Philosophy of Education in the Eyes of Al-Ghazali, Al-Farabi and John Dewey

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Philosophical Perspectives of Education

The word philosophy came from two Greek words ‘Phileo’ (love) and ‘Sophia’ (wisdom). This is literally means love of wisdom. It tells something about the nature of philosophy at some extent, because many discipline find it from the wisdom. The word Education came from (Latin) educare ‘brings up’, which is related to educere ‘bring out’. This means education is a process by a society intentionally transfer its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to the next.

Therefore, the word of education is the dynamic side of philosophy. Philosophy is the way of thinking about the world and nature of human thought, likewise education reflects closely related to the various aspects of human life and environment. Therefore, the philosophy of education is the branches of philosophy that address philosophical questions concerning the nature, aims and problems of education. As the branches such as Metaphysics, Epistemology and Axiology philosophy, and its practitioners look both inward to the parent discipline of philosophy and out ward to educational practice as well as to developmental psychology, cognitive science, sociology and other relevant discipline.

According to John Dewey philosophy of education is pragmatism. He applied the pragmatist philosophy in his progressive approach. He believed that education was ‘a crucial ingredient in social and moral development. He also beliefs that philosophy about education and learning have impacted countless educators over the years and are woven throughout learning theories such as progressive education, constructivism and etc. In his theoretical perspectives of education considered to be a ‘process of living and not a preparation for future living. According to Al-Ghazali philosophy of education on the basis of his personal experience which is idealism. His views lie on mainly in the knowledge of the glorious creator. This approach is very similar to Plato philosophy. He utilized his own involvement and identified the reasons, which is called the sixth sense, as it can lead to truth. He indicated that human mind is clean slate and the teacher can change it with the progression of time. According to Al-Farabi’s philosophical education is one of the vital social phenomena. He explored that the human soul and ensure the individual is being prepared from an early age to become a beneficial member of the society.

In order to understand the philosophical perspectives of education, this research paper aims to analyse and compare the three reviewed articles of philosophers’ perspectives on educational opinion by using both the theoretical and practical aspects.

Al Ghazali philosophical perspectives of education

Al Ghazali was born in 1058 A.D in Ghazala near Tus. People used to call him Ghazali, as he was born at Gazala. The early education he completed in Tus. His father was died when he was at an early young age. He had the opportunity of getting education in Nishapur to acquire learning high standard in religion and philosophy. He lectured approximately 300 students every year and contributed in Islamic debates and his name famed within short period of time.


Al-Ghazali was one of the first original thinkers in the historical backdrop of Muslim philosopher as well as ever history of human thought. He has been some of the time acclaimed in both East and West has the best religious specialist of Islam after the Prophet Mohammad (Peace arrive) and is by no means, receive of this respect. He gave sane premise to the Islamic convictions and incorporated Sufism and individual convictions, to give an all-encompassing picture of Islam in rejoining Muslims of the world. Within Islamic civilization he is viewed as a Mujaddid or renewer of the confidence, who, as indicated by convention, shows up once consistently to reinstate the faith of the community.

Education philosophy

Al-Ghazali philosophy of education based on his own involvement. His philosophy is similar to the Plato philosophy. He had identified the reason, which he calls the sixth sense, as which can lead to truth. As he indicated that the relation to the fitrah of human beings where they are neither good nor bad yet they have more potential toward the previous than the latter. The human minds are pure clean in the birth and the behaviour can be changed by the influence of their interaction with the society and environment.

The importance of knowledge

Al-Ghazali described the knowledge, as way of learning which brings human closer to God and also enhances worldly respect, status of the individual, sense of pride and takes him to higher position. He has categorized the knowledge in to two types which are useful and un-useful knowledge. The useful knowledge divided in to two which are Farzi-i-Ain (compulsory knowledge), is a must for all Muslims as it contains the knowledge of Islam. Far-i-Kifaya (optional Knowledge) is depends on the will of the person. However, the useless knowledge also includes information which is an undesirable effect as it could hurt others. For instance, if it harms to someone like enchantment, if the possibility factor is included like Astrology.

