M3 Features

Co-educational as well as English medium, and it’s a madrasah

July 24, 2014

The word ’madrasah’ usually refers to a specific type of religious school or college for the study of Islamic thoughts, though this may not be the only stream of subjects. Like any other school, a madrasah too imparts education to the youth of the nation. Earlier, the course of instruction in a madrasah mostly included Arabic language, theology, law, grammar, philosophy, logic and rhetoric. The syllabuses have gradually changed to include subjects that are more career-oriented, like arithmetic, English, science subjects, history and geography. Of course, subjects related to Islam are also taught. Though madrasahs have adapted to the current syllabi, foreign languages such as Arabic are continued to be taught as compulsory subjects.

The Paninala English Medium Government High Madrasah, a government-run madrasah in Paninala, a township with a 40 per cent Muslim population in Nadia district, has recently become West Bengal’s first English-medium madrasah. The school boasts of affiliation to the CBSE board and English-speaking teachers.The second language in the school’s syllabus is Bengali.

West Bengal has been a pioneer in the field of madrasah education since 1915, when the new scheme of madrasah education was introduced through the initiatives of the renowned educationist and madrasah administrator, Maulana Abu Nasar Mohammad Waheed. The West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008 came into force from October 22, 2008 for the purpose of recruitment of teachers and other staff members.

The modern Paninala Madrasah, spread over a sprawling 5-acre campus, saw its first academic session starting in the second week of July. An initiative of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the blue-and-white madrasah houses 198 students and has plans in the future to extend its wings to support students up to class XII.

Though madrasahs are set up by the Muslim community, this modern setup sees 15 per cent of its students from the Hindu community, whose parents have warmed up to the idea of their wards receiving education here rather than in private schools, to the extent that they look forward to their children learning Arabic as a foreign language enthusiastically. 

The teachers here are encouraged to speak to their pupils only in English in order to help them develop a strong foundation in their formative years. Even parents who were in two minds about sending their children to this madrasah for modern education are happy about their stand now, and are open to the idea of their children learning the Quran and Arabic.

Shahidul Islam, secretary, West Bengal Minority Affairs Department, says that 11 such madrasahs have been planned across the state. PB Salim, district magistrate of Nadia, described it as a much-needed modernisation of the existing madrasahs.

More open-minded parents need to be encouraged to send their children to such schools, and teachers also have an important role to play in encouraging this. With madrasahs adopting the subjects taught in conventional schools and thus taking up a modern approach to education, they are becoming more viable. It happens that in many remote places, a madrasah is often the only school nearby, which till recent times was not a viable option for all because of the syllabus; so children had to be sent to far-off schools. Now things are changing for the better. After all, illiteracy, both in the literal as well as in the figurative sense, still poses the greatest threat to the nation.

Written by Ankita Bose for Team M3.tv

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