Virtual Conference, “Challenges of Higher Islamic Education after Corona,” Decides to Form Joint Committee to Lay Foundations of Distance Higher Education
The World Muslim Communities Council, in partnership with the Association of Islamic Universities, and a number of universities, Islamic colleges, institutions, bodies and relevant quality education agencies on higher education, organized an international scientific virtual conference: "Challenges of Higher Islamic Education after Corona", on Saturday, 11 July 2020, with more than 300 participants and representatives from 50 countries, via ZOOM and social media.
The conference discussed the challenges of the Corona crisis, which represented a new and unprecedented turning point in the history of educational institutions, as these institutions were forced to resort to distance education during the closure period imposed by governments. This created a new reality that will lead the education personnel to reconsider the higher education system in terms of its philosophy, goals, systems, curricula, methods, activities and the world’s need for higher education,in light of the lack of treatment for the virus until this moment. Higher Islamic education is an integral part of this reality, and will be subject to changes that will affect the education systems all around the world.
In his opening speech to the conference, His Excellency Dr. Ali Rashid Al-Nuaimi, Chairman of the World Muslim Communities Council, pointed out the importance of this conference during this special circumstances, which does not target a specific region or sector, but all medical, economic, educational and other sectors. He is stressing the need to exchange experiences, and establishing an open discussion for higher education institutions to meet this challenge.
Al-Nuaimi stated that a faculty member is the most important element in universities, who leads higher education institutions in dealing with the target group, stressing the need to rehabilitate them in Islamic universities to create flexibility that could deal with different circumstances, especially technical one, which is important to enhance distance education. He concluded by calling for the need to identify the common challenges facing us, as well as to put forward some joint initiatives that enhance our joint activity.
His Excellency Dr. Osama Al-Abd, Secretary General of the Association of Islamic Universities, said that the Corona's pandemic is a serious test at all levels. The successful will be the most knowledgeable model that can control the technology of the 21st century, especially in the educational process. He is pointing to the importance of the conference that comes in cooperation between two international organizations concerned with Islamic affairs; the World Muslim Communities Council and the Association of Islamic Universities. He is stressing that the conference examines major implications and challenges of the pandemic, and sets solutions for them, in this exploratory and forward-looking phase for the future of distance education.
Al-Abd added that the conference brings together experts of Islamic university education, calls for interconnection between universities and Islamic societies, asserting that Muslims have a prominent civilized contribution to facing crises, stressing that the time has come to implement the distance learning, and to establish robust and accurate mechanisms among educational parties. He concluded by calling to activate the role of Islamic universities to serve the purposes of progress and prosperity of our societies, not forget the establishment of world peace.
His Excellency Dr. Ishaq Sedr, Minister of Communications and Information Technology in the State of Palestine, said that the virtual conference will devote various efforts to joint cooperation and to fight the Corona crisis. "We have to identify the challenges facing Islamic education, which cast a shadow on various aspects of life" Said Sedr, explaining that pandemic prevented the emotional meeting between the parties of the educational process, so technology was the safe space. "We are seeking to devote information and communications technology to the challenges facing us in Palestine, the Corona pandemic and the occupation pandemic said Sedr, stressing that the infrastructure must be strengthened for the success of the e-learning process.
While His Excellency Prof. Khamisi Hamidi, Assistant Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities in Jordan, said that the Association is involved in major projects, including the classification of Arab universities along the lines of international universities, pointing that a distance education platform has been opened, as well as a common Arab framework for the Arabic language. He is valuing the efforts of the World Muslim Communities Council for for realizing the truth of education, and to give an honorable image of Islam and Muslims around the world, calling for a change in Islamic discourse to fit the requirements of the modern era. "The development does not contradict our human principles and goals, as we are obligated by coexistence with the other. We have a universal human message that respect everyone and open to the other".
His Excellency Professor Dr. Mohamad Jawdat, from Mohammed V University in Abu Dhabi, said that thecurrent circumstances require our working together in order to improve the educational system to keep pace with developments, stressing that the university is not only an area of teaching, training and character formation, but also a place of conscious scientific thinking. He is calling for thinking about joint national and scientific research centers about Islamic studies, to serve our beloved homeland and all humanity, to present a realistic picture of the Islamic culture characterized by tolerance and humanity. He concluded by saying that Mohammed V University in Abu Dhabi, has initiative to establish a pathway for tolerance studies, moderate Islam and others.
