In a debatable decision, the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra has derecognized Madarsas as ‘schools’. Government has decided that Madarsas will no longer be recognised as schools because these institutions don’t impart formal education. Madarsas only teaches religious education. An education that is principally religious cannot equip young people for life in a modern, secular society. Not only should the curriculum be modern, but the religious part should also be monitored.
Madarsas in India, even after Independence of the country, have solidified invaluable services to the development of the community and the country. They have played a silent but significant role in educating millions of Muslim population of the country. The services of Madarsas are not limited to spreading literacy; but also encompass social, political and academic fields. Ulema produced by these Madarsas provide leadership not only in religious matters but also in social and political spheres as well.
Madarsa education in India and the present status of Muslim education is concerned; undoubtedly, it is an important dimension in the realm of Muslim educational system in India; which requires urgent attention. The new challenges of the 21st century cannot be encountered without considering the problems of Muslim education in India, because Muslims are the biggest minority community of this nation comprising 13.4 per cent of its population. And Madarsa education is a significant part of the History of Muslim education and Islamic studies in India. The history of Madarsa education in India starts since the arrival of Muslims in India and it began in the 10th century with the establishment of Maktabs and Madarsas in the towns of Sind, Dabel, Mansura, Multan by the Arab traders and settlers. After the passage of time, this system was gradually developed and hundreds of mosques during this period were flourished. Oudh, Multan, Lahore, Khairabad, Patna, Surat, Delhi, Agra were the main centers of Madarsa education and Islamic studies. And the number of Madarsas and Maktabs were multiplied during the period of Muhammad Ghouri, Iltumish, Allauddin Khilji, Tughloq and Sikandar Lodhi.
After independence; India became a democratic and secular country. There are many persons who believe that due to the influence of secularism in India, the religious educational institutions have lost their relevance. In fact, the Madarsa education system is still strong in its own position and has been increasing and progressing by leaps and bounds in the country. Madhavrao Scindia, the then Minister of Human Resources Development (HRD) while addressing a Muslim education conference held in Delhi on May 7, 1995, stated that there were 125000 Madarsas in India during the time of Mughal reign in India. Besides the figures, the contribution of Madarsa education in India has been so important that there can’t be imagined the educational development of Muslim community by neglecting the Madarsas and Maktabs. Even after accepting and appreciating the hall mark achievements of Madarsa education in India; the system is till today not completely free from some hindrances and shortcomings. Some major and important shortcomings of Madarsa education system are absence of definite aims and objectives, though they may be present in the mind of authorities of Madarsa education, but they are never clearly spelt out. There are some unscientific approaches of the curricula of Madarsas. Lack of basic facilities like proper infrastructure, outdated traditional methods and technique of teaching and learning are drawback of this system.
Isolation from the modern developments in the area of natural sciences and social sciences and over emphasis on the religious preaching, Madarsas are facilities where Muslim students are imparted education. Madarsas are different from regular schools as these schools don’t follow a formal education curriculum and are not affiliated to any educational boards like the CBSE.
When the West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education Act, 1994, came into force, giving statutory powers to the Board of Madarsa Education, the state became the “first in India to formalize the secularisation of Madarsa education”, with the syllabus mirroring that of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. With higher Madarsa education being treated on a par with general education, non-Muslim students began joining in greater numbers. According to WBBME secretary Syed Nurus Salam, almost 10 per cent of West Bengal’s 512 higher Madarsas have Hindu headmasters; about 18 per cent of all teachers are Hindu, while Hindu students have been front-rankers over the years.
Three months ago, the response to a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by a Moradabad-based RTI activist revealed that certificates issued to Madarsa students by five states—Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal—are considered equivalent to those issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). He thinks the recognition to Madarsa students is merely “a pre-election lollypop given to states with high Muslim population”, and plans to file a second RTI application soon to find out more.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that at least some states have formalised Madarsa education boards which have merited recognition. These boards are funded by the state government, which has a say in their syllabus, teacher selection and pay. Countless smaller Madarsas, however, continue to operate independently. Like most states, West Bengal too has seen the growth of thousands of khariji Madarsas—unrecognized, unaffiliated and informal centres of Muslim religious education funded through charitable donations (zakat).
Anyway, if government is trying to recognize it for the benefits of Muslim, then there should be convincing reasons, without any political vendetta.
(Inputs from The Echo)