Education - of Children

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children, and promotion of the various sciences, crafts and arts. Praised be God, ye are now exerting strenuous efforts toward this end. The more ye persevere in this most important task, the more will ye witness the confirmations of God, to such a degree that ye yourselves will be astonished. This verily is a matter beyond all doubt, a pledge that shall certainly be redeemed.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 276)

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children, young plants of the Abhá Paradise, so that these children, fostered by grace in the way of salvation, growing like pearls of divine bounty in the shell of education, will one day bejewel the crown of abiding glory. It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All-Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 133-134)

Among these children many blessed souls will arise, if they be trained according to the Bahá’í Teachings. If a plant is carefully nurtured by a gardener, it will become good, and produce better fruit. These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction. They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement. Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer. Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects. The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. Even so in godlike affairs. Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73)

And when the child hath reached the age where he can make distinctions, let him be placed in a Bahá’í school, in which at the beginning the Holy Texts are recited and religious concepts are taught. At this school the child is to study reading and writing as well as some fundamentals of the various branches of knowledge, such as can be learned by children.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

As part of the education of children and youth, they should learn that it is important for them to tell any responsible older person when someone has done something that feels wrong or frightens them, that such telling is not tattling, backbiting or gossiping, and that they have a right to be protected from the misbehavior of others. Children and youth should be enabled to initiate intervention for their own protection and should feel that they are surrounded by a loving and caring Bahá’í community. At the same time, and not in such manner as might deter a child or youth from making a valid report, they must understand the serious consequences of making a false report. This, like so much else on the issue of child abuse, requires careful and delicate consideration.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 138.)

At the start the teacher must place a pen in the child’s hand, arrange the children in groups, and instruct each group according to its capacity. When the children have, in a given place, been seated in rows, and each holdeth a pen, and each hath a paper before him, and the teacher hath suspended a blackboard in front of the children, let him write thereon with his chalk and have the children copy what he hath written. For example, let the teacher write an alif (a) and say, “This is an alif.” Let the children then copy it and repeat: “This is an alif.” And so on, till the end of the alphabet. As soon as they properly recognize the letters, let the teacher make combinations of the letters, while the children follow his lead, writing the combinations on their paper, until, by this method, they come to recognize all the letters, singly and combined in words. Let the teacher then proceed to writing sentences, while the children copy what he hath written, each on his own sheet of paper. Let the teacher then explain the meaning of the sentence to the children. And once they have become skilled in the Persian tongue, let the teacher first translate and write out single words and ask the students the meaning of those words. If a pupil hath grasped a little of this, and hath translated the word, let the teacher praise him; if all the students are unable to accomplish this, let the teacher write the foreign language translation beneath the given word. For example, let him write sama (heaven) in Arabic, and ask: “How do we say this in Persian?” If one of the children replieth, “The Persian translation of this word is asiman", let the teacher praise and encourage him. If they are unable to answer, let the teacher himself give the translation and write it down, and let the children copy it. Later, let the teacher ask: “How do they say this in Russian, or French, or Turkish?” If they know the answer, excellent. If not, let the teacher say, “In Russian, or French, the translation is thus and so", write the word on the board, and have the children copy it down. When the children have become skilled in translating single words, let the teacher combine the words into a sentence, write this on the board and ask the children to translate it. If they are unable, let the teacher himself translate the sentence and write down the translation. It would of course be preferable for him to make use of several languages. In this way, over a short period—that is, three years- -the children will, as a result of writing the words down, become fully proficient in a number of languages, and will be able to translate a passage from one language to another. Once they have become skilled in these fundamentals, let them go on to learning the elements of the other branches of knowledge, and once they have completed this study, let each one who is able and hath a keen desire for it, enroll in higher institutions of learning and study advanced courses in the sciences and arts.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. An all-embracing love of children, the manner of treating them, the quality of the attention shown them, the spirit of adult behavior toward them--these are all among the vital aspects of the requisite attitude. Love demands discipline, the courage to accustom children to hardship, not to indulge their whims or leave them entirely to their own devices. An atmosphere needs to be maintained in which children feel that they belong to the community and share in its purpose. They must lovingly but insistently be guided to live up to Bahá’í standards, to study and teach the Cause in ways that are suited to their circumstances.
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, Ridván 2000)