For her part, His Excellency Dr. Johansen Eid, Chairman of the National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Education in Egypt, said that the Corona pandemic made us take advantage of information technology and artificial intelligence applications in order to maintain the security and safety of the educational parties, and that the change affected the education and quality assurance bodies, which was forced to digital transformation, by providing speed tools to accomplish the required tasks. She is calling for the dissemination of good practices in education and quality, as well as raising the efficiency of faculty members professionally, and developing mechanisms to address challenges through the transition to interactive education based on ensuring and managing quality, to build a healthy personality through a shared, interactive interaction.
His Excellency Dr. Mohamad Bachari, Secretary-General of the World Muslim Communities Council, said that higher Islamic education is an integral part of the reality of the next (new) education with different challenges and constraints, and the new education has positive, broad and inevitable prospects that allow its spreading and influence, especially in the face of extremism. He is calling to create new legislation must be found in harmony with new education, which is an important response to the historical era, based on the vision of the Council, which emphasizes the pioneering role of the new higher education in building a civilized Muslim subject.
Finally, Professor Dr. Nabil Al-Samalouti, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Conference, said that there are four types of education; traditional, electronic, integrated, and open. There is education and learning, but in the Corona crisis we tended to learn more than education", said Al-Samalouti, calling on students to refer to the accredited sources of knowledge, and accustomed to continuing education by conducting research to gain experiences of creativity and innovation. He is stressing the pursuit of quality in education, and development of educational performance in universities, as the Corona contributed to exaggerating the digital image and necessitated cognitive innovation in all fields.
After that, the participants proceeded to work on several agenda, challenges and criteria for curriculum development; Challenges in developing the skills of the teaching staff; Humanization challenges of teaching Islamic science methods.
The conference answered several questions related to updating educational curricula in terms of topics and areas that are presented; updating the university book in a way that makes it focus on idea, method, skill and critical thinking more than information and subject matter; qualifying university professors and training them on modern educational systems that are applied in social, Humanity and applied science, whether in teaching or evaluation; developing new evaluation systems that depend on measuring mental skills not cognitive achievement; developing global curricula in terms of standards, and local in terms of content and subject matter; developing unified courses in agreed fixed subjects such as: Holy Quran and Sunnah, Creed, Fundamentals of Jurisprudence, Juristic Rules, Reasons for Difference of Jurists, Comparative Jurisprudence, and Language Sciences; how to benefit from pioneering experiences and modern methodologies in social and human sciences in presenting Islamic curricula in a modern way, which combines authenticity and modernity, in addition to providing an international mechanism to train members of the Training Authority in implementing distance education through technological means, and activating the role of international institutions concerned with coordination between universities such as the Association of Islamic Universities and the Federation of Islamic Universities.
After the extensive discussions and research presented, approximately (53) scientific studies, the conference concluded with several recommendations:
1- In order to keep pace with university distance education, and reform curricula in harmony with the requirements of the pandemic, and to ensure that higher education delivers a message of tolerance and coexistence, the conferees decided to form committees and working groups as follows:
A- Forming a joint committee to lay the foundations of distance higher education: (curricula and study plans), to reform the curricula in harmony with the requirements of the pandemic, and to ensure the delivery of a message of tolerance and coexistence.
B- Forming a committee to set quality standards for the new higher education.
C. Forming a study committee for legal and constitutional legislations related to distance higher education.
2- Working to establish a global platform for distance learning in higher education, in which member universities participate to exchange experiences and expertise in this subject, and to produce materials and programs in the field of virtual education to come up with selected and strong programs that allow a review of curricula and programs.
3- Qualifying university professors and administrative frameworks and training them on the new educational systems.
4- Adopting a set of applications for smartphones, as an approved method for distance education, and working to upgrade the curricula in a way that helps in circulating them in those apps.
5- Calling for intensifying coordination between the Association of Islamic Universities, the Association of Arab Universities and other bodies, with the World Muslim Communities Council to serve the future of higher Islamic education in Muslim communities.
6- Returning the campus’s original stature and leadership role in producing graduates who are satiated and aware of the values of tolerance and peace.
At the end of the conference, the participants sent their thanks and gratitude to the United Arab Emirates, its wise leadership, for its continuous efforts in serving humanity, wishing peace and security for it and its people, hoping that Allah would lift Corona from all humanity. They also thanked the World Muslim Communities Council for its constant endeavor to serve the issues of Muslim societies, and to maintain the continuity of communication with thier representatives, as well as thanks the Association of Islamic Universities and the Council for organizing the conference.