Were there no educator, all souls would remain savage, and were it not for the teacher, the children would be ignorant creatures. `Abdu'l-Baha
Station of the Teacher
The importance and high regard afforded teachers is expressed in several ways in the Bahd'I writings. The teacher is the only non-relative that is to be included in the list of persons to receive inheritance. The teachers have a high station and a high calling. They are to be knowledgable in their subjects taught and in pedagogy, and to be distinguished in character and conduct.
Blessed is that teacher who remaineth faithful to the Covenant of God, and occupieth himself with the education of children. For him hath the Supreme Pen inscribed that reward which is revealed in the Most Holy Book. Blessed, blessed is he!
Teachers and others serve as role models and should be looked to for examples and inspiration.
Encouragement Rather Than Censure
The role of praise and encouragement in teaching is a controversial topic. `Abdu'l-Bahd's guidance on this matter could go far to improving the progress of students in schools, especially those who feel less intelligent.
. If a pupil is told that his intelligence is less than his fellow-pupils, it is a very great drawback and handicap to progress. He must be encouraged to advance. . . .
The child must not be oppressed or censured because it is undeveloped; it must be patiently trained. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace)
… ; very few children are really bad. They do, however, sometimes have complicated personalities and need very wise handling to enable them to grow into normal, moral, happy adults…. Abdu’l-Baha
Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child's character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse. (Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha)
Role of Parents in Education
The responsibility of parents in the education of their children is great. The mother and father are assigned different duties in training their children.
0 maid-servants of the Merciful! It is incumbent upon you to train the children from their earliest babyhood! It is incumbent upon you to beautify their morals! It is incumbent upon you to attend to them under all aspects and circumstances, inasmuch as God glorified and exalted is He! hath ordained mothers to be the primary trainers of children and infants. This is a great and important affair and a high and exalted position, and it is not allowable to slacken therein at all! If thou walkest in this right path, thou wouldst become a real mother to the children, both spiritually and materially. (Tablets of `Abdu'l-Baha)
We need to see education not just as a period of early childhood training, but as a progressive lifetime pursuit that allows children to advance beyond the ability to read and write, so that they can comprehend nuance and conceptual associations within the written word. Such a view sees education as a never-ending process, the goal of which is not be merely to become literate but to become learned.
This is something we can instill in our children by example—by being lifelong learners ourselves, and to demonstrate to our children the joys of learning. To render a good example is the responsibility of both parents; however, the mother is usually the first person the child bonds with, and she therefore has a greater influence over that learning process. The Baha’i teachings make this very clear:
The mother is the first teacher of the child. For children, at the beginning of life, are fresh and tender as a young twig, and can be trained in any fashion you desire. If you rear the child to be straight, he will grow straight, in perfect symmetry. It is clear that the mother is the first teacher and that it is she who establisheth the character and conduct of the child. – Abdu’l-Baha
In the Baha’i Faith, education is extremely important, and the Baha’i Writings explore and honour the noble station of the teacher, particularly in relation to the education of children. It is in this exchange between the learner and the teacher that education takes on meaning. It could be argued that teaching is one of the most noble undertakings of the soul. The opportunity to teach allows one to become intimately aware of how much a soul is affected by learning and to see the soul of another crave for knowledge and seek out beauty. A teacher bears the immense responsibility of enabling a human being, setting them on an eternal quest of inquiry into the nature of things. A teacher has this unique privilege and it must not be underestimated. It is the sacred charge of this profession:
The education and training of children is among the most meritorious acts of humankind and draweth down the grace and favor of the All-Merciful, for education is the indispensable foundation of all human excellence and alloweth man to work his way to the heights of abiding glory.
This education, however, is not only in the learning of languages, sciences and arts, as magnificent and uplifting as this knowledge is to the intellectual and cultural tapestry of our world. These are complementary forms of education and find their greatest merit when coupled with the foundation of all educational undertakings: moral education.
…Bahá’u’lláh considered education as one of the most fundamental factors of a true civilization. This education, however, in order to be adequate and fruitful, should be comprehensive in nature and should take into consideration not only the physical and the intellectual side of man but also his spiritual and ethical aspects.
Abdu’l-Baha states clearly that:
Divine Education is that of the kingdom of God: consists in acquiring divine perfection, and this is true education; for in this state man becomes the focus of divine blessings, the manifestation of the words, ‘let us make man in our image, and after our likeness.’ This is the goal of the world of humanity.
Baha’u’llah states that we should:
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.
This adds another dimension to how teachers should approach their role and their actions towards their pupils. This changes the prevalent view of the student as a cup needing to be filled with knowledge, to a notion of a mine filled with gems that needs to be exploited not for selfish ends but for the progress of all.
A teacher then aims to instill in a child a strong moral identity that is pinned to the desire to become an upright, noble human who seeks to contribute to the betterment of the world. This view also encourages the teacher to continually seek after their own gems while at the same time contributing to the bounty of accompanying children towards the discovery of their own unique endowments.
[…] proper education can help children to broaden their horizons and set their sights on the advancement and glory of their nation. And when their breadth of vision expands even wider, they will undoubtedly come to see the progress of the entire human race and the furtherance of the true interests of all the peoples of the world as a guiding purpose of their lives.
Bahá’ís of Botswana
Bahá’í communities are working together with their neighbours and friends to promote and contribute to the well-being and progress of society. In urban centres and rural villages, in homes and schools, citizens of all backgrounds, classes and ages are participating in a dynamic pattern of life, taking part in activities which are, at once, spiritual, social and educational.
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