Children should be trained to understand the spiritual significance of the gatherings of the followers of the Blessed Beauty, and to appreciate the honour and bounty of being able to take part in them, whatever their outward form may be.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

Every day at first light, ye gather the Bahá’í children together and teach them the communes and prayers. This is a most praiseworthy act, and bringeth joy to the children’s hearts: that they should, at every morn, turn their faces toward the Kingdom and make mention of the Lord and praise His Name, and in the sweetest of voices, chant and recite.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, )

From the age of five their formal education must begin. That is, during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers, and should learn good conduct. Here they should be taught, in play, some letters and words and a little reading—as is done in certain countries where they fashion letters and words out of sweets and give them to the child. For example, they make an ‘a’ out of candy and say its name is ‘a‘, or make a candy ‘b’ and call it ‘b‘, and so on with the rest of the alphabet, giving these to the young child. In this way children will soon learn their letters.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40)

From the very beginning, the children must receive divine education and must continually be reminded to remember their God. Let the love of God pervade their inmost being, commingled with their mother’s milk.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, )

He is very glad to know that you attach importance to the training of the children, for whatever they learn in that early stage of their development will leave its traces upon their whole life. It becomes part of their nature.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

He must study every day from morning till noon, so that he may learn how to read and write. From noon till about sunset he should acquire a craft. The children must both learn to read and acquire an art or skill.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

I give you my advice, and it is this: Train these children with divine exhortations. From their childhood instill in their hearts the love of God so they may manifest in their lives the fear of God and have confidence in the bestowals of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 53)

In a time to come, morals will degenerate to an extreme degree. It is essential that children be reared in the Bahá’í way, that they may find happiness both in this world and the next. If not, they shall be beset by sorrows and troubles, for human happiness is founded upon spiritual behaviour.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 127)

In our letter to you of 24 November 2009, we addressed the subject of the family and its
role in the advancement of civilization, drawing attention to the need to rear children that
see their own welfare as inseparable from the welfare of others. While stressing the
importance of family solidarity, particularly as it pertains to social progress, we called for
caution in this respect, lest devotion to family interests diminish one’s commitment to justice and compassion for all or provide an excuse for perpetuating a harmful mentality of “us and them”. Many, indeed, are the ways in which the family can contribute to the life of society— for example, as an economic unit it can play a significant part in alleviating a variety of problems born of the economic inequalities so prevalent in the world today.
(Universal House of Justice, [Authorized Translation from Persian], 2 April 2010, to the Believers in the Cradle of the Faith)

In this New Cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord. This is a sin unpardonable, for they have made that poor babe a wanderer in the Sahara of ignorance, unfortunate and tormented; to remain during a lifetime a captive of ignorance and pride, negligent and without discernment. Verily, if that babe depart from this world at the age of infancy, it is sweeter and better. In this sense, death is better than life; deprivation than salvation; non-existence lovelier than existence; the grave better than the palace; and the narrow, dingy tomb better than the spacious, regal home; for in the sight of mankind that child is abased and degraded and in the sight of God weak and defective. In gatherings it is ashamed and humiliated and in the arena of examination subdued and defeated by young and old. What a mistake is this! What an everlasting humiliation!
Therefore, the beloved of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful must train their children with life and heart and teach them in the school of virtue and perfection. They must not be lax in this matter; they must not be inefficient. Truly, if a babe did not live at all it were better than to let it grow ignorant, for that innocent babe, in later life, would become afflicted with innumerable defects, responsible to and questioned by God, reproached and rejected by the people. What a sin this would be and what an omission!
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)

It is extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed. By then, as experience hath shown, even if every effort be exerted to modify some tendency of his, it all availeth nothing. He may, perhaps improve somewhat today; but let a few days pass and he forgetteth, and turneth backward to his habitual condition and accustomed ways. Therefore it is in early childhood that a firm foundation must be laid. While the branch is green and tender it can easily be made straight. Our meaning is that qualities of the spirit are the basic and Divine foundation, and adorn the true essence of man; and knowledge is the cause of human progress. The beloved of God must attach great importance to this matter, and carry it forward with enthusiasm and zeal.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 24-25)

It is incumbent upon Bahá’í children to surpass other children in the acquisition of sciences and arts, for they have been cradled in the grace of God. Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá’í children learn in a month.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 140)

