Islamic finance education: Are we building stone houses or setting up tents?

As the world changes, globalization and artificial intelligence will have more of an impact on careers and lifestyles. More than ever, the youth need an education that equips them with the skills they need to thrive in university and in the global workplace of the future.

However, based on my personal experience of teaching Islamic finance courses, education today is becoming more and more an income-generating field where institutions focus on the number of intakes rather than their quality. As a result, we face a drop in the quality of Islamic finance graduates which leads to a weakened industry and employment problems. This apparently creates problems not only for institutions, but for educators and students as well.

According to the latest annual survey of university admissions officers, commissioned by ACS International Schools, the top qualities that universities look for in applicants’ personal statements, in addition to academic qualifications, are (i) a positive attitude toward study, (ii) a passion for the chosen course subject, (iii) an ability to think and work independently, (iv) an ability to persevere and complete tasks, (v) an inquiring mind, (vi) good written English and (vii) confidence with basic maths. This screening process is to ensure the quality of new admitted students.

Therefore, the question arises: are we building stone houses that will stay for centuries or do we care about saving a day and setting up tents? Of course, building a stone house will take great effort, funds and time whereas the tent can be set up in less than half an hour.

To overcome these problems, we urge institutions to have a separate unit responsible for the quality of new intakes such as being able to think and work independently, as well as having good time management and social skills. Universities should strive to develop students’ creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, once said: “The world no longer rewards people for what they know — Google knows everything — but for what they can do with what they know. Global education today needs to be much more about ways of thinking, involving creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making; about ways of working, including communication and collaboration.”

Dr Kamola Bayram is the project director at the International Council of Islamic Finance Educators. She can be contacted at [email protected]