Lessons on jihad, militancy to be dropped, inter-religious harmony to be added
The madrasa board has decided to emphasize spoken Arabic in its upcoming national curriculum, to capitalize on skilled job opportunities in Middle Eastern countries.
Currently, madrasa education focuses on religious issues, and students can read out Arabic but not speak it, Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board (BMEB) officials said.
As the number of Alems and Ulemas (Islamic scholars) who can speak Arabic fluently is few in Bangladesh, the BMEB is planning to bring in new books with a focus on spoken Arabic for the new syllabus in 2021, they added.
Many Bangladeshis travel to the Middle East and are mostly employed in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. However, good Arabic speaking skills would give madrasa students the opportunity to apply for skilled jobs, the BMEB officials further said.
The main goal of the two major types of madrasa education in Bangladesh—Qawmi and Alia—is to make students proficient in Islamic history, religion, heritage, culture, language, and customs.
In the Qawmi madrasa education system, which has the larger number of students in the country, the sole focus is on learning about the religion.
There are 9,258 Alia madrasas and 6,997 madrasas based on a similar curriculum under the BMEB.
“By observing the job market in the Middle East, we found that many women are working in call centres. However, very few of them are from a madrasa background,” BMEB Chairman Prof AKM Saif Ullah told the Dhaka Tribune.
“If our madrasa students can develop proper spoken Arabic skills, then they can have access to better opportunities in the Middle East,” he added.
In madrasa education, a Fazil degree is equivalent to a BA degree, a Dakhil degree is equivalent to the SSC, and Alim degree is equivalent to an HSC degree.
Lessons on jihad to be dropped, inter-religious harmony to be added
Officials say 12 new books of the BMEB will be rewritten in line with the new syllabus, and lessons that may encourage jihad, militancy, and terrorism will be excluded. On the other hand, lessons encouraging inter-religious harmony will be included in the books.
Previously in 2014, jihadi topics were omitted from all books of the madrasa curriculum, following government directives.
In 2016 and 2017, the board made more changes to the content of the books—including to the chapters which unintentionally incited jihadi fervour, said BMEB officials.
BMEB Chairman Prof AKM Saif Ullah said: "Although there are no jihadi contents in the books being taught in madrasas now, the board will further scrutinize the curriculum for any indirect references to jihadi or militant content and remove them."
He added the changes being made to the new books for 2021 will adhere to a modern education curriculum.
The age and capacity of students will be taken into consideration for the rewrite, and no translations of the Quran and Hadith other than that by the Islamic Foundation will be accepted. The books will use Bangla Academy's spelling guide and standard language.
Noted educationist and Dhaka University Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam said spoken Arabic alone cannot help madrasa graduates find better jobs in the Middle East.
“After conducting a survey to find out what jobs are available in the Middle Eastern countries, we need to develop the necessary skills alongside language education,” he said.
He added that the initiative to modernize madrasa education is a timely one, and students will be able to reap the benefits in other countries as well as the Middle East.
There are 23 books for ninth and tenth graders sitting for the Dakhil examination in 2019, including six books on religion. The other 17 cover physics, chemistry, biology, English, mathematics, civics, ICT, and include the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) books on humanities.
Furthermore, a book on technical education will be included for sixth to tenth graders from 2021, said the BMEB chairman.
NCTB member (curriculum) Moshiuzzaman said: “The national curriculum will be changed from pre-primary to the 12th grade. Some of NCTB’s books will be included in madrasa education, so that students can learn about the horror of terrorism and militancy.”
Madrasa textbooks have undergone revision and amendment three times since 2016, and the latest changes to the books will begin from 2020.