There is a great awareness today among faculty members of an Islamic or Muslim university on the need for Islamization of knowledge to ensure that its sacredness and its true purpose are attained. This awareness arose after observing the effects of the secular education permeating in most education system of the Muslim world. Among the conspicuous consequences are the secularized minds which influenced attitudes and conduct to the point that instead of living within the principles of the Islamic worldview as prescribed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, it led university graduates to live a life inconsistent with Islam. The problem of value crisis was diagnosed to lie with the value imposed by this kind of knowledge acquired or transmitted to them.
To cure this problem, Muslim scholars have advocated for “Islamization of knowledge” (IOK) and recently to distinguish from revealed knowledge, “Islamization of human knowledge” (IOHK). Both refer to the process of examining the conventional Western knowledge that have been transmitted and to eliminate values contradictory to Islam or Western science itself and replaced it with Islamic values and sciences. There have been two proponents of Islamization of knowledge – Al-Attas and al-Faruqi. The former is more concern with reforming the mind through proper construction of the Islamic worldview which will then yield the right framework for action. The latter is more concern with the processes that need to be taken in epistemology so that the knowledge is reconstructed or rewritten such that the Islamic values based on the five unities which form the first principles of Islamic methodology are evident in the text. The five unities are as follows (al-Faruqi, 1982):
- the Unity of Allah;
- the Unity of Creation;
- the Unity of Truth and the Unity of Knowledge;
- the Unity of Life; and
- the Unity of Humanity
Ultimately for the latter, the process of IOK will only be concluded once a text book for each course in the discipline that integrates Islamic values and concepts into the subject matter is accomplished. But this is not an easy task because it requires the author to be familiar and competent in both the contemporary conventional knowledge and the Islamic worldview, whose sources are primarily the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the works or legacy of Muslim scholars of the past. The author also needs to know what to include as the essential content of the book. In addition, the mission of Islamization of knowledge also requires some changes in the university curriculum structure. Thus both efforts require some knowledge of curriculum. In this chapter the author examines the issues related to curriculum, namely the philosophy, content and structure for higher institutions of learning that desire to translate the Islamic philosophy of education and the mission of Islamization of knowledge into reality.
2. The Definition of Curriculum
There are several definitions for curriculum based on several experts’ opinion.
- Plan for achieving goals (Tyler, 1975)
- When dealing with learner’s experiences, Dewey (1966) states that anything planned in or outside of the educational institutions is part of curriculum.
- A system, which can be linear or non-linear, for dealing with people.
- A field of study with its own foundation, knowledge domains, theory, principles etc.(Tanners & Tanners, 1980)
- Subject matters or content (the way we organize and assimilate information). This could include courses in the various university levels (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).
What is clear is that curriculum refers to many terms such as a plan or blueprint of activities to achieve goals that can take place in the educational institution or outside it. The plan is prepared by the lecturers who deal directly with the students, university authorities and/or the Ministry of Higher Education through its accreditation agency. It can be subject matters the faculty or department decides to provide for the different levels and the organization of these materials cascaded for a semester or a year to the smallest unit of a daily lesson in the classroom or for extra-curricular outside the classroom such as in sports, students’ activities and societies. However, curriculum also means a specialized field of study that deals with its philosophical, historical, psychological and social foundations, theory, principles and knowledge domain.
Since the field of curriculum in the twentieth century was pioneered by Ralph Tyler, it will be useful to examine his definition of curriculum. According to Tyler (1975), the curriculum for a school is “all of the learning of students which is planned by and directed by the school to attain its educational goals”. The curriculum attempts to answer four major, fundamental questions which are as follows:
- What educational purposes should the school seek to attain? (Philosophy)
- What educational experiences can be provided that is likely to attain these purposes? (Content)
- How can these educational experiences be effectively organized? (Methodology)
- How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? (Evaluation)
Smith, Stanley, and Shores (1957) define curriculum conservatively as” the set of potential experiences which are set up in the school for the purpose of disciplining children and youth in a group’s ways of thinking and acting.” Although these scholars define curriculum in the context of a school, it is applicable also to any educational institution, including the university. The latter seems to focus on values and assimilating students into the society’s cultures and norms.