Therefore, the Prophet (SAW) said: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim”. In Islam, the quest for knowledge does not only implies a physical, emotional and mental commitment however more significantly it also includes the spiritual commitment where it is considered as ibédah, for what it’s worth to try to know the Ultimate Truth.

Aims of Education

His aim of education was the development of character which includes the promotion of moral and ethical qualities such as obedience, humanity and severe dislike of bad habit like pride, love of riches and lying implies, total surrender to the desire of God, dependence on God and gratefulness to him. It encapsulates the aim of education should be character building of the individual so that it can differentiate good and evil and avoid the evil path. In Islamic education is the place it provides for the Holy Quraan and Hadith. The Holy Quraan is the complete and final disclosure with the goal as it adequate man’s guidance and salvation and there is no other knowledge aside from dependent on it and indicating to it that can guide and save man. According to Al-Ghazali the true knowledge is a knowledge of God.


According to Al-Ghazali, curriculum could be implemented by using religion in the process of teaching and learning. He suggested that the children should start attending school at the age of 6 years. At this stage, their education should focus on Quranic studies, for example, perusing and remembering the Al-Quran and retaining the Hadiths as well as developing up their literacy skills. Other than that instilling of moral values is also being implemented. At the age of 15-17 years old children should be taught the religious and natural sciences. He underlined the significance of children obtain mastery of the religious science and prior to the natural sciences with the goal that they will know about the religious necessities upon them and that their lives will be guided by the Islamic principles.

Al-Farabi’s Philosophical perspectives of education

Al-Farabi was born in 870 AD in a noble family of Farab in Turkestan. His father was a Persian at the Turkish court. He was moved and settled in Baghdad for his study, where first he studied grammar, logic, music, philosophy, mathematics and science. Further he got an opportunity to learn from the Greek philosopher Abu Bishr Matta b.Yunus. After that he studied under Yuhanna b. Haylan and in one of the Alexandarian School of philosophy in Harran. He was an exploring mindset that helped him to write on various branches of science and philosophy. He was a well-known and an extraordinary linguist. He used to read and translated Aristotle commentaries. It was because of his work Platonic thoughts were incorporated in Islam. He was known as the ‘Second Teacher’.

Concept of reality

According to Al-Farabi metaphysics views combined to the Aristole and Plato thoughts and focused on three basic concepts; God, the emanation and beings and the internal structure of beings. He continuously endeavored to understand the intellectual framework of the world and society. He needed to reinstate unity in politics and looking for guidance from Islam. The epistemological views also relate to Plato and Aristotelian concepts and dimensions where he divided ‘aql’ (intellect or reason) into six main categories to explain the different meanings of the word ‘aql’ and thus his epistemology relying upon universal reason and the demonstrations.


Al-Farabi’s philosophy and religion were two articulations of a single truth. It is neither in conflicts nor in inconsistency with religion. The reason he unites the philosophy of Plato and Aristole to describe the unity of intellect. In his view the Plato and Aristole ideas and the divergence are in details. He introduced logic within Islamic culture, and this is the reason he is known as the second teacher. He likewise endeavored to reinstate unity in political and political science basing on the arrangement of rules which represented nature and on the Qur’an which emphasized the connection among gnoseology and qualities (axiology)

Aims of education

According to Al Farabi’s view, one of the goal of education is to make an ideal community. This native of the community cooperates in achieving happiness for all. The theoretical and practical perfection can be obtained by living in a society, as it builds up the people and gives them freedom live. In his view education is a process to create ideal society by sustaining and preparing individual towards achieving perfection and opportunity given on covering broader areas. Therefore, the aim of education is to guide the individual towards perfection by acquisition of knowledge, skills and values for happier life. He also stated that, it’s important by preparing a political leader is one of the aims of education. As by preparing the perfect human being is the one who has theoretical virtue, intellectual knowledge and practical moral and aesthetic values makes the person gain with effective power in the community and assume as a responsibility of political leadership. Finally, he becomes a role models for the rest of the society.

Curriculum, method of teaching and teacher competencies and evaluation

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Alfaribi’s view of curriculum must be implemented by using language. Because the children’s’ may express themselves like the people who speak that language. Without this capability, the children will not able to understand people and themselves. Therefore, the learning starting should be arranged with the language, then logic, seven forms of mathematics, natural and human sciences, jurisprudence and academic theology.

