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Madrassas occupy an important place in the education system of Bangladesh. There are over 13,000 government-registered Madrassas at the primary, secondary and higher levels and quite a few thousands unregistered ones. As much as 20 percent of the student body of the country may be enrolled in different types of Madrassas. The rate of increase of Madrassas, their students and government expenditures for them has been higher in recent years than in the mainstream public education system. The academic curriculum of Madrassa education is based on contents first adopted more than 200 years ago. While some changes have occurred in the curriculum of the government-registered Aliya Madrassas, the privately-run Quomi Madrassas have remained virtually untouched. Most Madrassas are located inside or beside Mazars of local saints, wherefrom some donations would be diverted to the Madrassas.
Aliya Madrassa Aliya Madrassa education is divided to 5 stages of 16 years duration. They are Ibtidaia (primary), Dakhil (middle and secondary), Alim (higher secondary), Fazil (graduate) and Kamil (post-graduate). Ibtidaia emphasizes on correct recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Other basic subjects are also taught at this level. This stage is for 4-5 years. Dakhil and Alim levels are equivalent to secondary and higher secondary schooling and takes around 5+2 i.e. 7 years. According to the New Scheme, both should place emphasis on Science. However, in this phase too, the emphasis is on the correct understanding and recitation of Qur’an. Students are also taught a number of religious and secular subjects during Dakhil and are divided to Humanities and Science groups during Alim. Fazil and Kamil levels include both Honors and Pass Courses. These emphasize on higher learning of Arabic. However, the Education board does not regard it to be comparable to mainstream degrees of universities of the same age level. Quomi Madrassa Quomi Madrassas are of Deobandi tradition. “Befaqul Madarrisil Arabia Bangladesh”, more commonly known as the “Quomi Madrassa Board”. There are seven stages of learning in a Quomi Madrassa. The pre-primary section of a Quomi Madrassa is known as Hifzul Qu'ran, or Qur'an memorizing section. The students would then move to lbtidaia or primary. About ten years of schooling would lead a student to Mutawasita (Secondary School Certificate) and then to Sanubia Ulya (Higher Secondary Certificate) standard. A very small proportion of students would move to the next higher stages of Fazeelat (graduation) and Taqmeel (postgraduation). These students might become Muftis and Dawara Hadith who could give Fatwas or make judgements on disputes involving religious interpretations.
The Madrassa curriculum, especially the Quomi variety, forces very young students to learn as many as four foreign languages, but they are given very limited exposure to Bangla, the national language.
Standard of Education Madrassa education emphasises a conservative Islamic education at the expense of modern subjects of humanities, commerce and science. Teaching standards are not usually up to the mark as the teachers are also usually limited by their previous learning experiences in Madrassas. Any subject is taught with a Muslim slant, thus creating controversies about students being given one-sided view of politics. Social Impact The Muslim way of education has proven to be derogatory to the cultural level of Madrasah students. Students are generally less patriotic and are not interested in regarding national occasions. Nowadays Madrassas represent a fossilized version of Islam that lack vigor and strength unlike previous times where its credibility was based on science. It is not technology-driven or fast-changing with the society. Madrassa lobby have a staunch stand against NGOs, who they think are taking females outside the perimeter of home against their views. Political Impact It is often said that the spread of Madrassa education has fuelled conservatism and dogmatism in the country. Arguably, the rise of militant organisations like JMB and HUJI-B has links to extremist teachings in some Madrassas. Since 9/11, there has been an increase globally in incidences of violence in which young people regarded as Muslim extremists have been involved. Many of them are, or were, students of Madrassas. Recommendations by the Madrassa lobby: o Nationalisation of Ibtidaia Madrassas in the same proportion as Primary Schools o Introduction of same textbooks in Bangla, English and Mathematics as those in primary schools o Provision of the same facilities to teachers and students o Fazil and Kamil stages be declared equivalent to mainstream degrees. o Establishment of a Madrassa Teachers Training College o Setting up a separate Madrassa Textbook Board o Setting up of a Bangladesh Civil Service (Madrassa) o Setting up Government Madrassa in each of 64 districts o Stopping co-education in all oMadrassas after 6th grade and setting up of separate girls’ Madrassas.
intolerance and obscurantism o Quality control and improvement in Madrassas through registration of all institutions and enforcement of standards and criteria for educational service provisions in the country. o Giving students genuine options by improving access to quality primary and secondary education. o Improving public examinations in the education system as a whole to establish their reliability and validity. Ensuring that the Madrassa students identify with Bangladeshi nationhood. combining vocational training with Madrassa education and expanding secondary education. and equipping them with some skills useful in the material world have assumed new urgency. There is a greater interest in what is taught in these institutions and the efforts to bring their curriculum closer to mainstream education. more modern content such as science and math o Discarding content spreading religious chauvinism. culture and traditions. establishing comparability of standards in methods of assessment when equivalence between Madrassa and secular education is demanded. iii . Recommendations made for modernization: o Common curriculum and textbooks for core content areas.
....................... 10 Social Impact ....................................................................... 2 Dakhil and Alim (Secondary & Higher secondary) ......................... 3 Fazil and Kamil (Graduate and Post-Graduate).............................................................................................................................................................................................................Table of Contents Introduction ......... 2 The Types and Curriculums of Aliya Madrassas................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 3 Curriculum of the Quomi Madrassa ................................... 2 Ibtidaia (Primary) ...................................................... 5 Academic Environment in the Madrassas .............................................. 9 Impact of Madrassa Education on Society and Politics ................................................................................................. 11 Madrassa Education and the Rise of Religious Extremism ........................................... 1 Growth of Madrassa Education in Bangladesh .......................................................................................................................................................... 1 Current State of Madrassa Education in Bangladesh ............................. 13 Reform of Madrassa Education ................... 15 Bibliography .................................................................................................................................... 17 iv .................................................................................................................................. 10 Political Impact.......................................................................................................................... 13 Conclusion and Recommendations ....................................................... 4 Curriculum and Teaching Methods of Madrasahs ............................................................................................................................................................................
