This new imperialism, in the name of globalization is keen to transform the social space of the so-called developing world, through the more effective weapon of education. It is education which is assigning the role of weapon of mass destruction. Proliferation of the new imperialist culture, values and norms is the target of a call for global educational reform to impose an ‘enlightened moderation’ and alienation from the social-cultural norms of a people.

The separation of norms and values in the name of ‘moral neutrality,’ ‘objective reality’ and ‘scientific facts’ from the educational and cultural strategy has given birth to a post modern mind set in which there is no significance and importance for normative and universal ethical considerations. A techno-culture yearning for technical excellence and devoid of basic norms and ethical values has become a symbol of modernity.

Pakistan and China while entering in the age of global race for technological advancement, must not forget to address themselves to the objective and purpose of technological development. The basic question both nations should face is: can social reality be constructed without integration of values in an infrastructure? Should education and culture be left, in good faith, to marketing of ideas by the media giants like Walt Disney Productions or Time-Warner, the Star TV and Mardouks or an educational and cultural strategy has to be developed which cultivates basic moral and ethical values in the subject matter and methodology of teaching of science and technology as well as in teaching of social and behavioural sciences.

Secularity and moral neutrality, in the final analysis, stands for imperialistic imposition of an un-ethical and value free world view through use of military, economic and media power. It leads to an ‘enlightened imperialism’ and death of plurality. While pluralism in an Islamic context, stands for variety of culture, faith and traditions. While secularity makes sure that all space, except the area occupied by a temple, a church or a sanctuary is fully secularized, plurality allows for concurrent existence of more than one cultural and religious traditions.

The imposition of an economic, social, political and cultural imperialism, in the name of globalization, by the west over the rest calls for strategic thinking in how to promote our norms, values and culture through a realistic, and coherent educational strategy. The virtual existence of the so-called fast-food and Pepsi culture and glamour of the pop music among the youth, should not lead to a tacit control and imprisonment of the soul and mind of the future generations in Pakistan and China. Modern education in microbiology, genetics and nuclear technology should not lead us to a dehumanized society where dignity and honour of man become secondary to technological and material progress.

The common moral and ethical heritage of humanity, the universal ethical values which prepare the way for a moral and just global order, where humans are not considered as commodities, should not be allowed to be diluted, rather annihilated in the name of globalization.

A middle of the path approach founded on a seven fold universal normative paradigm can help us in building moral and just world order with our own identity. First and foremost a normative educational paradigm should lead toward development of a unified personality thus adhering to universal ethical values and not producing dual standards of morality and ethics. In the Islamic tradition this is symbolized by the Qur’anic term tawhid while in the Chinese tradition it is reflected in Tao and in T’Ai Chi the ‘Great Ultimate’ basic principle of universe. It stands for unity in cosmos as well as unity in personal existence of an individual and the social reality.

Unity or unization in personality of an individual means presence of coherence in one’s thinking, feelings and actions. A person with right thinking should also act and take right path. Incoherence between thought and action leads to internal conflict in personality. Education founded on the value of unity or tawhid, consequently, helps in development of social reality with no internal contradictions.

Second universal value is observance and realization of justice, ‘adl, balance, modernization and respect for law in the individual and social realms. Inculcation of this value in education and cultural practices does not allow any room for ‘pre-emptive-strike’ or unlawful occupation of homeland of a people by foreigners in the name of democratization and liberalization. We use this term justice here in its comprehensive meaning of social, economic, cultural, political, religious as well as legal justice. An education or culture which does not inculcate a deep sense of justice in its construction of social reality does not deserve to be called human.

Third vital universal principle relates with protection and promotion of human life. Educational philosophy and content of education should create respect for human life. The Qur’an declares in most clear words ‘whosoever saves a life it is as if has saved the life of all mankind’ (al-Ma’idah 5:32). It also declares that the violating one single life unjustly is violating the life of whole humanity.

Fourth universal value, to filter down through education and culture, is development of an aptitude and attitude of use of reason. In over forty eight places the Qur’an uses the term reason (‘aql) and its derivatives. Similarly, the term knowledge and its derivatives appear in around eight hundred and thirty one places in the Qur’an. These high frequency words register the primacy of value of rational attitude and persuade mankind to act rationally and not otherwise.

Fifth universal foundation of education and culture is respect and recognition for cultural and religious diversity. Acceptance and respect for the religious and cultural freedom of people irrespective of the numerical strength leads to a tolerant and respectful social order. If religion and culture of people, not in a majority, is ridiculed and considered a threat to the western concept of ‘secularity’, the term secularity loses its meaning and become a hard core fundamentalism. The Qur’anic principle in this context remains ‘no compulsion in religion (al-Baqrah 2:256), further ‘your religion for you and our way of life for us’ (al-Kafirun 109:1-6).

Plurality of cultures and co-existence of religious visions then becomes a norm in society. Religious intolerance, the ever-increasing tension between the numerically larger or smaller religious communities dissolves into a tolerant and friendly social space. Recognition and respect for differences in religious perspectives and world views does not have to lead to conflicts as presumed in the capitalist mindset of Samuel Huntington. No religious and cultural majority therefore, should have the privilege to impose its vision on the numerically smaller groups. Education should inculcate this value of co-existence of religions and cultures.

Sixth universal basis of education and culture relates with dignity of man and realization of a moral social order. Science and Technology should not be allowed to violate basic human norms of dignity and identity of mankind. Genealogical roots of humanity should not be allowed to be corrupted in the name of sperm banks and surrogate mothers or human cloning. Education and culture should create respect for purity and sanctity of human gene, ethical and moral human relations and rejection of immorality and sexual deviance.

Last but not the least is the seventh vital norm of respect and safety of property to be introduced through education and culture at a human level. In an age when even nations are made a hostage this value becomes very important for a meaningful future of humankind.

The above seven primary universal values are threatened by the global imperialism project of the unipolar capitalists power. Peace and security of this region is directly linked with its sustainable development while its values are appropriately reflected and nurtured through its education and culture. It is high time for the policy planners to assign high priority to this crucial aspect of our social reality.

The following two ideas are recommended for fostering Sino-Pak relations: I think we should consider seriously having history and culture of China as a part of curricula in Pakistan and history and culture of Pakistan as part of curricula in China so the coming generations have a clear idea about our normative and cultural heritage of this region.

The existing chairs of Urdu languages in Chinese universities should be strengthened. Presently we have a chair in Beijing but need more chairs in China, as well as more Chinese language institutions in Pakistan. That would be the first step towards a better understanding in business, technological development, education and culture.

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