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Education and the Baha'i Faith

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.”

'Abdu'l-Baha 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.”

A growing number of individuals and communities around the world, inspired by these principles, are undertaking a wide variety of educational initiatives, ranging in complexity from informal after-school tutorials to universities. They include classes for children in kindergartens and primary schools that explore moral principles, 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 programs, developing curricula, or providing teacher training. Additionally, hundreds of Bahá’í-inspired academic schools have been established worldwide. Regardless of the form they take, all such educational endeavors have as their primary objective the release of human potential—assisting generation after generation to cultivate the qualities of heart and mind that can enable them to understand the world around them and contribute to the betterment of society.


One of the fruits of the Bahá’í community’s commitment to education is the development, since the mid-1990s, of a global network of some 330 national and regional training institutes. The training institute is conceived as an educational agency whose purpose is to assist individuals to gain the spiritual insights and practical skills they need to serve their communities. In tens of thousands of localities, groups of people from all walks of life are engaged in a participatory process of study, action, and reflection aimed at enhancing the spiritual life of their communities. The courses of the training institute help the individual enter into the conversation of what the Bahá’í community has learned through experience as it has explored the Bahá’í writings and endeavored to contribute to the progress of society. More crucially, the courses seek to involve the individual in this process of learning and in the generation and diffusion of relevant knowledge.


In most parts of the world, as groups of individuals engage in this educational process and begin to carry out acts of service aimed at the common good, one of the first concerns that emerges is to ensure that children and youth in their communities have access to a sound academic education. Diverse informal initiatives have sprung up, including one-on-one or group tutorial assistance, simple literacy classes, and peer groups for homework help and further study. In a growing number of places, more sustained initiatives that lend further structure to the delivery of tutorial assistance and draw on a variety of interested volunteers in the community have been a natural outcome. Local Bahá’í institutions have also taken steps to collaborate with teachers and educational institutions to collectively work for the well-being of all the young people in a community.


Beyond such informal efforts, the establishment of schools has been a significant feature of Bahá’í experience in the field of development stretching back to the beginnings of the Faith in Iran and evolving in different parts of the world through the years. Further, since the early 2000s, an approach has emerged through the experience of a number of Bahá’í- inspired organizations in Africa working for the promotion of community schools. Given the important role that teachers play in society and how vital their contribution is to the education of the younger generation, teacher training is a theme that runs across all of these formal educational initiatives. The last few decades have also seen a steady accumulation of experience in the area of tertiary education.


Within this wide range of educational endeavors, those aimed at learning to release the potential of young people to contribute to the betterment of society occupy a special place. While they fall within the broader area of education.

Baha'i Education

Promotion of community schools

A significant proportion of Bahá’í-inspired schools in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, have emerged through the assistance of development organizations learning about the promotion of community schools. A pressing concern to which many Bahá’í communities around the world have endeavored to respond has been the extension of academic instruction at the pre-primary and primary school levels where the reach of the national education system is significantly limited. Since the early 2000s, a growing number of Bahá’í-inspired agencies in the aforementioned regions have been working toward the multiplication of community schools in villages and towns (for more information about the history of this program, see p. 83). Presently, the establishment of community schools is being supported by organizations in 22 countries. Collectively, these agencies collaborate with approximately 2,000 teachers in 575 schools reaching up to 43,000 students.


Organic growth of a school

Drawing primarily on locally available resources, community schools often begin with a single class at the preschool level. They expand organically according to circumstances in the locality, gradually adding more teachers and grade levels up until the last year of primary school, and in some cases advancing beyond the primary level.


Ongoing teacher training

At the heart of the work of the organizations promoting community schools is the development of a teacher-training program that helps build the capacity of youth and adults to offer pre-primary and primary academic instruction to children in their communities. These organizations are animated by the vision offered in the Bahá’í teachings of raising up teachers who are “distinguished for their high standards of conduct and general excellence” and are “scholars and educators with a thorough knowledge of sciences and arts.” The approach to teacher training seeks to integrate theory and practice by creating regular opportunities for the teachers to study relevant content and reflect with others on the experience they are gaining in the classroom.


The community as a protagonist

A basic conviction held by the organizations promoting community schools is that local communities can be protagonists in providing for the education of younger generations within their society. In this regard, experience highlights the importance of communities having a sense of ownership around the process of education and support for the establishment of a school. Thus, much of the effort of the organizations is focused on helping communities explore their aspirations for the education of their children as well as supporting them in considering how they can take charge of meeting this imperative. As consciousness is raised around this important responsibility, individuals are identified within their localities who can be entrusted with the education of the younger generations. Once schools are established, community members often demonstrate their commitment to sustaining the schools in a variety of ways beyond the payment of school fees. For instance, individuals have provided food for the students and teachers, contributed land, assisted with the construction of classrooms, and maintained school agricultural plots.


by creating regular opportunities for the teachers to study relevant content and reflect with others on the experience they are gaining in the classroom. The community as a protagonist A basic conviction held by the organizations promoting community schools is that local communities can be protagonists in providing for the education of younger generations within their society. In this regard, experience highlights the importance of communities having a sense of ownership around the process of education and support for the establishment of a school. Thus, much of the effort of the organizations is focused on helping communities explore their aspirations for the education of their children as well as supporting them in considering how they can take charge of meeting this imperative. As consciousness is raised around this important responsibility, individuals are identified within their localities who can be entrusted with the education of the younger generations. Once schools are established, community members often demonstrate their commitment to sustaining the schools in a variety of ways beyond the payment of school fees. For instance, individuals have provided food for the students and teachers, contributed land, assisted with the construction of classrooms, and maintained school agricultural plots.

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