Pakistan in July 2007. Sometimes the Madrassas are co-located with the Mazars of local saints. While the government regulated Madrassas.” the Arabic word for school. At the time of the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Madrassas or mosque-based religious schools are sometimes used as a platform for preaching religious extremism in many countries. Many Muslims contribute substantial amounts to the upkeep of Madrassas as a part of their religious duties. since the early 1980s. wherefrom some donations would be diverted to the Madrassas. there were nearly 13. and politicians often donate generously to local mosques and Madrassas 1 . Dhaka. known as “Aliya Madrassas”. there were about a thousand Madrassas in the country. Persian and Urdu as the medium. literature and art. in which students of the Madrassa based in the mosque fought violently with the government forces leading to many deaths and injuries. In the post-9/11 world. industrialists. There are two types of Madrassas in Bangladesh. Unlike Aliyas. Despite long official denial of the existence of religious extremism. Madrassa education's link to Islamic extremism was evident in Bangladesh too. Madrassa education concentrated on Islamic studies with Arabic. refers to a Muslim educational institution. the Arabic section of the Calcutta Aliya Madrassa was transferred to Dhaka. science and medicine. was an illustration of extremism and violence arising from religious schools. besides teaching secular subjects like law and jurisprudence. The Government of East Pakistan formed a Madrassa Education Board in 1949 to regulate the course of studies and conduct terminal examinations. there were 726 Aliya Madrassas in the then East Pakistan. By 2003. During the partition of India in 1947. put an emphasis on religious subjects along with lessons in sciences and the humanities. In Bangladesh. it has since then been known as the Government Aliya Madrassa. Businessmen. the Madrassas remain a parallel stream to the mainstream education system. the series of bombings across the country on August 17. introduced extremely harsh Islamic Sharia laws. while mainstream education became secular with English as the medium of instruction. By 1957. During the investigation and subsequent arrests and prosecutions. the unregulated “Quomi Madrassas” concentrate on religious studies with very little emphasis on secular subjects. 2005 and subsequent suicide bombings prompted the government to move into action. Its primary purpose historically was to teach the tenets of Islam. The “Lal Masjid” incident in Islamabad. However. Madrassa education has come under worldwide scrutiny since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996. there is a growing scepticism about Madrassa education. it was established that many of the activists of the now-banned Jamatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkatul Jihad Al Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B). With the decline of the Islamic world since the 13th century. Growth of Madrassa Education in Bangladesh The number of Aliya Madrassas grew at a slow pace in Bengal throughout the British and Pakistan period.Introduction “Madrassa. The Taliban were students of Madrassas who. there was a sharp growth of Madrassas in Bangladesh.000 Madrassas of the Aliya variety in Bangladesh. faster than the growth of mainstream educational institutions. the pursuit of new knowledge and research was abandoned and the Madrassas gradually became schools of religious studies only. after coming to power. who carried out the bombing operations were in fact Madrassa students. the Quomis depend on private donations for their operation. During the colonial rule in the sub-continent.
Reliable information regarding the number of Ibtidaia Madrasahs is unavailable. 1999). or sometimes in collusion with officials. have been financing the Quomi Madrassas in recent years. According to BANBEIS (Preliminary Report of the National Education Survey. Another source determines the number at 9. that the proposed Madrasah has enough land registered for it. 2001): Ibtidaia (Primary) After 1915. and sometimes grants from the local government. Alim (higher secondary). The stages are described below (Azher. There is no means to record or publish data as to the specific sources. Most Quomi Madrassas are on 'Waqf' land (donated for religious use). the Arab agencies. Dakhil (middle & secondary). Later. approval from the Madrasah committee and relevant bodies. Fazil and Kamil Madrasahs. a selection committee which includes a government representative formed through appropriate advertisement in public publications. all sources of income. teachers and administrative staff. 2 .561. Private donors and organisations in the oil-rich Gulf states. A report in the Daily Janakantha states that there are 10. government grants.363. Due to poor banking supervision and lax financial regulations. These governments approved Madrasahs are operated through donations from the local community. The Government of Bangladesh has recently introduced tighter control on the inflow of foreign donations.572 students in the Ibtidaia sections adjacent to the Dakhil. Fazil (graduate) and Kamil (post-graduate). either without the knowledge of authorities. In addition to all Madrasahs having an Ibtidaia section (primary section). the primary level maktabs operated as feeders to the New-Scheme Madrasahs. The stages are: Ibtidaia (primary). There are 18 requirements that the Ibtidaia Madrasahs have to fulfill for approval. waqf land. there are 1. However.000 Ibtidaia Madrasahs in the country. Current State of Madrassa Education in Bangladesh The Types and Curriculums of Aliya Madrassas Aliya Madrassa education is divided into 5 stages of 16 years' duration from primary to postgraduate level. Ibtidaia Madrasahs have mushroomed all over the country without fulfilling all or even the most basic of these requirements. The Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board provided approval to these Ibtidaia Madrassas. including government grants are more or less irregular. the maktabs were transformed into Ebtedayee Madrasahs as feeder institutions. enough books in the library. Among these. recipients and amount of funds received to support religion-based education. in most cases. Alim.to earn a name for them and influence public opinion. enough students and reasonable distance from other Madrasahs before giving approval. money in the bank in general fund and reserve fund as per regulations. but some have sprung up on fallow government land. the required furniture as required by construction regulations. banned a number of Middle Eastern NGOs and extradited some foreign nationals for clandestine activities. NGOs and private individuals found it easy to finance Madrassas and propagate their brand of Islam in Bangladesh. there are a number of separate Ibtidaia Madrasahs. The Board investigates whether the community agrees that there is a need for a Madrasah in the locality. notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. following the recommendations of an Education Commission.