Stark (cited in Smith, Stanley and Shores, 1957) on the other hand, offers a comprehensive working definition for curriculum which includes:
- The specification of what knowledge, skills and attitudes are to be learned
- The selection of subject matter or content within which the learning experiences are to be embedded
- A design or structure intended to lead to specific outcomes for learners of various types
- The processes by which learning may be achieved
- The materials to be used in the learning process
- Evaluation strategies to determine if skills, behaviour, attitudes, and knowledge change as a result of the process, and
- A feedback loop that facilitates and fosters adjustments in the plan to increase learning.
2.1 Educational institution and the curriculum
Although we have defined the curriculum as such, in actual practice there are several curricula taking place in educational institution, whether we realize it or not. In fact we can recognize the planned curriculum and three other unplanned as follows:
- The planned, formal and acknowledged curriculum that is the goals, objectives, subject matter and organization of instruction are well documented and implemented.
- The unplanned, informal curriculum such as socio-psychological interaction between student and teacher which influences especially students’ feelings, attitudes, and behaviors for example their attitude toward school or mathematics.
- The hidden curriculum which is part of the curriculum which is not written, but will certainly be learned by students, for example the importance of punctuality.
- The null curriculum, that is, subject matter and experiences that are not taught. Students infer that those omitted has little value for example arts, physical education or music.
2.2 Curriculum foundations
Curriculum theory, organization and development are not a value free activity. In fact ones approach to curriculum reflects one’s values, perceptions and knowledge. Curriculum foundations provide the field’s external boundary and these are philosophical, historical, psychological and social. Philosophical foundation deals with the goals of education which should determine the goal of the university. However the goals of education should be consistent with the goals of man. Historical foundation refers to how education and curriculum has evolved from the history of the country or of the civilization and examination of the factors influencing it. Psychological foundation provides the basis for the development of the curriculum based on the nature of human development in the cognitive, physical and affective domains. Social foundation gives an idea of the relationship of the university and the home, the family and the community, how achievement will be affected by family economic well being and how education can help in social mobility. Thus, these foundations provide an external boundary as to how far or how much you can stretch the curriculum according to the age of the learners.
2.3 Curriculum domains
If curriculum foundations define the field’s external boundary, curriculum domains on the other hand define the field’s internal boundary, that is, the accepted knowledge. In general the experts agree on the curriculum foundations but not on curriculum domains. For example, Beauchamp (cited in Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009) regards curriculum knowledge to include planning, implementation and evaluation. But Glatthorn (cited in Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009) on the other hand, describe seven types of knowledge - recommended; written; taught; supported; assessed; learned; and hidden.
2.4 Curriculum design and framework
The way we conceptualize the curriculum and arrange major components to provide direction and guidance as we develop the curriculum is what is meant by curriculum design. Figure 1 shows the vertical and horizontal organization of a curriculum, where the vertical organization is concerned over proper sequencing across the years while the horizontal organization consider how to blend the various subject matter into the curriculum for each level – first, second, third and fourth year of a typical four year Bachelor program.
Figure 1: Conceptual framework of a curriculum
2.4.1 Design dimension relationships
When we design a curriculum for our program, we have to consider a few design relationships so that we can develop the optimum curriculum. We have to consider the following elements (Figure 2):
- Scope of the subject matter that is, the breadth and depth. We need to consider all the experiences that will engage the individuals in learning and also their cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains.
- Sequence of the subject matter arranged for the one level so that it is logical
- Balance among all the subjects
- Continuity between each topics
- Integration between theory and practice, knowledge and values
- Articulation of the curriculum that is the interrelatedness of the vertical (across levels) and horizontal aspects (within a level).
Figure 2: The design relationships of a curriculum
There are three basic designs of curriculum described as follows:
- Subject-centered design that is the focus is on the subject matter or discipline. Other names for it are discipline, broad field, correlation and process designs.
- Learner-centered design- that is the focus will be on the learner. Hence, the learner will be active in constructing meaning for himself. The experience-centered design, romantic/radical and humanistic design all fit under this category.
- Problem-centered design – that is the focus is on a problem where the learners will attempt to solve it. This includes life situation/core design or social problem/ reconstructionist design.
