Areas of Action
Updated: Apr 11, 2019
The Worldwide Bahá’í Community’s Approach to Social and Economic Development
Prepared by the Office of Social and Economic Development
As described in the foregoing pages, Bahá’í development activities comprise a broad spectrum. They range from simple grassroots efforts of limited duration undertaken by individuals or small groups of friends, to programs of social and economic development with a high level of sophistication implemented by Bahá’í-inspired nongovernmental organizations. These activities represent responses to the needs of the particular community in which they are initiated. They may be related to one or more areas, such as agriculture, education, arts and media, health, the local economy, and the advancement of women. The pages that follow describe a selection of Bahá’í endeavors in these areas of action. The efforts profiled within each area are by no means exhaustive—they merely serve to provide a glimpse into the range and diversity of activities under way within that area. Bahá’í development activities concerned with one of several other aspects of development, such as the environment, language and migration, and the channeling of funds, have not been included here but are no less significant.
The Bahá’í Writings place a special emphasis on the importance of education, describing it as the “primary, the most urgent requirement” for achieving the prosperity of nations. Bahá’u’lláh states: “Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone.” “Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time its darkness,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá adds, “wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance.” He further writes:
“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.”
The response of the Bahá’í community to these principles has been to undertake a wide variety of educational initiatives. Indeed, educational projects have comprised approximately 80 percent of sustained Bahá’í development endeavors in the world. These range in sophistication from informal after-school classes to universities. They include morals classes for children in kindergartens and primary schools, literacy projects for youth and adults, education and training for women and girls, programs aimed at enhancing capacities of young people to promote social well-being, and organizations offering post-secondary education, developing curriculum, or providing teacher training. Hundreds of Bahá’í-inspired academic schools have been established worldwide. Regardless of the form they take, all educational initiatives have as their primary objective the development of capacity in generation after generation to contribute to the betterment of society in meaningful ways. The pages that follow provide a description of several of these initiatives. Further, the section titled “Systematization of Learning” (page 41) profiles three educational programs developed by Bahá’í-inspired organizations that have shown particular promise and have been applied in several countries around the world with suitable conditions.
Selected Academic Schools
The establishment of schools has been a significant feature of Bahá’í experience in the field of development. More than 800 Bahá’í-inspired academic schools have been established worldwide. Over half of these are in Africa, about 200 are in Asia, some 100 are in Australasia, and a few dozen are in the Americas and in Europe. These educational centers exist in a variety of settings and range from simple kindergartens serving tens of children to large schools at elementary and secondary levels offering education to thousands of students. All aim at academic excellence and place special emphasis on service to the community through the application of moral values and spiritual principles, and each strives to meet the particular needs of the society in which it operates. A few examples from various parts of the globe illustrate how the schools are attempting to put these ideals into practice.
Ocean of Light International School
The Ocean of Light International School in Tonga offers pre-tertiary grade levels to some 400 students, with an aim of raising students who not only excel academically but also develop exemplary habits and spiritual qualities channeled toward service to their local communities and society at large. The school’s efforts in this regard have received recognition not only from parents, but also the Minister of Education.
Brilliant Star School
The Brilliant Star School was established in 2011 in the neighborhood of Tabuariki, Solomon Islands, and by 2017 had grown to offer preschool and primary grade education to around 150 children. While continuous efforts are being made to strengthen the capacity of its teachers, the positive response of the population it serves has led to the creation of a new organization focused on contributing to education in the community and surrounding villages.
Townshend International School
In Europe, the Townshend International School in the Czech Republic starts at preschool and goes through secondary school, serving some 140 students. It offers a particular program for students attending grades 7 through 9 that incorporates the study of civics lessons in such areas as health, environment, and justice, with the study of themes related to character development and the planning of service projects.
Nancy Campbell Academy
The Nancy Campbell Academy in Canada, an accredited private international school for boys and girls in grades 7 to 12, fosters academic achievement within a clear moral framework that incorporates 19 specific capabilities.
School of the Nations, Brazil
Located in Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, the School of the Nations, established in 1980, provides academic instruction in English and Portuguese to over 850 students attending nursery through grade 12. Several years ago, it began offering the junior youth program (see page 46) and utilizing other materials, paying particular attention to the implementation of service projects by the students.
Bambino Private Schools
In Lilongwe, Malawi, Bambino Private Schools offers preschool through secondary education to over 700 students. It supplements the academic curriculum with a character development program and activities for service to the community. Among the acts of service that high school students undertake is to implement a moral empowerment program for young adolescents in public schools in the area.
Lycée Enoch Olinga
Lycée Enoch Olinga, established in 2001 in Niamey, Niger, provides preschool through secondary education to around 450 students. Over the years, the school has been considering different ways it can extend its efforts beyond its own student population. In this regard, it has gained experience collaborating with other schools in the city by providing training to their teachers and more recently has begun considering ways in which it can help to establish schools in rural areas of the country where there is little access to formal education.
The Mazin Academy, located in a village in Jogi Moor, Pakistan, provides academic education to some 150 students. The school has gradually impacted various aspects of the community and its culture, bringing for the first time literacy among its women, reducing gambling and fights, which were common practices in the village, and raising a population both eager and capable to contribute to the well-being of the community.
School of the Nations, Macau
The School of the Nations in Macau, which was originally opened in 1988, is offering education to over 600 students from kindergarten to high school level. It has gained widespread recognition in the country for its high standards of academic education, and its character development program has won awards at both the national and international levels. In recent years it has extended its collaboration to other schools in the country, inviting them to explore in practice the application of concepts it has found indispensable to its own efforts.