The Madrasah Education Board or the Directorate of Higher and Secondary Education do not have any regular monitoring or inspection activities for Dakhil and Alim level Madrasahs. the students are introduced to the Islamic Creed. Under the New Scheme policy.Humanities and Science. Curriculum: Dakhil (5-6 years): In this phase too. However. In Bangladesh. The Kamil level is 2 years for the Fazil Pass Course completers and 1 year for the Fazil Honors Course completers. Arabic and Islamic History. Fazil and Kamil (Graduate and Post-Graduate) Fazil and Kamil are the last two levels of the government approved Madrasah system. Currently there are four sections in the Dakhil level: Dakhil General Section. A kind of monitoring does take place however for auditing and for allocation of grants. The Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board undertakes the final exams at Fazil and Kamil level as well as presenting the certificates. several of these types of Madrasahs are included among the 251 Madrasahs that lost government approval and MPO because of charges of corruption and mismanagement. Geography and General Science. student fees. Dakhil is for 5 years and Alim for 2 years duration. Arabic. Alim (2 years): At this stage. both the Dakhil and Alim levels place emphasis on science. it is not possible for the Board to maintain even quality from primary level to Masters Level. Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. Law of Inheritance. 2000). Islamic Law. However. Dakhil Science Section. donations from the local community.865 Dakhil and 1. As a result. Madrasahs at these levels have to fulfill 18 conditions before applying to the Board for government approval. It 3 6 . local government grants and fees and payments from religious occasions.Curriculum: Ibtidaia (4-5 years): Emphasis is put on correct recitation of the Holy Qur'an. Arithmetic and an introduction to History. in reality. Even after the establishment of Islamic University. the Board’s authority in this was not curbed by granting this particular responsibility to the University. Other subjects are: Basics of Islam. Bangla. the majority of the Dakhil and Alim Madrasahs do not even have a basic laboratory. the emphasis is on correct recitation and understanding of the Qur'an along with its commentaries. The Fazil level includes both Honors and Pass Courses. In fact. the position of science teacher often remains vacant . The Humanities group studies Arabic and Persian in-depth and the Science group studies a number of natural science subjects.000 Fazil Madrasahs and 141 Kamil Madrasahs (among which there are 3 completely state owned Kamil Madrasahs) in Bangladesh. The duration of Honors Course is 3 years and Pass Course duration is 2 years. in a number of Madrasahs. There are 1. Arabic and a number of secular subjects. Dakhil Mujabbid Section and Dakhil Hifzul Quran Section. Dakhil and Alim (Secondary & Higher secondary) The Dakhil and Alim levels are equivalent to secondary and higher secondary school respectively. currently there are 4. At this stage. Almost all sources of income are more or less irregular.090 Alim Madrasahs that are government approved (Bangladesh Education Statistics. students are streamed into two groups . Akin to the Ebtedayee Madrasahs. Both groups have to concentrate on the Qur'an and Hadith. These Madrasahs are also operated through government grants.
Like many issues in Bangladesh. Curriculum: Fazil (2 years). Like Dakhil. Here the students study only religious subjects. Even a cursory look at the Madrassa curriculum and books vis-à-vis mainstream education shows that although a Madrassa student studies secular subjects. the Board claimed to represent more than 15. In Bangladesh. In a petition to the government in 2006. Dakhil and Alim degrees from the Madrassa Board are recognised as equivalent to Secondary (SSC) and Higher Secondary (HSC) qualifications. more commonly known as the “Quomi Madrassa Board”. Students passing examinations at these stages can get admitted into mainstream colleges and universities. Curriculum of the Quomi Madrassa Accurate information on Quomi Madrassas is not available through the government. Islamic Jurisprudence and Arabic Literature. each stands on its own ground in respect of their academic and broader educational purposes. the depth of the content. despite its limitations in terms of resources and staff is responsible for all these things (Bangladesh National Education Commission Report. this too has taken on a political hue. This is the highest stage of Aliya Madrassa education.should be noted that the Bangladesh Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Boards have access to more resources and staff compared to the Madrasah Board. there is a relatively small difference in the course curriculum between Aliya and primary education. Both Fazil and Kamil place high emphasis on the learning of Arabic. in addition to common religious subjects. The Madrassa students and teachers have demanded for some time that the government should recognise Fazil and Kamil Degrees as equivalent to BA and MA degrees. acceded to the demand of the Madrassa lobby despite strong arguments to the contrary from academics and educationists. The fact is that the two streams cannot be compared. Tafsir (Interpretation of the Qur'an). But the Madrasah Board. They specialise in different branches. Completers of these degrees have almost no knowledge of the social sciences or of the fundamentals of science. The students are again streamed into two groups . Social Studies and General Science textbooks for Dakhil classes of the Madrassa Board and those published by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board shows that the depth and scope of the content in the latter were substantially greater for each grade. At the Ibtidaia stage. contact hours in class and the marks allotted in exams are significantly less for these subjects than in the mainstream.Humanities and Science. Kamil (2 years). a number of secular subjects. at the far end of its tenure in 2006. Fazil and Kamil are even more religion centred and cannot be regarded as comparable to mainstream degrees from universities. Most of the Quomi Madrassas are of Deobandi tradition. 1988). such as: Hadith. it has not been possible to combine these levels with mainstream general education. but as a student progresses in either stream the differences grow. These responsibilities are taken care of by the relevant universities. Yet the Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Boards do not have the responsibilities of awarding graduate level certificates or of controlling graduate level exams. History. claims to represent the Quomi Madrassas in the country. English. here too both groups have.000 4 . The BNP-led Coalition Government. Geography. An examination of the Bangla. “Befaqul Madarrisil Arabia Bangladesh”. Hence.
