The government has recently recognised the Qawami madrasa’s Dawra-e-Hadith as equivalent to a post-graduate degree. Is this a politically motivated decision? If so, then how will the ruling party benefit from this?
The recognition of Dawra-e-Hadith came into effect after a prolonged process. The Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission 1972 recommended not stopping madrasa education. It rather suggested the madrasa education be integrated into the mainstream one.
Two autocratic governments did not pay any attention to this education. Though the BNP-Jamaat government decided to acknowledge the Qawmi madrasa education in 2006, they did not execute the order because of time shortage and some internal problems. Even, the Jamaat-e-Islami itself demanded recognition for the Qawmi madrasa education, which signifies that the majority of the political parties are agreed on this. And, following the recognition, BNP did not directly oppose the decision, nor did Jamaat. Therefore, the decision of recognition is very logical, which should have been taken earlier.
Now, the ruling Awami League has recognised them as the BNP somehow highlighted the importance of Hefazat-e-Islam in politics. Awami Leauge chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has played a game by recognising the Dawra-e-Hadith as equivalent to a post-graduate degree, because she wants to be re-elected in the next election.
However, as an academician I do not know how much benefit the Awami League could gain from the move because there are some calculations in the election.
Hefazat-dominated Qawmi Madrasa Education Board controls the Qawmi madrasa education. So, is Hefazat-e-Islam a factor in the next general election?
A political leader or an analyst can say in detail whether or not Hefazat-e-Islam is a factor in the polls. But, as far as I know, there are around 1.4 million students studying at Qawmi madrasas, while the number of their teachers is more than 100,000. And the growth rate of the students is 7.9%, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics. On the other hand, thousands of Maktabs [mosque-based pre-school education facilities] are operational in the country.
There are a large number of Qawmi-minded people, but I cannot say to what extent the recognition of Dawra-e-Hadith will impact the election. Simply, I would like to say the BNP hiked up the political-value of Hefazat, and now the Awami League is trying to woo them with the recognition for the polls.
If the Awami League’s motive is to integrate the Hefazat men into the mainstream quarters, the party is likely to be benefited. I think that their integration is a must for ensuing social justice.
The Dawra-e-Hadith degree examination will be held under the Hefazat-controlled education board, and the government will have no control over the entire system. How do you evaluate this?
Elementary education in Europe had been introduced in the 12th century after the Qawmi education system. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India all are agreed on the Qawmi education. In India, Qawmi madrasas were recognised in 1920. Why did India allow them? Because, without giving a formal recognition, the government will not have any control over the system.
The government should not take over the responsibility to run the madrasas. If it does so and an official without adequate knowledge of Qawmi education system is appointed, then the official might spoil the entire system rather than improving it.
I suggest the government plan to develop Qawmi madrasa expertise for properly monitoring the madrasas and updating their syllabi. Currently, they are following a 500-year-old syllabus. The recognition will now ease the way to update it.
Instead of recognition for primary or secondary level education, why are Qawmi madrasa leaders demanding recognition for the higher level of Qawmi education? How rational is their decision?
The decision is rational. A large number of Qawmi students would have been deprived [of opportunities] had recognition been given only to the Ebtedaye or primary level. Now, they will be able to enrol at Indian or Abarian universities for higher studies.
In addition, six Hadiths including Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu-Dawud and Sahih Tirmiji and Muwatta are taught at the Dawra level, the syllabus of which is more comprehensive than that of Kamil courses at Alia madrasas. Even, a Dawra student will be more knowledgeable compared to a university graduate, because the Qawmi students are required to study nearly 100 textbooks. So, if the Kamil is recognised as equivalent to a post-graduate degree, why not Dawra?
Will the recognition affect the entire education system?
Qawmi means national. It had once been a national curriculum, while other education systems like English medium one are a colonial form of education. Nobody talks about this historical truth.
In South Asia, the Qawmi education began towards the end of the 12th century under the supervision of Ikhtiyar al-Din Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji.
Many of the universities in the US do not recognise Master’s degree programmes offered in Bangladesh. So, there are a lot of problems in our education system. Many post-graduate level students of Arabic at the country’s public universities cannot properly write Arabic, while a Dawra student can fluently speak and write Arabic, which signifies that the standard of Dawra degree holders is better than that of Kamil degree holders.
There is a government education policy in place. How far is the policy actually being followed?
The National Education Policy 2010 is not a perfect one. It is like a report and does not contain essential guiding principles that can contribute to changing or developing our education system.
What are the effects of having so many streams of education?
There are many types of education in the country. So, why should the Qawmi education not be allowed? The government did not stop early childhood education facilities like kindergartens, because the owners of such kindergartens or English medium schools are so powerful as bus owners.
The Qawmi madrasas have achieved recognition. Now, they should be integrated into the mainstream system.
India has a moderate Qawmi education system supervised by an integrated board comprising representatives from Shia, Sunni, Ahle Hadith and so on. Bangladesh, too, has the capacity to reform its Qawmi education.
Deoband [an Islamic school] in India has already started teaching English as a compulsory course. As the Qawmi madrasas in Bangladesh are following Deoband, they can start it. Qawmi students have already started studying science and information technology. But, some of the critics have tried to complicate the situation out of their ignorance.
They [Qawmi students] are being viewed as enemies of the nation. But they are human beings of our country and part of our nation. I agree that they are conservative, while some of them are reactionaries. But that does not give us an excuse to overlook them.