2.5 Curriculum development
Developing a curriculum involves several processes. As indicated in Figure 3, the curriculum needs to be planned which involved deciding on the aims and objectives. These are drawn from several sources. Tyler’s model indicates that these can be decided based on the needs of society, the learner and the subject matter itself. However, these aims and objectives are still tentative and have to be screened by the philosophical and psychological foundations of the system. Once these are determined, then the types of learning experiences and the methodologies of teaching or constructing the knowledge, skills or values are explored. Finally after instruction has occurred, students are evaluated to find out if the aims and objectives have been achieved.
2.5.1 Statement of goals and objectives
The purpose or goal of a curriculum is determined by societal and also learner needs. In the context of the university the purpose will be decided by teachers, advisory board, university administration, the industry and the Ministry of Education. Goals are broad statements that indicate what is to be the outcome of the students’ education. For what are they preparing for? We need clearly defined objectives because without it there will be no sound basis for the selection or designing of instructional materials, content or methods. We also need objectives because from them we can find out whether or not it has been achieved. Assessment, tests and evaluation can only be done or test items selected when the instructional outcomes have been made explicit. Finally good objectives help students to organize and plan their own efforts toward accomplishment of these objectives. What are good objectives? They are related to intended outcomes rather than the process for achieving those outcomes. They are also specific and measurable, rather than broad and intangible. Finally they are concerned with students and not teachers. At the university level, objectives are grouped into courses. In most cases there objectives are written as learning outcomes which are measureable. Table 1 compares the learning outcomes at the university level for an American University (Iowa State University) and the International Islamic University Malaysia which is based on the one prescribed by the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia with the exception of Islamization of Knowledge. There are similarities in terms of professional knowledge, soft skills and ethics and values. However, there are a few differences for example multicultural awareness and sensitivity to diversity, environmental awareness and perspective are found in the American university’s outcome but not in the Malaysian learning outcome. Similarly, the Malaysian university emphasizes managerial and entrepreneurial and leadership skills unlike the American counterpart.
Table 1: A comparison of learning outcomes of an American and a Malaysian university.
Iowa State University
International Islamic University Malaysia
1. Science & Technology literacy
2. Environmental Awareness
3.Communication & Analytical skills
4. Human & Ethical values
5.Intellectual, social and artistic foundations of American culture
6. International & Multicultural Awareness and Sensitivity to Diversity
7. Technical knowledge
8. Professional skills
2. Practical Skills
3. Social skills and Responsibilities
4. Value, Attitudes and Professionalism
6. Problem Solving and Scientific Skills
7. Information Management and Lifelong
8. Managerial and Entrepreneurial Skills
9. Leadership and Team Skills
10.Islamization of knowledge
2.5.2. Problem with the outcome-based system of learning objectives
The outcome-based system of learning objectives has the advantage of being measurable but there are some shortcomings. First, it is focused on the external value of learning. Hence, the performance on the test is more important than the learning that facilitates doing well on a test.
Second, learning has become subject to the instrumental ideals of efficiency, accountability, that which is easily tested and measured, and the ranking of individuals and/or institutions. In this context assessment has developed into a quality assurance mechanism that validates the transfer of measurable knowledge and skills from the expert to the novice. Yet, despite its shortcomings, this system is being used worldwide until something better and more holistic is designed.
2.5.3 Muslim universities’ curriculum challenges from the perspective of Islamic epistemology
Muslim universities in general face many challenges in its attempt to develop a sound curriculum. The most fundamental of these is spelling out its goals and objectives despite the lofty vision and mission. Some of the other challenges are listed as follows:
- The lack of knowledge of Islamic curriculum foundations especially philosophical, historical and social, due to the lack of knowledge of the Qur’an, the Prophet’s Sunnah, Muslim scholars and their legacy, and Islamic history.
- Designing the program curriculum structure for university system that is, the kind of courses (knowledge) to be offered for a uniting core and the specialization that is integrated and concur with an Islamic philosophy of education, taking into consideration Islamic epistemology, and the needs of the society, the nation and its industry.
- Inability to determine what knowledge is of most worth for our worldview – the hierarchy of knowledge for our contemporary time. This is reflected in the university curriculum structure of most Muslim countries.