Curriculum and Teaching Methods of Madrasahs The quality of education that is generated from a particular kind of education system depends much on the syllabus. while quite a few pages are devoted to Mujaddid Al-Fisani and his Jihad against Emperor Akbar.000 teachers and 1. Despite constant revisions of the curriculum. Whereas our Prophet (SM) asked his companion to stand up and pay respect to a coffin of a Christian as it was being carried. In none of the Bangla textbooks is there a single story or poem by a Hindu writer. The students would then move to lbtidaia or primary. read Islamic philosophy. Hence. “These Madrassas spread hatred. studied Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. They teach that when someone from another religion dies. 'Let this person be in hell for eternity'. A very small proportion of students would move to the next higher stages of Fazeelat (graduation) and Taqmeel (post-graduation). undisputedly the greatest of all Bengali writers and a Nobel laureate. or Qur'an memorizing section. the aim of life is believed to be comprehension of the divine by the individual. how well they understand the psychology of students of a certain age. the only objective of education 5 . In one such history book. curriculum. how well they can comprehend the realities of modern life are issues that need to be taken into consideration. and Islamic History. The Bangla. Madrasah education is slightly spiritual in nature. but evidently the Quomi Madrassas have grown in a major way in Bangladesh. Head of Comparative Religion at Dhaka University said in an interview. Most students would spend 3-4 years memorizing the Qur'an. These students might become Muftis and Dawara Hadith who could give Fatwas or make judgements on disputes involving religious interpretations.painted as the enemies of Islam. the teachers and his/her teaching methods.Madrassas with about 132. While some textbooks on secular subjects have been published by the Befaqul Madarrisil for use in Quomi Madrassas. Some of the texts in history books are based on mythology or a biased interpretation of history and can poison young minds with communalism and hatred. By then the student could read and write Arabic. one should say in Arabic. these are not approved by the government. About ten years of schooling would lead a student to Mutawasita (Secondary School Certificate) and then to Sanubia Ulya (Higher Secondary Certificate) standard. has no place in any textbook! Young Quomi students are thus being exposed to blatant communalism.850. The pre-primary section of a Quomi Madrassa is known as Hifzul Qu'ran. English. English and History textbooks tell the stories of Jihad against Hindus and infidels . Prof. There are seven stages of learning in a Quomi Madrassa. Islamic History. memorized hundreds of Hadith and their origins. It is difficult to verify the claim. Mathematics. its current state does not ensure mental or intellectual development of the students.000 students across the country. Emperor Akbar is described as a heretic and allotted only a few paragraphs. The experience of the individuals who develop the curriculum. In application. The Quomi Madrassa curriculum appears to be outdated even by 19th century standards. In this system. Students graduating from these Madrassas learn no modern skills and cannot be usefully employed other than in a Muslim religious institution. Logic and have studied a number of old classics in Arabic. Persian and Urdu. although most of it would be rote learning. Kazi Nurul Islam. how sincere and committed they are towards the history and tradition of the nation. At this stage the student is also taught some basic Bangla. By then the student would have a good knowledge of the Qur'an and its interpretations and commentaries. It is unfortunate that the expertise of those who are responsible for developing the curriculum for the Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board is not beyond suspicion. Urdu and Persian. Even Rabindranath Tagore.
restricted thinking. It should be noted that this syllabus for the Dakhil level is considered equivalent to the Secondary School Certificate. This is how Madrasah students are made to lag behind compared to an individual studying under the general education stream. To their students they impart the same narrow views and beliefs that they themselves hold. under general education the student has the potential to develop into an individual with humanist values. As the practice of religion is the primary objective of Madrasah education. this concept takes precedence. a number of chapters have been included in this curriculum that may serve to encourage communal feelings and beliefs in a student. agreeable and refined in behavior. Where the teachers themselves are active in the practice of knowledge. It is incumbent upon the teacher to better him/herself by keeping up to date in the various relevant fields of knowledge. A number of important topics relevant to the history of the subcontinent have not been considered necessary to be included. hardworking. Where. In addition. it is there that the students can clearly see knowledge itself. Hence. However. Creativity is stifled instead of being encouraged. It should be noted that after introducing the terminology in the first part. their minds are set certain boundaries in their road to knowledge. There is no custom to examine. witty and decisive. then their intellectual and mental growth is obstructed. This is a lifeless world of rote memorization. Hence. have been given a full 100 marks course. instead of including the important topics in the remaining 50 marks. through encountering the ideals of democracy and tolerance. natural. A person who takes on the responsibility of teaching should be rich in modern thought and scientific reasoning. However.becomes to provide an understanding of the divine. which only gives the student a one sided view of politics. These teachers mainly teach their students how to become blind believers without questioning anything. As the teachers are unable to accept any new scientific discoveries. the courses simply teaches a few geographical terminologies and then “religionizes” the rest of the course material. It is very natural for a student to become the kind of teacher s/he that they themselves had come into contact with. it is almost impossible to cultivate these qualities in those who emerge from the closed world of the Madrasah system. review or discuss facts or theories. If. The majority of Madrasah teachers are uninstructed in modern and secular methods of teaching. the second part focuses on relating to the Kaaba. flexible. Two important subjects. and blind faith. Social Science in the Dakhil level provides an introduction to the political background of Bangladesh with a “Muslim” slant. be a good speaker. deft at encouraging enthusiasm and motivation to learn. s/he should be lively. under the Madrasah system a student learns to stand on the ground of blind religiosity. The thinking 6 . However. it should be mentioned that even this ideology is not properly practiced in the Madrasah system. original. However. instead of encouraging the curiosity of the students. the students also lack that mentality. a great divide is created between the two in terms of thought. How a student who studies this Kaaba-centric very limiting course can be considered the equivalent of a student who has followed the general geography course is a valid question. Geography and Economics. A good teacher should have a pleasant and grave personality. This tendency is even less evident among Madrasah teachers. it is not possible for them to become good teachers. judgment and life values. it would not be inaccurate to say that there are only a few teachers who regularly continue to study even after they have become teachers. The intrusion of worldly and material issues makes comprehension of the divine a difficult matter.