It is incumbent upon to train the children from their earliest babyhood!... It is incumbent upon you to attend to them under all aspects and circumstances, inasmuch as God-glorified and exalted is He!-hath ordained mothers to be the primary trainers of children and infants. This is a great and important affair and a high and exalted position, and it is not allowable to slacken therein at all!”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 606)

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are hard to understand and obey at first. But we must always think that these things are given to all men for a thousand years to come. For Bahá’í children who see these things practiced in the home, they will be as natural and necessary a thing as going to church on Sunday was to the more pious generation of Christians.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

It should also be realized that a child, from early life, is a conscious and thinking soul, a member of his family with his own duties towards it, and is able to make his own sacrifices for the Faith in many ways. It is suggested that the children should be made to feel that they are given the privilege and opportunity of participating in the decisions as to the services their parents are able to offer, thus making their own conscious decision to accept those services with consequence for their own lives. Indeed, the children can be led to realize that it is the earnest wish of their parents to undertake such services with their children’s whole-hearted support.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 231-232)

Not all, however, will be able to engage in these advanced studies. Therefore, such children must be sent to industrial schools where they can also acquire technical skills, and once the child becomes proficient in such a skill, then let consideration be given to the child’s own preference and inclinations. If a child hath a liking for commerce, then let him choose commerce; if industry, then industry; if for higher education, then the advancement of knowledge; if for some other of the responsibilities of humankind, then that. Let him be placed in the field for which he hath an inclination, a desire, and a talent.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

O thou teacher of the children of the kingdom! Thou hast arisen to perform a service which would justly entitle thee to vaunt thyself over all the teachers on earth. For the teachers of this world make use of human education to develop the powers, whether spiritual or material, of humankind, whilst thou art training these young plants in the gardens of God according to the education of Heaven, and art giving them the lessons of the Kingdom. The result of this kind of teaching will be that it will attract the blessings of God, and make manifest the perfections of man. Hold thou fast to this kind of teaching, for the fruits of it will be very great. The children must, from their infancy, be raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá’ís. If such be their training, they will remain safe from every test.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

Our children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause. They should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers…
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, Ridván 2000)

Praise thou God that thou hast succeeded in becoming a teacher of young Bahá’ís, young trees of the Bahá Paradise, and at the same time art able to benefit the other children as well. According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with every breath, for you are educating your spiritual children. The spiritual father is greater than the physical one, for the latter bestoweth but this world’s life, whereas the former endoweth his child with life everlasting. This is why, in the Law of God, teachers are listed among the heirs. Now you in reality have acquired all these spiritual children free and gratis, and that is better than having physical children; for such children are not grateful to their fathers, since they feel that the father serveth them because he must—and therefore no matter what he doeth for them, they pay it no mind. Spiritual children, however, are always appreciative of their father’s loving kindness. This verily is out of the grace of thy Lord, the Beneficent.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

Teach ye your children the verses that have been divinely revealed, that they may recite them in most melodious voices.
(Bahá’u’lláh, )

That which is of paramount importance for the children, that which must precede all else, is to teach them the oneness of God and the Laws of God. For lacking this, the fear of God cannot be inculcated, and lacking the fear of God an infinity of odious and abominable actions will spring up, and sentiments will be uttered that transgress all bounds … parents must exert every effort to rear their offspring to be religious, for should the children not attain this greatest of adornments, they will not obey their parents, which in a certain sense means that they will not obey God. Indeed, such children will show no consideration to anyone, and will do exactly as they please.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 6)

The House of Justice adds that you should feel free to hold classes for children under the age of five provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short and so the duration of their class periods should be measured accordingly.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

The Master used to attach much importance to the learning by heart of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh an the Báb. During His days it was a usual work of the children of the household to learn Tablets by heart’ now, however, those children are grown up and do not have time for such a thing. But the practice is most useful to implant the ideas and spirit those words contain into the mind of the children.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

The command is decisive concerning both. If it be considered through the eye of reality, the training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons, for these girls will come to the station of motherhood and will mold the lives of the children. The first trainer of the child is the mother. The babe, like unto a green and tender branch, will grow according to the way it is trained. If the training be right, it will grow right, and if crooked, the growth likewise, and unto the end of life it will conduct itself accordingly.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 399)