- Lack of autonomy to decide completely on the curriculum because of the pressure from external agencies such as the Ministry requiring students to complete within a certain prescribed time period and prioritizing courses to be offered, employers desiring certain skills and university ranking based on certain criteria.
- Lack of competent teachers with a highly integrated professional and Islamic Traditional knowledge.
- Lack of knowledge of teaching methodologies and various methods of assessment for different purposes.
- The scarcity of appropriate textbooks and reference materials.
3. Problems with Existing Muslim Higher Education Curriculum in Terms of Philosophy
In our attempts to come up with an Islamic curriculum, Muslim scholars faced crucial problems in its existing philosophy. First, their curriculum structure is compartmentalized without a core to give the unity of knowledge that is essential. Thus, it is very obvious that students who specialize in the acquired sciences such as natural science do not study much of the Islamic Traditional Sciences and vice versa. One possible consequence would be the secularized minds or the conservative minds, both will be unable to play the proper role of a khalifah especially when they are the future leaders of the Muslim ummah. Furthermore the secularized minds will not be able to appreciate the shari’ah and may mislead others if they are leaders.
Second, in most Muslim universities, the hierarchy of knowledge has been lost. Muslim scholars of the past such as Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ikhwan al-Safa, al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun have all constructed their classification of knowledge that could be used as a guide by university management and students. These classifications and aims provide foundations of curriculum and education. But our ignorance of its existence has led us to just subscribe to that of the West which is looked up to for its advances in knowledge and technology. Had we understood the hierarchy of knowledge, we will understand which knowledge is more important, which in the Islamic worldview gives consideration to both this world and the hereafter. Consequently, our system is depriving Muslim children and youth of their rights to holistic knowledge.
Third, the aims of education that is our contemporary philosophy, is driven by utilitarian and pragmatic aims rather than Islamic educational goals. The goal of national economic development is important for our well-being now but it should not override that of a good man- with excellent characters or integrity as popularly used today. Commodification of knowledge should not be the only yardstick in determining the courses for universities to offer even if one is a private institution of higher learning. On the other hand, sometimes our aims of education are also fuzzy because of the use of idealistic terms that are too broad. This makes it difficult to translate to something practical and manageable. This too should be avoided. Aims can be made clearer by breaking it into more specific behavioral objectives that are measurable.
3.1 Comparison with the curriculum goals of an American Liberal Arts University
We might as well learn how the curriculum goals of the American Liberal Arts University are translated into its curriculum structure. According to Tanner & Tanner (1980: 510), the liberal arts education desires to produce an educated man who should be able to think and write effectively; have a critical appreciation of the ways in which one gains knowledge and understands the universe, society and ourselves; be informed of other cultures and other times; have some understanding and experience concerning moral and ethical problems; and has attained some depth in a field of knowledge.
When we translate this: (1) means teaching of language, communication skills and logic; (2) means the various sources of knowledge especially the empirical, rational and intuition which translate into the sciences and the scientific methods, mathematics for the rational, the humanities for the aesthetic, etc.; (3) means study of foreign language, anthropology, sociology and history; (4) means the humanities with philosophy and literature; and (5) an area of specialization.
A liberal education is clearly defined in the Harvard Task Force on General Education (2007: 1) as “an education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility. This kind of learning is not only one of the enrichments of existence; it is one of the achievements of civilization. It heightens students' awareness of the human and natural worlds they inhabit. It makes them more reflective about their beliefs and choices, more self-conscious and critical of their presuppositions and motivations, more creative in their problem-solving, more perceptive of the world around them, and more able to inform themselves about the issues that arise in their lives, personally, professionally, and socially.” It continues on the importance: “The subjects that undergraduates study and, as importantly, the skills and habits of mind they acquire in the process, shape the lives they will lead …. Some…will go on to become academics; many will become physicians, lawyers, and businesspeople. All of them will be citizens… and as such will be helping to make decisions that may affect the lives of others. All of them will engage with forces of change — cultural, religious, political, demographic, technological, planetary. All of them will have to assess empirical claims, interpret cultural expressions, and confront ethical dilemmas in their personal and professional lives. A liberal education gives students the tools to face these challenges in an informed and thoughtful way.” Thus, liberal arts education generally refers to an education not relating to the professional, vocational, or technicalcurricula alone. Could our universities do something like this or better in terms of laying out its goals?