He prescribes the method of teaching should be including persuasive and instructional strategies for common people while for elites, he recommends demonstration method. For educating the people, virtuous people shall be employed and trained them in the logical arts. The teacher should have a sound character, intellectual competence and demonstration skill as a basic components of effective teaching. Finally, the evaluation can be measured by using various instruments used to test learning and knowledge. The capacity for deductive and critical thinking understands the relationship between parts of the information being delivered and arrive at the understanding of whole.

John Dewey Philosophical Perspectives of Education

He was born in 1859 in Burlington. He grew up in a family that was dynamic in the social community in Vermont, and in the democratic vision of the political community. He was a well-known influential philosopher who impact on education to date.

Philosophical Perspective

He was a pragmatist, progressivist, educator, philosopher and social reformer. He strongly believed that individual have an obligation to make the world better place to live in through education and social reforms. He also beliefs that Education was “a crucial ingredient in social and moral development.” In his theoretical perspectives of traditional education was described as beyond the scope of young learners. Compare to his traditional classroom setting his progressive education describes that the students learn better by engaging in social setting. This mean the school and classroom should be representative where they could flexibly learn and participate each other in a variety of social settings. According to Dewey social learning theory is still exist for today’s classroom where students are given opportunity to learn rather than teacher imposed knowledge and teacher directed activities.

Main arguments in the evidence of 21st century

According to Slaughter 2009 stated, some of John Dewey ideas and philosophies look very different, are being used to promote student engagement in classrooms through the use of technology in today’s world. Through the use of technological tools such as Drive, Google classroom, instant messaging makes it flexible for teachers can instruct students more effectively and disperse the information and academic content to meet the social needs of the students through technology. Therefore, it was an evident that Dewey social learning theory exist in these classroom.

Responsive Classroom

According to Taylor 2005 states, one teaching approach that burdens the significance of building a community of students and shows proof of Dewey’s theories in the 21st century is the Responsive Classroom curriculum. This approach is focuses on the strong connection between academic achievement and social-emotional learning to teach K-8 grades. Many of John Dewey theories and ideas are included in responsive classroom in a specific recommendation and strategies used such as morning meeting methods, energizers, closing circles and discipline handling. These methods allow for how a teacher can establish in classroom community that will allow students to thrive socially and academically. Therefore, teachers who presently use the responsive teaching methods are showing evidence of John Dewey’s theory in 21st century classrooms.

Furthermore, the additional models such as Montessori, place based education and philosophy for children, all of which are incorporate the theories of John Dewey into their curricular concepts. According to Dewey’s believed that traditional school were uninspiring institution. Similar to him Maria Montessori viewed traditional schools as boring and repetitious institutions that lacks student creativity. Moreover, she stated that the traditional schools heavily relied on reward and punishment scheme in order to force children to pay attention in the classroom. She believed that maybe an approach that focused on their interest of the students would be increasingly effective.

However, authors like Schiro (2013), Peng & Md.Yunus (2014) suggested educators who support learner- centered approach make interests of the children attending the school as their primary focus, not the interests of educators or politicians. Moreover, design the classroom is an environment that encourages physical activity and the freedom to choose learning activities, to allow for a more student-centered approach rather than traditional classrooms. Today there were 3000 Montessori school around the world are evidence that allows young children to engage in playful learning, by using traditional pedagogical methods that are often used with young children in classrooms today. The ideologies of John Dewey are present in place-based education, means that students effectively build relationships with each other, which shows evidence of Dewey’s social learning theory. Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an innovative teaching method that was designed by American philosopher Matthew Lipman in the 1990. According to Lim 2006 stated P4C ‘creates a culture of critical thinking, inquiry and open-minded discussion’ in classroom in the 21st century. Hopkinson, 2007 stated that students learn and take on appropriate social behaviour by becoming engaged and reflective listeners, who respect and challenge the different opinions of their peers. This is a skill which is related to certainly significance to the goal of appropriate social learning in an ideal classroom presented by John Dewey.