Students are allowed absolutely no flexibility at all in this aspect. Usually these groups comprise one-teacher and three/four students. The humiliated students complained to their parents and a meeting was arranged at the Madrasah compound where Maulana Rustam Ali was penalized to the tune of Taka 1. dance.of Madrasah students regarding issues such as health. The cultural level of a Madrasah student is not of the level desired of a citizen of today’s world. female leadership etc. and fairs to be inappropriate and stay away from them. 21st February. is strongly negative. A student assaulted an Assistant Teacher of the Madrasah when he was ordered not to wear shirts and trousers to class. as in other aspects of culture. Even when their student days are over. Hafezi and other Madrasahs primarily rely on donations from the populace for funding. education. The culture of dependency and of “begging” that the students are exposed to at an early stage remains within their minds in later periods of their lives. Teachers take part in the process of obtaining the money. 12/13 students of the Padmapara Rahmania Dakhil Madrasah of Gabtoli thana. it was announced that all male students were required to wear panjabi and pajamas and female students would have to wear scarves to class. only devotional music such as Gazl. they dream of Arabia. theatre. According to a report. grew angry and initiated this act. which is not necessary outside of the school. Maulana Rustam Ali. despite the announcement. A similar incident that happened in the Bhoripasha Syed Murtoza Dakhil Madrasah of Baufol Potuakhali was reported by the Daily Jugantor. Rather students are taught to identify the customs and ceremonies that mark these occasions as Bid’aat. several boys came to class in shirts and trousers simply out of habit. March 26. The Madrasahs promote bans and prohibitions in terms of clothing as well. These rootless thoughts and delusions of inferiority create identity and existential dilemma for individuals. Although this Madrasah did not have any official requirements in terms of clothing. Living in Bangladesh. a group of people wearing long robes. They consider music. the students are unable to express or practice current fashions or even personal taste in matters of fashion and attire. the Qawmi. When.000 and fifteen days suspension. caps and turbans with receipt books can be seen begging for paddy. an Assistant Teacher. proud of the grandeur of Arabia. They are always against developmental and progressive movements. The kind of pressure that students must face in this aspect has made headlines in the newspapers. Students fall prey to this dilemma from their very educational institutions. The First of Baishakh. A separate apparel culture develops in the same society. No interest is discerned on their part regarding the occasions and national celebrations so close to the hearts of Bengalis. Many Madrasahs do not even observe these national holidays. some schools have a specified uniform. In place of the traditional Bengali music and dance. family planning. during autumn when the farmers begin threshing the paddy. Hamd. In the rural areas. and Nat are encouraged. Students and teachers of these Madrasahs are engaged in this “begging” routine almost throughout the year. It has been mentioned that apart from the state owned Aaliya Nisaab Madrasahs. But the uniform that the Madrasah promotes is turned into clothing for all times. and it is compulsory for the students to participate as well. Bogra who dressed in shirts and trousers had their heads shaved and their shirt collars chopped off. female education. In the general education system. December 16 – none of these days create enthusiasm within them. panjabis. 7 .
no steps have been taken to contend with the barriers to developing a rational or scientific mindset. Date 6. In addition. The book uses quotations from the Quran quite often. In the Bangladesh period. The quality of education currently provided under the Madrasah education system. 8 . this is the product of the fertile brains of certain teachers. This practice has not been issued from the Board or from any institution. Dr. The few individuals who have studied under the Madrasah system and have earned renown as literary figures have either later been educated under the general education system themselves or at least have been heavily influenced by secular thoughts and ideas of individuals who have been educated under the general education system. Qazi Motahar Hossain. Noncompliance with this order may result in barbaric abuse of students. However. Dr. Golam Samdani Quraishi can be mentioned in this regard. The conservative attitudes of the authorities. in most cases the language is almost incomprehensible.1. they are taught to achieve domination over opponents through any means (including physical attacks) at all. Mohammad Ali. Although these quotations are translated in Bangla. the methods used for science and the teachers themselves have no understanding of scientific reasoning or thought. Enamul Haq. Dr. Instead of the national anthem. Muhammad Shahidullah. There are a few exceptions – Shahidullah Kaisar.The process of limiting and curtailing the rights of the individual and forcing a foreign culture upon the students discourages the development of a tolerant and open environment. The names of Mir Mosharraf Hossain. Sadly enough. in the majority of Madrasahs. As the Madrasah system does not encourage freethinking. Monsur Uddin. Nawab Abdul Latif. these Madrasahs teach “We will become Taliban. Syed Aamir Ali. it is compulsory to speak in Urdu within the boundaries of the Madrasah. The Darul Ulum Madrasah of Rangpur is one such institution. it does not produce any artists or creative individuals. Creativity flourishes in an open environment. Text/107/S-3. Instead of nurturing humanistic values within students. science was included alongside religious instruction to make Madrasah education more dynamic and relevant. fundamentalist and backward looking politics – all these factors combine to ensure that a good teaching learning environment does not exist within the Madrasah system. low quality teaching aids. Sections from the Natural Science textbook (Board Memo No. The works of those who are working in this field abound with fundamentalist values and are unable to gain acceptance from the mass populace. unskilled teachers. and contain serious errors. high levels of corruption. and certainly beyond the comprehension of a Class III student. the translations are not accurate. Qudrat E Khuda – but exceptions are not examples. Although the restrictive Madrasah has made space to include science. Bangla will be Afghan” type of slogans. There is not a single Madrasah teacher who has been able to make a place for himself in mainstream creative literature. Akram Khan. Moniruzzaman Islamabadi. does not provide much scope for students to develop as modern human beings.94) issued under the new curriculum of the Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board may be examined. a number of Madrasahs in Bangladesh have totally prohibited usage of Bangla. Abul Fazal.