The ninth admonition is in regard to education. All the children must be educated so that there will not remain one single individual without an education. In cases of inability on the part of the parents through sickness, death, etc., the state must educate the child. In addition to this widespread education, each child must be taught a profession or trade so that each individual member of the body politic will be enabled to earn his own living and at the same time serve the community. Work done in the spirit of service is worship. From this universal system of education misunderstandings will be expelled from amongst the children of men.
(Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 278)

The purport is this, that to train the character of humankind is one of the weightiest commandments of God, and the influence of such training is the same as that which the sun exerteth over tree and fruit. Children must be most carefully watched over, protected and trained; in such consisteth true parenthood and parental mercy. Otherwise, the children will turn into weeds growing wild, and become the cursed, Infernal Tree, knowing not right from wrong, distinguishing not the highest of human qualities from all that is mean and vile; they will be brought up in vainglory, and will be hated of the Forgiving Lord.
(Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 263)

The purport is this, that to train the character of humankind is one of the weightiest commandments of God, and the influence of such training is the same as that which the sun exerteth over tree and fruit. Children must be most carefully watched over, protected and trained; in such consisteth true parenthood and parental mercy. Otherwise, the children will turn into weeds growing wild, and become the cursed, Infernal Tree, knowing not right from wrong, distinguishing not the highest of human qualities from all that is mean and vile; they will be brought up in vainglory, and will be hated of the Forgiving Lord.
(Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 263)

The subjects to be taught in children’s schools are many, and for lack of time We can touch on only a few: First and most important is training in behavior and good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections, and to cleave unto the religion of God and stand firm in His Laws: to accord total obedience to every just government, to show forth loyalty and trustworthiness to the ruler of the time, to be well wishers of mankind, to be kind to all. And further, as well as in the ideals of character, instruction in such arts and sciences as are benefit, and in foreign tongues. Also, the repeating of prayers for the well-being of ruler and ruled; and the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation, and tales of love, and books that arouse the passions. To sum up, let all the lesson be entirely devoted to the acquisitions of human perfections.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be most conducive to both his material and spiritual welfare and advancement. The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 148)

Therefore it is in early childhood that a firm foundation must be laid. While the branch is green and tender it can easily be made straight.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, )

These children are even as young plants, and teaching them the prayers is as letting the rain pour down upon them, that they may wax tender and fresh, and the soft breezes of the love of God may blow over them, making them to tremble with joy.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, )

Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace—such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. Thus from the very beginning of life every child will be refreshed by the gentle wafting of the love of God and will tremble with joy at the sweet scent of heavenly guidance. In this lieth the beginning of the process; it is the essential basis of all the rest.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Thou hast exerted strenuous efforts for the education of children and I have been, and am, infinitely pleased with thee. Praise God, thou hast been enabled to serve in this field, and it is certain that the confirmations of the Bahá Kingdom will encompass thee, and thou shalt achieve prosperity and success.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

Today the training and education of the believers’ children is the pre-eminent goal of the chosen. It is the same as servitude to the Sacred Threshold and waiting upon the Blessed Beauty. Joyously, therefore, canst thou pride thyself on this.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

Unless the child, in his earliest years, be carefully tended, whether in a material or a spiritual sense, whether as to his physical health or his education, it will prove extremely difficult to effect later on. For example, if a child is not properly cared for in the beginning of life, so that he doth not develop a sound body and his constitution doth not flourish as it ought, his body will remain feeble, and whatever is done afterward will take little effect. This matter of protecting the health of the child is essential, for sound health leadeth to insights and sense perceptions, and then the child, as he learneth sciences, arts, skills, and the civilities of life, will duly develop his powers.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 293)

Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá’í children learn in a month. The heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá longeth, in its love, to find that Bahá’í young people, each and all, are known throughout the world for their intellectual attainments.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 141)

When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, )

With reference to the question of the training of children; given the emphasis placed by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the necessity for the parents to train their children while still in their tender age, it would seem preferable that they should receive their first training at home at the hand of their mother, rather than be sent to a nursery. Should circumstances, however, compel a Bahá’í mother to adopt the latter course, there can be no objection.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 149-150)

With ‘the Dawn- Breakers’ in your possession you could also arrange interesting stories about the early days of the Movement which the children would like to hear. There are also stories about the life of Christ, Muhammad and the other Prophets which if told to the children will break down any religious prejudice they may have learned from older people of little understanding.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)