The government is going to introduce a third madrasa education system named Darul Arqum in 2018, with the previous two major streams of madrasas – Qawmi and Alia – still in operation.
Bangladesh Islamic Foundation will monitor the latest stream of madrasa education, while the government has yet to take control over the existing Qawmi madrasas.
The foundation’s research department has already drafted the curricula for the fresh system.
The Islamic Foundation, which is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, has an initial plan to start classes up to Class III, and gradually to the tertiary level.
Assistant secretary to the Islamic Foundation, Noor Uddin, said: “The curriculum for Darul Arqum courses has been prepared following the standard of general education at the primary level.
The new madrasa system can be executed only if people think the nation will compete globally with it
“The new system will be implemented from Class I to Class II in January, while Classes IV and V are expected to be brought under it from 2018,” he added.
He also said Darul Arqum students completing Class V will be given certificates equivalent to the Ebtedayee (primary madrasa) level so they can get enrolled in the Dakhil courses at Alia madrasas.
“Though the Qawmi madrasa education continues without any interference by the government, Darul Arqum madrasas would follow its rules,” said Assistant Professor Jahirul Islam of the Arabic department in Dhaka University.
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“The Darul Arqum madrasas will help impart Islamic education accurately through a standard syllabus,” he added. “The Islamic Foundation has already introduced such madrasas in some areas which will start operation next year. It is going to establish Darul Arqum madrasas in every upazila where other streams do not exist.”
Meanwhile, Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman observed that the new madrasas would create a fresh crisis in the overall madrasa education system.
“Islamic Foundation is not such an authority that is capable of guiding madrasa education properly. Rather, madrasas have to be under the supervision of Madrasa Education Board,” said the vice-chancellor, who is also a professor of Islamic history and culture.
Islamic Foundation Chairman Shamim Ahmed Afjal refused to make any comment on the issue.
As many as 1,010 madrasas will be constructed across the country under the new education system, sources said.
What educationists and experts say
A number of academics, researchers and experts questioned the logic behind introducing the new madrasa education system, saying the existing systems needed more attention to help them improve further.
They say they believe the Darul Arqum madrasas would create a haphazard situation in the entire Islamic education system, with slack coordination in it still prevailing.
Journalist and researcher Afsan Chowdhury suspects there might be a political motive behind the introduction of the new stream of madrasa education.
“Many a stream will create a hotchpotch of multiple madrasa education,” he feared.
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Afsan Chowdhury suggested that the Islamic Foundation institutionalize the maktab (a mosque-based religious learning centre)-oriented teaching at Alia madrasas.
Talking about the future of the Darul Arqum madrasas, he said: “All the curricula of Islamic education systems are designed with an aim to help madrasa graduates get employed in the Islamic job sector. That is a problem, since this particular job sector is not that big.”
He further said if the proposed curricula allowed the students to choose other sectors beyond the Islamic one, it would be great.
“If not so, it will be wiser to enrich the Alia system,” he suggested.
When contacted, Prof Muntasir Mamoon of the history department at Dhaka University, expressing his disappointment over the government move, said: “If the government wants such a new trend in madrasa education, perhaps not many will raise their voices.”
Student leaders are busy dealing with tender and hijacking, while opposition politicians are engaged in criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the election system, and not many are thinking about education, said the noted historian.
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“Why would only a few people raise their voice against the undisciplined education system in Bangladesh? Why should people or politicians not think about the worst condition of our education?” he asked.
“I would like to say that the new madrasa education system can be executed only if the people think that the nation will compete globally with such an education system,” he added.
Prof Dr Harun-Ur-Rashid Askari, vice-chancellor of Kushtia Islamic University, said the education system under the madrasa board had many gaps.
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“We have a mosque-based primary education system, which does not help pursue higher studies. I think the Islamic Foundation must have come up with the new system to get rid of the problem,” he said.
Terming Islamic education in Bangladesh highly sensitive, he said: “The government cannot easily scrap any such education system or make amendments to the existing ones.”