In this Indian subcontinent madrasah education has a long history. This education aims at integrating both religious and secular knowledge simultaneously to equip an individual with qualities.
It is evident that with the Bengal conquering in 1204 by Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, this subcontinent first experienced Muslim reign. Since then all the Muslim rulers patronized to establish maktabs and madrasah to spread Islamic knowledge among the people.
Apart from this, from 1200 to 1500 AD Sufism attained golden age in Bengal. That time many Islamic scholars including Sufis and Pirs came to our land to preach Islam that necessitated them to establish madrasah and khankas along with religious education centres.
Even after the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, the country saw the number of madrasah higher than those of general education. But over the years the madrasah education has not been as developed as of general education in the country. In many cases, madrasah suffer from providing quality education that has been a major concern on the way to ensuring quality inclusive education for sustainable development.
The existing trend of madrasah education has two streams including Alia and Qawmi madrasah. According to the BANBEIS report as of 2015, there were around 9,319 Alia madrasah operating in the country with a total of 2,409,373 students while a total of 1.4 million students were studying in 13,902 Qawmi madrasah across the country, of which 12,693 were for men while 1,209 belonged to women.
Alia madrasha is regulated by the government under madrasah education board. It has five stages of education from Ebtedayee to Kamil, which is equivalent to Class I to masters in the general education system. All the educational stages are considered equivalent to the general education. For example in madrasah education Ebtedayee is equivalent to primary, the same as Dakhil to secondary, Alim to higher secondary, Fazil to honours and last of all, Kamil to masters level of education.
To accelerate the blending of religious and secular education, curriculum has been developed considering the modernization of madrasah education. The curriculum developed by madrasah education board has a close affinity with the curriculum of general education except for some additional subjects for the madrasah students in their all stages of education.
But in most cases, the spirit of Alia madrasah can hardly produce skilled manpower. Though the general subjects such as Bangla, English, Mathematics and Science are included in their curriculum, in many cases madrasah students are found very weak in those subjects as most of the teachers give more emphasis to Islamic subjects to enhance Islamic knowledge among the learners.
Despite giving more focus on Islamic subjects, it is also found that in many cases students achieve neither expertise in the religious subjects nor the other general subjects. The reasons may be many. There is a want of quality teachers at madrasah. Not only that, over the years most teachers at madrasah level have been teaching students Math and English, although they did not study the core subjects in their graduation and master’s levels. But how they can be quality teachers as they lack sound knowledge what they teach in the class?
The existence of science departments is not satisfactory and there is no scope to study in business group. It is found that most of the Alia madrasah students graduate from these institutions only with knowledge of Arabic literature, hadith and the Quran. On top of that, in engineering and medical institutions the number of Alia madrasah students can hardly be counted.
In case of Qawmi madrasah, education system is independent and the government has no control over its education system. This education is financed by donors from national and international Islamic organizations. The sole focus of Qawmi education is religion and the general subjects are in most cases denied in these madrasah.
Contents of their text books and curriculum are completely designed considering all aspects and branches of Islamic knowledge. There is no accreditation committee under the government supervision to recognize their degrees except the ‘Dawra-e-Hadith’ which has been given equivalent status to a post graduate degree by the government body recently.
It is obvious that their education system is not effective in the job market and not comparable with the main stream of education. However, it hardly creates a concern amid them as the majority studying in the Qawmi madrasah does not feel to be employable, rather their career path is exclusively connected to the religious teaching, preaching and rituals. They learn to get the reward here after and hardly think of worldly career and prestige.
On the other hand, in regard to the career prospects of the students of Alia madrasah, they have better career prospects but not as good as the general students. Social stigma and attitudes still pervade that deprives them to get the desired jobs in offices and organizations as they are not mostly equipped with skills to be employable in the general context.
In a research interview, 50 % madrasah students claimed that their education system was almost ineffective to get jobs. Again they stated that they were not provided teaching following the prescribed curriculum and most cases, their teachers were not well-trained to address their academic problems. Things get tougher for Qawmi students as it is estimated that the majority students remain jobless educated from Qawmi madrasah as they lack skills required to enter the job market.
It is really astonishing that the madrasah teachers and the concerned hardly show any worries that they are unable to produce skill manpower. Also in case of religious knowledge how far they have equipped their learners is sometimes questioned as most often madrasah students are found misleading by their mentors without any self-judgement whether they are doing right or wrong.
Again it is obvious that people have lost their confidence over madrasah education on hearing many scandals of madrasah teachers and mentors. Society expects more from religious teachers as they want to depend on them more but often dailies and electronic media expose that children are severely given corporal punishment at some residential madrasah. In the recent times many more horrifying stories of sexual abuse and other forms of abuse make us think negatively though these incidents do not convey the entire scenario of madrasah context.
So, the challenges to ensure quality education at madrasah level lie not only in equipping students with the necessary modern skills but also in the malpractices and conservative attitudes that stand against turning their students into manpower with all humane qualities. To this end, concerted efforts are needed to restore the image of madrasah education without any delay. More importantly, it is imperative to introduce a unified madrasah education integrating it with general education.
The writer teaches at Prime University& research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]