The number of students in madrassahs is increasing, particularly following the government’s recognition of qawmi madrassah education.
The rise in madrassah enrolment has also been boosted by the relaxation in the bars for madrassah students on admission for higher education, madrassah principals and teachers said.
Not only poor parents, but affluent people are also sending children to qawmi and Aliah madrassahs, they said.
Some private madrassahs charge a student up to Tk 10,000 per month, including fees for accommodation and food, they added.
‘People’s interest in sending children to madrassahs is on the rise firstly as more and more of them are practising Islam,’ Iqra Bangladesh Islamic School principal Sadruddin Maqnul told New Age on Saturday.
‘The trend gained further momentum after the government recognised qawmi madrassah’s Dawra-e-Hadith degree in 2017 and relaxed the bars on enrolment for higher education for Aliah madrassah students that follow the government curriculums,’ he said.
‘Now qawmi madrssah students having the Dawra-e-Hadith degree can apply for jobs for which a master degree holder in Islamic Studies or Arabic can,’ added Maqnul, son of eminent cleric Maulana Fariduddin Masoud.
Directorate of Primary Education and Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education statistics also show the increase in the numbers of madrassahs and their students over the years.
Educationists and social scientists explain the trend as a manifestation of people losing faith in the country’s socio-political institutions and the state machinery ‘where the sense of morality and values is on a sharp decline’.
‘It’s no surprise that people are leaning more and more towards the religion and sending children to madrassahs in this society where the democratic institutions are not functioning properly,’ thinker Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque told New Age.
‘Under the circumstances, nobody – not even the government – can stop this trend,’ said the retired Dhaka University professor, adding that it would be better to emphasise providing skill-based education in all types of educational institutions in the country, including the madrassahs, from the primary level.
Rich people in increasing number, he said, are sending children to English-medium institutions so that they can migrate to western countries.
But, he resented, the nation would never develop this way.
A sociology professor said that the interest in madrassah education was growing because of various factors, including the financial position, social status and awareness of parents.
‘Urban poor send children to madrassahs as education there costs no money and food is free at the lillah (free) boarding facilities,’ Dhaka university sociology professor Shah Ehsan Habib he said.
On the other hand, well-off people are sending children to madrassahs as these students can now enroll at universities after the requisite qualifications were eased in favour of madrassah students, the professor observed.
Since 2011, a madrassah student taking 100-mark exams in Bangla and English at the Dakhil (SSC-equivalent) and Alim (HSC-equivalent) levels can apply for admission to Dhaka University while the general-education students need to take 200-mark examinations in those subjects at the SSC and HSC levels, DU officials said.
Madrassah students, however, cannot apply for specialised subjects such as engineering and medicine, they added.
Professor Ehsan Habib noted that madrassah authorities were also attracting students by developing madrassah facilities whereas news reports often show that infrastructure of many schools in the country was still poor.
The Annual Primary School Census 2016 showed that the number of ebtedayee madrassahs and ebtedayee-attached high madrassahs in the country was 9,271, which enrolled 5,72,718 students.
The APSC 2018 figure for those institutions was 12,960, showing an increase of 3,689 over the APSC 2016 figure and the number of students was 6,12,555 in those institutions, 39,837 more than that in the APSC 2016.
The DPE director general could not explain why the number of madrassahs and their students increased though the government was providing free education in the government primary schools along with several other incentives to their students.
Directorate of madrassah education officials disclosed that they were developing a database on those madrassahs which followed the government curriculums.
Directorate of secondary and higher education data show that the number of madrassahs that followed the government curriculums in 2018 was 9,107.
The number of students in the grades from 6 to 12 in those madrassahs was 22,57,464 in 2016 while it was 22,82,839 in 2018, which was 25,375 more than the number found in two years back, according to DSHE data.
But, the DPE or the DSHE has no data about the country’s qawmi madrassahs that follow different curriculums developed under the privately-run Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh education board.
Sadruddin Maqnul claimed that the number of country’s qawmi madrassah students – from maqtab, equivalent to primary level, to Dawra-e-Hadith, equivalent to master degree level – following a gradual rise currently stood at over 20,00,000 after their dawra degree was recognised by the government in 2017.
He claimed that most of the students in these madrassahs lived at lillah boardings while many affluent families these days wanted to pay for the study, accommodation and food of their children in madrassahs.
Depending on their facilities, he said, madrassahs charge Tk 1,500 to Tk 10,000 per student.
Sammilita Imam Olama Parishad Khilgaon-Sabujbagh unit president Moulnana Shibbir Ahmed said that people from rich classes were developing more madrassahs with very good infrastructural and other facilities.
Shibbir, also the principal of Jamiya Islamia Darul Ulum Madrassah at Dakkhingaon in the capital, said that the qawmi madrassahs followed the Befaqul board Bangla and English textbooks up to grade 8, not the government published textbooks.
‘From grade 9 qawmi madrassah students don’t need to learn Bangla or English,’ he added.
He also claimed that parents were showing more interest in sending children to madrassahs ‘to protect them from the degrading society and give them the opportunity of better education with a strong sense of morality’.
Dhaka University’s professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury predicted that the country was likely to face a disaster in future unless effective measures were taken, based on investigation, to correct the country’s education system.
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque advised the government to develop an effective education system assessing the country’s needs but not at ‘the prescription of any donor’.
Only some data does not explain a trend of increase in the numbers of madrassahs and their students over the general schools, said deputy education minister Mohibul Hassan Choudhury.
The government is taking up programmes to enhance the overall education standard, encompassing the madrassah education, for preparing an efficient and competent future generation.
‘The Befaq board will also be gradually brought under the government curriculums and monitoring,’ he claimed.
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