Should Madrasas Be Linked to Mainstream Education System?

Recently I came across a news article on how in India, Hindu students are joining the madrasa schools. Going by the fact that the madrasa schools are specially meant for the Muslims, how come the Hindus are joining these schools? According to a survey done, there were many reasons for Hindus joining the madrasas. Some said that it was the love for the language Urdu, some said that these are like any other good regular schools, and for the middle and lower middle class, these schools are perfect as a means of education.

Of late there have been talks on whether madrasa schools be  linked to the mainstream education. This is not a very easy task and many facts need to be considered for this. On the other hand, we have come across many cases where it has been shown that the officials of madrasas have failed to play a positive and responsible role in the scheme of their education and have given more emphasis on the medieval thinking for their own vested interests.

What is a madrasa?  

Madrasa is an Arabic word which means “lesson”. In literal usage, it means “school”. In its contemporary meaning,  it is an institution of learning or education, where Islamic studies, including literary, scientific and philosophical ones, are taught. As a part of Islamic studies, all students in a madrasa are taught to inculcate the practices and belief of Islam and follow Kuran and the teachings of the Prophet. The foundation of madrasa education in all countries stands on the two strong pillars of Quran and Sunna. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, madrasa are commonly referred to as Muslim or Islamic religious schools at the primary and secondary levels.

Merits of madrasas in India

Well, as a matter of fact, a madrasa can be considered as the lifeline of the Muslim society in India as it forms the actual foundation of Muslim education. These schools have offered invaluable services to the development of the Muslim community and the country. They have played a very important role in educating the Muslim population of the country. Most of us feel that this is a Muslim-only schools where students get to  study only theology and end up becoming religious teachers or clerics. But a madrasa is more than this. The services of a madrasa is not about spreading literacy only but also includes social, political and academic fields. In fact, whatever the mode of training, the educational development of the Muslim community in India would not have been possible without the madrasas.

Drawbacks of madrasa education in India

Some shortcomings of madrasas in India are as follow:

  • The madrasas in India remained religion-centric. Subjects related to Islam dominated its curriculum in India ever since its origin.
  • There is a lack of definite aims and objectives of the authorities and Muslim scholars on madrasa education.
  • Unscientific approaches in the curriculum.
  • Lack of basic facilities like proper school building, classroom, furniture, blackboard and other equipment in some of the madrasas.
  • Old and outdated, ancient methods and techniques of teaching and learning.
  • Not incorporating modern developments in the field of science and giving more focus on the traditional subjects, resulting in a negative approach towards modern subjects.
  • Lack of coordination among various madrasas and maktabs.
  • Improper system of examination and evaluation.
  • Inefficient planning and administration.
  • Poor management and financial condition
  • Low status of teachers in the society.
  • Lack of innovations, researches and experimentation.
  • Lack of job opportunities for students passing out from madrasa.

Should madrasas be linked to mainstream education system?

Recently, the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Milia, Talat Ahmad, was reported as seeking to get madrasa into the mainstream education. The idea is perhaps to bring madrasa students on the same level as students passing out from other general education institutions in India as that would help create equal job opportunities for them. However, there is nothing new in this exercise of the Vice Chancellor as the process of modernising the madrasas was initiated by the last UPA Government and is still being pursued by the present Modi Government.

In most of the madrasas in India, there is  a general lack of facilities for teaching of science and mathematics, and hence most students opt for subjects like Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Islamic studies, Theology and Unani medicine. The Government feels that bringing about parity in madrasa education with the general education system in the country would help get rid of the educational backwardness of the Muslims and provide them with better job opportunities. However, many madrasa schools have now adopted modern methods of teaching and training and modern subjects like journalism and information technology in their curriculum. Darul-uloom at Deoband is one such madrasas that has introduced modern curriculum and education.

I personally feel that madrasas should be linked to the mainstream education. Considering the fact the number of Hindu students enrolling in the madrasas is rising every year, it is time that both the general education system and madrasas should be brought on par. But, as already mentioned, this is not so easy. In spite of various attempts by the Government and some madrasas and other authorities, the scheme of madrasas being linked to mainstream education failed to see the light of the day due to strong opposition from the well-entrenched guardians of this medieval educational institution who have their own personal interests in continuing this system of education in an outdated, medieval way. The efforts to link madrasas to modern educational system has found opposition from some scholars because they fear that such a move will make madrasas lose their independence.

What should be done?

  • First of all, the aims, objectives and mission of madrasa education in India should be well-defined.
  • There must be a common curriculum for madrasa education.
  • It is also necessary that at each stage of education, vigorous reforms must be introduced to enable the age old system of education to keep pace with the modern world and bring its students nearer to job opportunities.
  • Differences among various groups and sects of the Muslim community may be a big obstruction in designing a common curriculum. But it is high time that this class of community should come on a common platform to implement this important task.
  • The curriculum of the madrasas must include the basics of modern subjects so that the students can play an effective role in the modern society. But, it is also necessary  at the same time to see that the main character or zeal of madrasa education is not affected.
  • There should be proper training and education provisions for teachers and scholars who wish to get connected with madrasa education. They should be affiliated to existing training institutes of the general universities. Or else, there should be provision for a separate system of training for them.
  • Madrasa education still works on the traditional pattern as there is no focus on any research. Therefore, research projects should be undertaken on the various stages of madrasa education.
  • Scholars linked with Jamias as well as with modern universities should be encouraged to work in the field of madrasa education.
  • The Government should adopt systematic improvement in the infrastructure and educational methods being adopted at madrasas in every State.

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