We are not doing this and thus other agencies such as business employers are alerting us to our inadequacies. In a survey of 320 business leaders in the USA in January 2013 “a third of employers said graduates weren't even qualified for entry level work when it came to reading and writing” (Koba M., 2013). They want graduates who could think critically, solve problems and communicate their ideas well and yet we are missing many portion of the liberal art education particularly the languages, social sciences and humanities that will help us to do this. "We want task-orientated people who have disciplines in critical thinking," said Michael Fromm, CEO of Fromm Electric, an electrical manufacturing firm based in Reading, Pa. "If someone's studied literature, they know people and have insight into themselves and customers," said Fromm, who majored in journalism. "I find people that have a liberal arts background have a broader view of the world and will go farther in business."
- Divisions and Hierarchy of the Fields of Knowledge
It is crucial to understand the relationship between curriculum and the Islamic worldview. According to al-Attas (1979), the university reflects the nature of knowledge and the nature of man in Islam. Rosnani (1996) has extended this notion to the relationship between the nature of curriculum, knowledge and man (Figure 4). To construct our own curriculum with its educational goals and subject contents, we have to bear this in mind and in addition we can do a survey of the Islamic legacy of classifications of knowledge. In the discussion that follows, the classifications of knowledge of Ikhwan al-Safa, Ibn Butlan, al-Ghazali and the First World Conference of Muslim Education (Rosnani 1996) are used as illustrations.
Figure 4: The relationship between the nature of man, knowledge and the curriculum
4.1 Ikhwan al-safa (Brethren of purity)
Ikhwan al-safa (Brethren of purity) divided knowledge into three categories: the primary, the religious and the philosophical sciences (Table 2). If we examine closely, it is as if the Brethren has divided knowledge in the order of the division of man’s life, that is for the transactions in worldly affairs, for the hereafter and for the mind, which is Allah’s greatest gift to man that distinguishes him from other beings.
Table 2: Classification of Knowledge – Ikhwan al-Safa
A. The Primary (propaedeutic) sciences (riyadiyah)
B. Religious sciences (Al-shari`at al-wad`iyah)
C. Philosophical sciences (al-falsafiyat al-haqiqiyah)
1. Reading and writing
2. Lexicography and grammar
3. Accounting and business transactions
4. Prosody and metrics
5. Doctrines of good and evil omens
6. Doctrines of magic, alchemy, stratagems, etc.
7. Business and handicraft
8. Commerce, agriculture, etc.
9. Stories and biographies
1. Science of Revelation
3. Tradition (Hadith)
4. Jurisprudence and law
5. Asceticism and tasawwuf
6. Interpretation of dreams
1. Mathematics consisting of the quadrivium
3. Natural sciences:
(b) Science of the heavens
(g) Generation and corruption - of the four elements
4. Theology (Al-`ulum al-ilahiyah)
4.2. Ibn Butlan
According to Ibn Butlan, a scholar of literature in the 3rd AH (9th century AD.) knowledge could be classified into three types as follows:
- The Islamic Traditional sciences
- The philosophical and natural sciences
- The literary arts
Ibn Butlan’s division is in broad categories possibly reflecting the knowledge of the 9th century. Then Islamic law was the queen of the sciences and literary arts was the handmaids. Also philosophy does not mean philosophy as it means today but philosophy included mathematics, and physics. It is a well-known fact that the science of the Ancients (Greek) was studied privately and was excluded from the mosque schools that is, institutions of learning. With the rise of dialectic, jadal (in legal theory – usul al-fiqh), and the literary arts were relegated to the background.
Al-Ghazali’s classification (Table 3) reflects more on the major sources of knowledge that are through revelation or the religious sciences and the empirical and rational modes that is the acquired or aqliyyah sciences. He refers also to the former as al-ulum al-shari’ah or fard ‘ayn and the latter as al-ulum al-aqliyah or fard kifayah which indicates the essential of the former as the foundation for the latter.
