The establishment of a separate university for madrasa students has been approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) to develop the standard of education and create more opportunities for them.
However, experts believe it to be an unnecessary step that will not bring any fruitful outcome.
Ecnec in a meeting on Tuesday approved the Islamic Arabic University project under which a permanent campus for the university will be set up with government fund at Dhaka's Keraniganj.
The government will spend Tk413.75 crore for the development of the project and it will be implemented jointly by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the university authority under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education.
According to the list of projects that was placed at the Ecnec meeting, the purpose of establishing the university is to provide modern higher education to madrasa students so that better job opportunities can be created for them both at home and abroad, and they can take part in competitive job recruitment examinations along with job seekers from other educational backgrounds.
Under the project, a permanent campus with a 10-storey administrative building, six-storey academic building, residential buildings for officials and staffs, dormitory for teachers and students, and other necessary infrastructures will be set up.
The project will be completed within June 2021.
But will this Arabic university really help?
Golam Maula Nakshabandi, member of Islamic Foundation's governing board, said Islamic scholars have been demanding the university for a long time as the country has no university which specialises on Islamic education.
“Currently, universities have disciplines like Islamic Studies and Islamic History but these are not taught in Arabic. The proposed university will teach in Arabic which will give the students access to writings of Islamic scholars which were written in Arabic,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
He also said: “Now, most of the students who receive certificates from Fazil and Kamil madrasas cannot speak fluent Arabic. The Islamic Arabic University will help them a lot in this instance.
“Besides, these people can now be sent abroad where Arabic is a mother tongue. They will get jobs in middle eastern countries easily.”
However, CR Abrar, professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, said: “Having a grasp of a foreign language adds value to migrant workers in finding jobs.
“But a university degree specialising in Arabic will not help. They will need to have technical skills too to progress in middle east countries.”
He further said: “Universities in the country are now enrolling madrasa students to bring them to the mainstream education system. If a new specialised university is introduced, another faction will be created within the stream, which is not necessary.”
“There are already jobs available for madrasa students who also have knowledge on general subjects. Studying in Arabic will not add additional value or create job opportunities in home or abroad,” he said.
Eminent historian and writer Professor Muntasir Mamun, however, opposed the idea of the university completely saying “there is no need of opening a university which is solely based on Arabic.”
He said: “There is no place of madrasa education in the developed world. This system is ultimately hampering students as there is no separate job sector for them. Given the situation, the decision to set up a separate Arabic university is not wise.
“Even if the government is trying to impress a certain quarter of people in the country or the Muslim world outside, I think this was not necessary.”
However, the Islamic Arabic University is already running its operations since 2013 in Dhaka's Bosila in Mohammadpur. The university started its journey after the Islamic Arabic University bill was passed in the parliament on September 25, 2013 by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The Ecnec meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved a total of 10 projects with an estimated cost of Tk5,783.4 crore.