he wrote that the reason for the decline in quality of Madrasah education was that the old school of teachers were retiring and there seemed no possibility of equally qualified teachers taking their place. Students in most Madrassas cannot watch TV. In a report made by Chapman after he became the Principal of the Aaliyah Madrasah in 1907. be concluded that neither the course content nor the academic environment in the Madrassa system is conducive for education. Many cases of child abuse or sexual harassment might go unreported because of the fear of reprisal from the authorities. Girls are barred from any sporting activities whatsoever. Even at the highest level of Madrassa education there is no research. and dance are forbidden in all Madrassas. and these without any musical accompaniment. low quality education. Unqualified teachers. The depth of knowledge is judged by the number of Hadith and its sources one can memorise. Commencing in Calcutta. lack of knowledge regarding Islamiyat or oriental studies have all relegated the “modern” Madrasah system to such a state that the possibility that this system will be able to develop an individual who might play a strong and positive role in the development of the nation is almost zero. Life in a Quomi Madrassa is one endless cycle of chanting the scriptures. drama. It can. They merely strengthen the followers of the irrational and involve themselves with anti-progressive activities with an eye looking towards the afterlife. therefore. Painting. When these individuals enter the reality of the workplace or mainstream society. that there is little incentive for a child to be attracted to learning. This dilemma makes them unable to participate in any forward-looking movement. The teachers use coercive methods including corporal punishment to discipline the students. which plays a role in developing unscientific and irrational minds.Confusions regarding scientific concepts from childhood does not help towards clear thought or understanding in later life. and do not encourage critical thinking or analysis. sculpture. doing the daily chores. more chanting and so on. wear western-style shirts and trousers or use cutlery. the teaching methodology so archaic. they constantly encounter issues and situations that they cannot accept nor do they have the courage to totally reject. The learning environment is so unfriendly. the books so dull. The quality of Madrasah education began this decline with the establishment of the Aaliyah Madrasah in Calcutta in 1780 under Colonial India. Students in Quomi Madrassas are not allowed to sit on chairs. the door of 'Ijtihad' is shut. Creative talents of the students are thus nipped in the bud. Cases of child abuse by the resident superintendent and others in the administration are often reported in the press. the print quality so poor. The low cultural levels of Madrasah teachers. 9 . music. saying prayers. The living areas and classrooms in most Madrassas are cramped and unhygienic. this decline continued even after the transfer to Dhaka after the Partition in 1947. movies or even listen to songs on the radio all being considered un-Islamic. The students can only sing Hamd (song praising Allah) and Naat (song praising the Prophet (SM)). Sport activities are quite restricted because the students cannot wear pants or shorts and also most Madrassas cannot afford much sports facilities. no compulsion to improve the situation as the children of the upper class and educated families ignored the Madrasahs – all these contributed to crippling the Madrasahs system. Science education under the Madrasah system actually pushes students towards this kind of confusion. (Umar) Academic Environment in the Madrassas Teaching practices in the Madrassas emphasise rote learning and conformity.
However. Madrassa educated youths became increasingly irrelevant in a technology-driven. especially the Deobandi and Ahle-e-Hadith variety. Fatwas issued by Ulemas became quite common and the victims were always the poor village women. the Quomi Madrassas in Bengal continued to represent a fossilised version of Islam that lacked vigour and strength. (Sattar. Madrassa education helped preserve and consolidate some of the Islamic traditions in Bengal which were on the verge of being lost due to colonial neglect and the Hindu majority's overwhelming social and economic influence.Impact of Madrassa Education on Society and Politics Social Impact Madrassa education has impacted Bangladesh society in many ways. poor peasantry had no entry there. quite unlike any other Muslim country. As a result. “The Spirit of Islam”. The Calcutta Aliya Madrassa was instrumental in producing a good number of educated Muslim men who made contributions to various professional fields. those coming out of the Quomis had no other options but to be an Imam. 2004) The Ulemas have been especially hard on the women and the poor. Yet these Madrassas brought some light of education to the poor rural children. Their view had always been that a woman's workplace is to be inside the home looking after her husband and children. In recent past. 10 . Due to their inclination to reject everything 'western'. the door for the Calcutta Aliya Madrassa was open to the children of the elites only. a Muezzin or a teacher in a Madrassa. therefore. Aliya students like Justice Syed Amir Ali helped raise Muslim consciousness in the sub-continent. The Muslim Sufi and the Hindu Baishnab traditions had much in common in their outlook on the world and the hereafter. A recent movement by a group of Ulemas to declare the Ahmadiyas as nonMuslims is one such example. the inroad to modern education could not be stopped. While the Aliya graduates saw some openings in the job market. Haji Muhammad Shariat Ullah. appeared to have been able to sow cleavages in the Bengali society. Their continuous attack on the Sufi traditions and other religious beliefs not only created a rift in the minds of the two largest communities of Bengal . a Madrassa teacher. Typical Bangladeshi village life was one of a mixture and synthesis of the Hindu and Muslim religion. a very large number of mosques and Madrassas came into being in Bengal. not only campaigned to rid Islam of un-Islamic practices and traditions. Females are to be covered from head to toe and always to be in the custody of a male guardian. till the middle of the 20th century. It can. fast-changing modern society. his timeless classic. These Ulemas are dragging down the image of the country and the religion they represent on issues that are far removed from an ordinary citizen's concern. With a British Principal at its head and staunch support from the administration. be said that the Madrassas have provided an important service to the society in the past. In a judgement on 31 December. the Madrassas were unable to keep pace with the changing times. The Madrassa educated Ulemas. However. Madrassa education promotes the idea that women are inferior in intellect and are responsible for many of the ills that have befallen humankind.Hindus and Muslims but it also created division and tension within the Muslim community. promoted greater understanding of Islam in the West. as society moved on. but he raised his voice against the oppressive measures of mostly Hindu Zamindars of Bengal whose tenants were mostly Muslim peasants.