Table 3: Classification of knowledge – Al-Ghazali
B. The Intellectual sciences (Al-`ulum al-`aqliyah)
1. The science of fundamental principles (Al-usul). The science of divine unity (`Ilm al-tawhid), prophethood, the hereafter, and the sources of religious knowledge
2. The science of branches (Furu`) or derived principles.
The science of man's obligation to God, to society, and to his own soul.
These include the science of writing and branches of the linguistic science.
4. The supplementary sciences (Mutammimat).
These comprise the Qur'anic sciences, Tradition, jurisprudence and the biography of prophets, companions of the Prophet Muhammad, and illustrious men.
(c) Astronomy and astrology
3. Physics or the natural sciences:
4.4. First World Conference on Muslim Education 1977
The classification in the First World Conference reflects al-Ghazali’s epistemology more closely with the addition of more sciences consistent with the expansion of knowledge.
Table 4: Classification of Knowledge – the First World Conference 1977
(ii) Ancillary subjects
5. Curriculum Structure of the University
Finally, how can we consider the structure of the university curriculum? There are a few curriculum models to examine but our discussion will focus only on three of them. First, we have the USA Liberal Arts Curriculum model whereby there is a core which comprises representative courses from the various divisions of knowledge: natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities (Figure 5). Hence, even if one is majoring in agriculture, one still has to study a course in history or economics or philosophy. The strength of this model has been discussed in detail in Section 3.1. Basically it is well-rounded as it aims to produce a versatile graduate who is able to face the various challenges in life. It is not geared toward a certain professionalism or vocationalism. However, the graduate is equipped with the skills to continually learn whatever he or she needs in a profession or one can continue into graduate studies. It disadvantage is that there is not much depth in a particular specialization unlike the specialized programs in UK for engineering and economics. Its credit hours remain at about 120 for a four year program.
Figure 5: The USA Liberal Arts Curriculum Model
The second curriculum model for the Islamic university is Al-Attas’ model (Figure 6) in which there is also a core to unify knowledge which comprised the Revealed Knowledge such as al-Qur’an, Fiqh (Worship) and Aqidah (Belief). Hence, even if one takes up engineering or economics, one will be required to take a course on Islamic ethics or Islamic aqidah. The IIUM curriculum structure is almost similar to this with the exception of the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Science whereby the students are required to do a double major such as Psychology in the Social Science and Islamic revealed sciences or Major in psychology and Minor in the Islamic revealed knowledge. In another example is the new program of Major in Economics and Minor in Shari’ah. The model is an attempt towards an integrated curriculum but it has its shortcoming in that students are not exposed to the various ways of acquiring knowledge especially the scientific method to enable them to possess the scientific mind and aptitude.
Figure 6: Proposed curriculum model – Al-Attas
Finally, there is a third model, which attempts to improvise al-Attas’ model and build upon the USA liberal arts model. In this model, Rosnani (2007) extends the core to beyond Islamic Revealed sciences to include courses that represent the other divisions of the humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences in order to gain the various ways of obtaining knowledge with its accompanying mind set and also to achieve many important skills in life that students will need (Figure 7). The idea is to develop a more rounded graduate. For example, a mathematics major will need to take two courses is Islamic revealed sciences and a few other from the social sciences, human sciences and natural sciences respectively. The only limitation in the Malaysian context is that the total number of credit hours for the program will be high if the credit hours for the specialized courses are a fixed quantity (exceeding 130 hrs). This means that this curriculum structure might prolong the program of study. This is an attempt to take the best of the first and second model above.
Figure 7: Proposed curriculum model - Rosnani
This chapter has attempted to set for the readers the theory and foundations of curriculum development and the issues related to curriculum content and structure for a university that desires to embark on the mission of Islamization of human knowledge. It gives a glimpse of the problem of outcome-based system of learning objectives and also the Muslim scholars’ classification of knowledge. Finally it proposes models of curriculum structure to reflect upon. It is evident that the field of curriculum is ever evolving with the advancement of knowledge. It is exciting and with the thrust in Islamization of Knowledge, Muslim curriculum designers have to be creative and innovative and bring in key players from society, the industry and the experts. Being rigid will make the curriculum obsolete fast. But being the designers they have to know the theory and foundations of Islamic curriculum.
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