Bahai Education/Educational Chronology



Child Development

‘Abdu’l-Bahá likens the growth of a child to that of a sapling. If it becomes crooked, it will be affected the rest of its life. The training received in the early years greatly influences development; therefore, the education of mothers and their first teachers is of utmost importance.

The education of woman is more necessary and important than that of man, for woman is the trainer of the child from its infancy. If she be defective and imperfect herself the child will necessarily be deficient; therefore, imperfection of woman implies a condition of imperfection in all mankind, for it is the mother who rears, matures, and guides the growth of the child. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972, p. 29)

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. Hence, it is firmly established that an untrained and uneducated daughter, on becoming a mother, will be the prime factor in the deprivation, ignorance, negligence, and the lack of training of many children . . . endeavor with heart, with life, to train your children, especially the daughters. No excuse is acceptable in this matter. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1930, p. 580)

An emphasis on early education is supported by these statements. The importance of equipping parents with the proper knowledge and skills for such a long lasting and vital responsibility is clear. The Bahá’í writings contain extensive guidance on child development which is supported by research. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that individual differences are the result of inherited and acquired innate character. Inherited qualities are those physical and mental characteristics that one acquires genetically from his parents. The greatest influence and the one teachers can most affect is acquired character, which formal or informal education is the primary force. Innate differences are inborn characteristics unique to that person that explains why children from the same family with similar genetic and environmental influences have different capacities (Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1971, p. 318-20). The varieties of human qualities result from differences of degrees in these areas of character.

Difference of capacity in human individuals is fundamental . . . Bahá’u’lláh has revealed principles and laws which will accomplish the adjustment of varying human capacities. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1971, p. 37)

Bahá’u’lláh identifies knowing and loving as our two most important potentialities and the foundation for realizing all others. All must independently apply reason to what they see and hear, and not blindly accept what is presented to them. Each person's capacities and responsibilities to the creative whole are different and important. People consist of body, mind, and spirit. These three areas determine individual needs and development. The three elements necessary for change are corollaries of these three areas.

The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition, and action, unless these three conditions be forthcoming there is no execution or accomplishment. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1971, p. 10)

Educators are concerned with all three areas, generally called the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. The Bahá’í teachings contain ideas that are helpful in all three areas, relating to such things as using of reward and punishment, concentrating on the positive, developing high expectations and developing volition.

Success or failure, gain or loss, must, therefore, depend upon man's own exertions. The more he striveth, the greater will be his progress. (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971, p. 81-2)

Unto each one hath been prescribed a preordained measure, as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971, p. 149)

Teachers can encourage their students to develop their own volition. The importance given to acquiring an education is an important factor in motivating students. Such things as setting goals and developing perseverance and self discipline will improve development. When values are in tune with reality, knowledge is the means to honor, prosperity, joy, gladness, happiness, and exultation, and its acquisition will become more desirable and easily obtained (Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1971). Lofty ideals and service improve volition. Schools must be actively involved with translating what is learned into reality and action. In this way, the true value of a learning will be realized. Service is the goal or result of action. Tests are often viewed negatively, but they are important for growth physically, mentally, and spiritually. Tests make us aware of our present condition and offer opportunities to develop new strengths. Traditionally examinations in schools have been used to compare students to others. The Bahá’í writings recognize the value of competition, but maintain that each person has individual differences that should be the cause of beauty and development, not standards of good and bad. Therefore, exams are not important for comparing students with one another, but for helping students become aware of their present abilities so they can further develop their potential. Physical, mental, or spiritual education should help us to go beyond our present state and develop new physical, mental, or spiritual awareness and strength. Life creates such situations daily, but many people do not take advantage of them. Students need a balance, with more successes than failures. When educators give exams with the idea of developing awareness, and releasing potential according to each individual's capabilities, then much growth can result.


a. divine foundation laid in earliest years in essence of child: SWAB:#111, 137

b. growth and development depend on the powers of the intellect and reason and not upon age: SWAB:#121, 142

c. use intelligence to know when to teach child: SW VII:15

VI-200. PRENATAL edit

a. say prayers for child while in mother's womb: SW IX:9, 97-104

VI-300. INFANT edit

a. baby-naming spiritual baptism: TAB:I:49; SW IX:9

b. teaching with mother's milk (breast-feeding infant): SW IX:9; ABDP:59

c. from earliest childhood education is necessary: SW VII:15, 141-144; SW IX:9


a. child in nursery, learn in play, amusement, not in books: SW VII:15

b. at age two children start liking to play with others of the same age: SW VII:9, 77


a. begin formal education at age five, during the daytime, learn good conduct: 'Abdu'l-Baha, Bahá'í Education, #78, p. 31

b. 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: 'Abdu'l-Baha, Bahá'í Education, #79, p. 31

c. age six begin schooling according to model school: SW XIII:7, 171-172; SW XIV:1, 3-7

d. age six to eight learn four languages in model school: Ibid.

e. age seven begin training as teachers of the Faith in Persia according to Fadil-i-Mazandarani: SW XIV:9, 278

f. age eight, nine or ten receive some teaching: 'Abdu'l-Baha to Miss Ethel J. Rosenberg, 2/3/1901, in SW VII:15, pp. 141-144

g. age ten to twelve study sciences in model school: SW XIII:7; SW XIV:1

h. age twelve graduate from model school: Ibid.

VI-600. YOUTH edit

a. extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed: SWAB:#111, 137

b. full teaching to woman at age twenty, when she reaches her maturity: 'Abdu'l-Baha to Miss Ethel J. Rosenberg, 2/3/1901, in SW VII:15, pp. 141-144