singing and merrymaking during marriage or other social occasions. They are under pressure to use the veil or face open censure and threats. he used Islam as a political tool. writers. The fact that many are succumbing to pressure is evident on the street where increasingly more women are in burqas or hijab. (Asadullah & Chowdhury. The Madrassa lobby has been propagating against the NGOs. The Dakhil and Alim courses were pronounced as equivalent of the SSC and HSC credentials mainly to please the Madrassa lobby. The Head of the Madrassa Teachers' Association. 2006) Political Impact As the number of Madrassas kept rising. As a result. drawing of Alpana (traditional decorative drawing on floor or walls of a house) all these attract flak from the Ulemas. so did their influence. was inducted as the Religious Affairs Minister. 11 . There was a large increase in the number of Madrassas and public budgetary allocations for them. The Pro-Fatwa group moved to the Supreme Court and got a stay order on the verdict. Lacking a popular base. in a huge gathering of Quomi Madrassa students in Dhaka. Women have become the victims of tremendous religious pressure. paying homage in the Shaheed Minar (memorial site for the martyrs of the Bengali Language Movement). one of the Islamic Party Chiefs.whosoever challenges the religious establishment might be declared a Murtaad. the High Court of Bangladesh declared the issuing of Fatwas illegal and punishable under law (07Ap). openly challenged the High Court verdict and declared that it was their right to issue Fatwa and that they would continue to do so. Declaring one a 'Murtaad' or heretic has been used as a ploy to throttle unorthodox or free thinking in Bangladesh. On 25 March 2006. but now poets. A big boost came at the time of the government under President Ershad (1981-90). out to destroy Islam by taking the females outside the perimeter of the home. It was unknown in the past. philosophers and lawyers . Fatwa against females and the poor goes on unabated. Observance of Bangla New Year. who was also in the Government Alliance. a person with a murky past.2002. Bengali culture and heritage is also under increasing pressure. and the Ulemas would demand his or her death as punishment for apostasy. The chart below shows that the government continues to spend as a political expediency more per capita on the Madrassa student than on the equivalent mainstream student. portraying them as agents of Christian Missionaries. Subsequent governments found it expedient to continue with the trend.
it is evident that per student public expenditure in madrassas was higher than in comparable secular institutions. the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami. the Islamic student organisations have gained great strength in recent decades. ICS is the most well-organised and disciplined student party in Bangladesh today. the Islamic Parties joined in a coalition to form the government after the general election in 2001. The pass rates for the Madrassa Board have been consistently and substantially higher than in the other boards. The Islamic parties also have become stronger. On the whole. 12 . one in each division.It should be noted that there are only three government madrassas in the country. conduct SSC and HSC examinations. The chart below shows how wide the difference has been in the pass rates. same as the students of secular institutions. have been subject to the influence of the student fronts of national political parties. They now control a number of major public universities. There has been a kind of invidious discrimination between mainstream and Madrassa students in conducting SSC and HSC vis-à-vis Dakhil and Alim examinations. (Huda. While the Aliya Madrassas have been generally under the control of Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS). From a humble beginning in 1975. 2009) Madrassa students. the Quomi ones were tied with various smaller Islamic parties such as Islamic Oikyo Jote (Islamic Unity Front) or Islamic Shashontantra Andolon (Islamic Constitution Movement). The better results of Madrassa students cannot reasonably be attributed to better standards of education in Madrassas or stronger intellectual capabilities of Madrassa students. compared to several hundred government school and colleges. One Madrassa Examination Board in the country conducts the terminal Dakhil and Alim (equivalent to SSC and HSC in the mainstream) examinations. besides many colleges and almost all the Aliya Madrassas. or the Islamic Student Camp. On the other hand. six boards. and for the first time in the history of Bangladesh. which benefited the most from government budget allocation.
yet there remained many unanswered questions as to how the group could organize and plan such coordinated attacks with impunity. While the rank and file of the JMB was composed of students of various Quomi Madrassas. Bangla New Year celebrations and opposition political rallies that killed hundreds and injured many more. The Commission strongly criticised the existing religious education system in the country as outdated 13 . Meanwhile. Reform of Madrassa Education The history of Madrassa education is replete with attempts to bring about reform in its curriculum since the British period.138). cinema halls. and convinced them that to kill themselves and other fellow humans was a divine duty. A major reform was initiated in 1851 by dividing the Academic section of the Calcutta Aliya Madrassa into Arabic Section and Anglo-Persian Section (Sattar 2004. The next major reform was initiated in 1882 under the chairmanship of W. However. There was a gradual modernisation of the Aliya system of education in Bengal and it was reflected in a larger number of Aliya educated Muslim youth joining the mainstream education system. which had as its Muslim members. However. First was the bombing of a musical programme by Udichi (a cultural organization devoted to promoting the Bengali cultural tradition) in Jessore on March 6. Hunter. there have been a series of bomb attacks on Mazars (tombs of saints). the Quomi system remained untouched. recommended compulsory teaching of English language in all Madrassas. many of the JMB activists and leaders were at one time or another involved in mainstream Islamic political parties and then formed splinter groups. In 1959. The Commission.” After 9/11. when improvised explosive devices burst in 63 locations in the country almost simultaneously. the leadership and ideological inspiration came from the Islamic political parties. and a suicide bombing in a courthouse a few days later.239). Justice Amir Ali and Nawab Abdul Latif.Madrassa Education and the Rise of Religious Extremism The rise of religious extremism has paralleled the growth of Madrassa education in the country. p. Some of the extremist trends have already been noted above. there were large demonstrations showing support for the carnage.153). When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996. the spate of bombings on 17 August 2005. The massive police action that followed the simultaneous bomb blasts netted many terrorists. the government of Pakistan formed a National Education Commission generally known as the “Sharif Commission” (Sattar 2004. throughout the whole period. incited a state of religious frenzy among them. they were heroes to the Madrassa students in Bangladesh. It became clear that JMB had recruited as suicide bombers mostly poor Madrassa students. with toy machine guns and picture of Osama bin Laden. made it difficult to ignore the pattern of extremism. mostly by Madrassa students. circus shows. a noted educationist and writer (Sattar 2004. p. The favoured slogan among them was: “We all want to be Taliban. violent attacks on institutions or individuals who differed from the Islamist viewpoint had already started.W. Fingers were pointed towards the religious extremists. 1999. 1921 and 1946. but the government of the day blamed it on the opposition or foreign agents working in the country. Since then. There were three other major efforts in 1908. Bangla will be Afghan. Could there be other players beyond the reach of the lawenforcement agencies? As reported in the press.
