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Article “Educational leadership: an Islamic perspective” by Saeeda Shah (2006) raised important questions about the educational practices associated with Western values ignoring the increase of the multicultural dimensions of educational institutions. The author underlined the existing gap in knowledge about the diversified approaches towards educational leadership, stating that this problem will further gain momentum to keep up with the quick pace of the UK’s societal structures. Despite the fact that the article focused on exploring the Islamic perspective on educational leadership within the context of Great Britain, it can be applied to many other societies that promote ethnocentric educational practices.
As societies expand to include more cultures, religions, and races, the already existing approaches towards education and educational leadership have to adapt to the changes and become inclusive of the diverse communities and practices. Shah (2006) focused on the example of Muslims (at the time of the research there were 1.8 million Muslims in the United Kingdom) because they tend to emphasize their religious identity, which may cause some difficulties with regards to curriculum development, improvement of examination systems, as well as other aspects of educational leadership.
Furthermore, the sphere of education according to the Muslim tradition is tightly intertwined with the study and understanding of a religious text, which implies interplay between academic concepts and religious doctrines. Therefore, the ethnocentric nature of Western societies is greatly challenged by the Islamic view on educational leadership.
On the other hand, the role of education in Islamic tradition implies sharing knowledge with others and extending the role of teachers and educational leaders far beyond the framework of learning institutions. Despite many differences, the role of educational leaders in both Islamic and Western societies implies “the servant leadership for no personal gain” (Shah, 2006, p. 374).
When discussing the diversification of Western educational leadership approaches, it is important to remember that one of the key Islamic ideas is the emphasis on the principles of justice, equality, inclusion, education for all, and diversity – concepts that can enrich the ethnocentric views and bring new values that may gain central significance. The interaction between leaders and their followers in the Islamic religion is a dialogue, a mutual sharing of opinions and arguments before starting the process of decision-making. Similar to this, the proponents of Western ideas and values should engage in a dialogue with the supporters of Muslim ideologies and discuss how the educational leaders can facilitate an inclusive and multi-faceted learning process, which will benefit everyone.
While there are still tensions between the contradicting ideological positions, there should still be some extensive work done concerning the increase of understanding and the facilitation of dialogue. Because the world has far passed the “one-nation country scenario” (Shah, 2006, p. 379), it is crucial for key educational stakeholders to decide how the learning process can be improved in order to include diverse members of the society and make sure that their values and beliefs are respected and protected.
Planning for leading learning improvements in the context of the Islamic perspective can be achieved by enhancing the knowledge and understanding, by teaching students about the different multicultural values and explaining that ethnocentrism is no longer an option in the modern world. Overall, the article shed some light on how educational leadership can enhance the learning process and include a diverse population. The example of the Islamic perspective has shown that ‘foreign’ ideologies can enrich the educational process and offer a fresh perspective on learning.
Shah, S. (2006). Educational leadership: an Islamic perspective. British Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 363-385.