Analysis of Al-Ghazali’s, Al Farabi’s and John Dewey philosophical views of education

Both Al-Gazali’s and Al-Farabi’s are indeed of Islamic philosophers. Al-Ghazali’s philosophy of education focused on the high point of Islamic thinking on education, where his tendency towards reconciliation and the combination of different intellectual schools is evident. He accomplishes synthesis of legal, philosophical and enchanted educational thinking. According to him the reason for society is to apply shari’a and the goal of man is to accomplish happiness close to God.

Whereas Al-Farabi view, the goal of education is to create a social phenomenon. He deals with the human soul and ensures that the individual is being prepared from an early age to become an important member of the society. Indeed, Al-Farabi’s view, education can be described as the acquisition of values, knowledge and practical skills in a particular period and culture. The existence of humanity in this world is to gain happiness which is the absolute good and also the highest perfection.

In contrast Al-Ghazali described knowledge as “a way which leads to the hereafter and its happiness, and the only means whereby we come close to God. He says that the family teaches the children its language, customs and religious traditions, and cannot be escaped. Therefore, the main responsibility for children’s education falls on the parents firstly. He suggested that the children should start attending school at the age of 6 years. At this stage, their education should focus on Quranic studies. When the children obtain mastery of the religious science and prior to the natural sciences will know about the religious necessities upon them and that their lives will be guided by the Islamic principles. Whereas Al-Faribi’s stated that learning starting take place firstly by teaching language. Because the children’s’ may express themselves like the people who speak that language. Without this capability, the children will not able to understand people and themselves. Therefore, the learning starting should be arranged with the language, then logic, seven forms of mathematics, natural and human sciences, jurisprudence and academic theology. He stated that the teacher should have a sound character, intellectual competence and demonstration skill as a basic components of effective teaching. However, reflection on Al-Ghazali’s conception of education undoubtedly shows the entrenchment of religion as the fundamental basis in the pursuit of knowledge. He also placed knowledge and its whole entirety at the highest point in the life of a Muslim. It clearly accentuated his conviction that “clear understanding and clear intellect are the highest attributes of man, because through the intellect the responsibility of God’s trust is accepted, and through it man can enjoy the neighbourhood of God.”

A close look at the systems of education as proposed by both scholars clearly shows the interconnectedness between the process of teaching and learning to that of religious principles where holistic development of individuals becomes the main focus. Both of them emphasized the importance of providing religious guidelines to the learners since tender age due to the ‘natural disposition’ of human beings.

In contrast, according to John Dewey’s philosophy of educational perspectives are different. He was one of the most influential philosopher, pragmatist, progressivist and a social reformer. He stated that the aim of education should be develop by using social efficiency. In his view the school should be organized in such a way that the activities of the outer world are reflected. In his view the main purpose of education should not revolve around the acquisition of a pre-determined set of skills, but rather the realization of one’s full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good. Moreover, to help students to realise their full potential Dewey acknowledge the schooling and education are instrumental creating social change and reform. He stated that, students learn better by engaging in social setting. Dewey argues that in order for education to be most effective, and the content must be presented in a way that allows the student to link the information to prior experience, thus depending on the connection with the new knowledge. He also stated that learning takes place step by step. As people to find process that work in order to achieve their desire goal.

In my view, the three reviewed philosopher perspectives of education are important. Because each of philosopher views on education helps to understand the fundamental aspects of educational process and identify the conflicts and contraindication in any theory.


In conclusion Al-Ghazali and Al-Farabi are two Muslim philosophers who displayed exceptional scholarly attitude during their path of living. They become a good example for the rest of the Muslim. Both scholars identified the origin of knowledge and the reconciliation between religion and philosophy of education. These scholars are excellent epitome of the spirit of intellectual pursuit of knowledge as aspired by the Islamic epistemology. However, John Dewey’s has been perhaps the most influential philosopher to impact education to date. According to the finding evidence of John Dewey’s theories and beliefs relating to education in 21st century classrooms, is shown by the various teaching models exist presently. In many schools and classrooms are still placing an emphasize on the importance and relevance of building community, building strong relationships, developing higher level thinking for real life application and following students interest are significant part in the society.

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