Establishment of a separate affiliating university to handle the Madrassas. It proposed a series of measures to modernise Madrassa education and bring it closer to the mainstream education system. b. Instead of a unified primary education system 14 . In 1978. the Dakhil (9th-10th) and Alim (11th12th) classes were divided into two streams. Establishment of a Madrassa Teachers Training College. 2003): a. free and compulsory primary education of 8-years' duration.and out-of-step with changing times. i. but the report was largely shelved after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Setting up of a government Madrassa in each of 64 districts (compared to currently existing three government Madrassas). but the Commission reports were never fully acted upon. one can discern the direction Bangladesh seems to be taking. The first National Education Commission in Bangladesh. The implementation of this report would have brought about a major qualitative shift in Madrassa education. Introduction of the same textbooks in Bangla. Provision of the same facilities to the teachers and students in the Ibtidaia Madrassas as in the primary schools. f. e. Fazil and Kamil stages to be declared equivalent to the mainstream BA and MA respectively. j. It proposed that the Islamic Studies Department in the Universities produce scholars to do research and develop Islamic knowledge. and the students could shift to the mainstream education after these public examinations. headed by Dr. As mentioned earlier. h. Stopping co-education in all Madrassas after 6th grade and setting up of separate girls' Madrassas. namely. Setting up of a separate Madrassa Textbook Board. English and Mathematics in Ibtidaia Madrassas as in primary schools. in August 1975 and the military coup d'etat. Nationalisation of Ibtidaia Madrassas in the same proportion as the primary schools. according to the Commission. Anyone wishing to pursue Madrassa education could do so after the 8th grade. This Commission was silent on Quomi Madrassas. g. Qudrat-i-Khuda. was formed in July 1972. founder of Bangladesh. the Commission recommended uniform. Humanities and Science. It recommended Bangla to be the medium of instruction at all levels of education. the courses were declared equal to SSC and HSC. c. If one views these recommendations in the light of the Qudrat-i-Khuda Commission Report. In 1974. It became a routine in Bangladesh to set up an Education Commission by a new regime soon after assuming power. The recommendations reflected the increasing influence of the Madrassa Lobby. Some of its key recommendations were (National Education Commission Report. Setting up of a Bangladesh Civil Service (Madrassa) cadre (similar to Bangladesh Civil Service education cadre for employment in government education institutions in the mainstream). The last commission to make recommendations on Madrassa education was the Maniruzaaman Commission in 2003. d.
more modern content such as science. Common curriculum and textbooks for core content areas. and have continued to ignore the growth of the Quomi Madrassas. intolerance and obscurantism. Similarly. The recommendation for common textbooks for the primary and the Ibtidaia stage appears to be contradicted by the recommendation for a separate Madrassa Textbook Board. Educationists have often argued that Madrassa education needs to be modernised so that it can keep pace with the fast-changing world. math. both from the Madrassas and secular schools. Bangla and English. b. it could not do so because of the antiquated academic curriculum and educational practices. It appears that the political forces in the country have found it expedient not to take serious steps to reform the Madrassas. The recommendations made in the past regarding modernisation of the Madrassa curriculum and improvement of pedagogical practices has been mostly rhetorical. the Aliya Madrassas changed somewhat with time because of government supervision and control. Quality control and quality improvement in Madrassas through registration of all institutions. especially on issues such as female education. various ideas have been put forward to modernise. They have generally appeased the Madrassa Lobby by yielding to its political demands. 15 . Giving students genuine options by improving access to quality primary and secondary education. Separate Teachers' Training Colleges for Madrassas and the proposal to create a BCS (Madrassa) Cadre or to open government Madrassas in each district can be seen as an attempt to promote the prominence and distinctiveness of this system. The Madrassa Lobby has taken a negative stand on these and other similar issues regarding the position of women in society. These included: a. multiple systems of primary and secondary education have become institutionalized. c. combining vocational training with Madrassa education and expanding secondary level education. which are viewed as anti-Islamic by the orthodox Islamic leaders. The rise of religious extremism. It might be again noted that public expenses per student in a government Madrassa were already higher than at the government colleges or schools. but thousands of Quomi Madrassas remained rooted to a syllabus that is totally outdated. how they are managed and who their products are. including violence in the name of religion. Conclusion and Recommendations Although Madrassas were meant to produce educated Muslim youth to provide leadership to the community. improve and adapt Madrassa education to the needs of a modern society.as recommended in 1974. The Madrassa culture appears to have become a force for retarding social progress in Bangladesh. the Madrassa community (students. teachers and their protagonists) has often taken a negative position on the cultivation and promotion of Bengali culture and traditions. has made it an imperative to take a closer look at what is being taught in the Madrassas. and the free movement of women. Within the Madrassa system. and enforcement of standards and criteria for educational service provisions in the country. As indicated earlier. discarding content spreading religious chauvinism. their participation in the workforce.
establishing comparability of standards in methods of assessment when equivalence between Madrassa and secular education is demanded. These reforms and development in Madrassa education can be accomplished only by creating public opinion favourable to reform and generating political will for this purpose. Public debate and nationwide dialogue need to be encouraged about how best to integrate the Madrassas. The Madrassa community itself needs to accept that such change is in its larger interest. including the Quomi Madrassas.d. 16 . Improving public examinations in the education system as a whole to establish their reliability and validity. into the national education system.
N. Sattar.Bibliography (n. Bangladesh National Education Commission Report. Umar. Huda. Oxford. from www. M.d. (1999). & Chowdhury. Asadullah. BANBEIS. Preliminary Report of the National Education Survey.net/HTML/significatcases. (2004).d.). BANBEIS. Religious Schools. An Islamic Philosophy of Education and its Role in Bangladesh Education. (2001). (2009).banglarights. (2000). Bangladesh Education Statistics. Social Values. B. The Education Commission Report and Regarding Religious Education. (2003). (n. and Economic Attitudes: Evidence from Bangladesh. 2007. Dhaka: Hakkani Publishers.htm (1988). S. National Education Commission Report. M.). N. Retrieved April 12. 17 . Ministry of Education. A. (2006).. The alleged Madrasa Terrorism linkage. Madrasa Education in Bangladesh and its Impact on Social Life. Azher.
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