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Debating Islam ( 13 Dec 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Madrasas and India's Right to Education Act: A TIMES Debate

TIMES VIEW: Permit diversity in the system

By Prabhat Banerjee

Dec 13, 2011

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board president, Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi, have reportedly held talks on a key demand of Muslim community leaders.

Wanting madrasas kept outside RTE`s ambit, the latter ask that guidelines to this effect be given legal sanctity via an amendment to the Act. True, with UP polls in sight, any such pledge by the Congress now will be seen as electorally motivated.

But that shouldn`t deflect focus from the issue at hand. Can a socio-economically diverse nation have a wholly standardised education system that makes a fetish of uniformity? The answer, clearly, is no.

The government clarified sometime ago that madrasas were RTE-exempt. But the matter goes beyond institutions run by religious groups. It`s not practical to expect educational establishments of all shapes and sizes - including private unaided and minority schools - to meet stringent conditions on services irrespective of administrative capacity or financial resources. Quality is admittedly a problem in the sector. But private schools perform a critical function for countless students, many belonging to weaker sections. To expect strict adherence to fixed criteria on fees, admission, teacher-pupil ratios or infrastructure would force many out of business.

That would deny learning opportunities to many disadvantaged pupils. And it would add pressure on our already creaking formal education system, besides giving deep-pocketed players in the key sector an unfair edge over smaller, less endowed schools.

The RTE Act means well by trying to raise educational standards. However, it's considered a landmark legislation because it makes education an entitlement for all. Surely the best way to deliver on that promise is to inject flexibility into the national educational mission, letting different kinds of institutions cater to a variety of demands.


COUNTERVIEW: Include madrasas to empower Muslims

By Prabhat Banerjee

 Dec 13, 2011, 12.00AM IST

Notwithstanding Rahul Gandhi's reported assurances to the AIMPLB to keep madrasas outside the purview of the RTE Act, there is an urgent need to formalise Madrasa education.

Almost 90% of underprivileged Muslim children attend madrasas. However, devoid of a modern curriculum, madrasas are unable to equip these students for the contemporary job market.

This in turn limits their economic opportunities. By bringing madrasas under the provisions of the RTE Act, the Islamic seminaries will be forced to submit to universal standards and modernise.

As highlighted by the Sachar committee report, Muslims in India comprise one of the most socio-economically backward communities in the country. Exemplifying this is the fact that even though Muslims constitute 14% of the country's population they occupy only 2.5% of total jobs in the bureaucracy. For Muslims to have a proportional stake in India's growth story, it is important to ensure quality modern education to Muslim youths. Most madrasas are run by the religious orthodoxy averse to reforms. The massive opposition to Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi's appointment as vice-chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband is a case in point. Vastanvi had promised to introduce modern subjects of study at the seminary but was eventually deemed as too progressive.

In such a scenario, the RTE Act with its stringent parameters for certifying institutes of learning will not only ensure quality education but also mitigate the parochial outlook madrasas breed. It will allow millions of Muslim students to attain recognised degrees and break free from the cycle of poverty. The RTE Act was proposed with the aim of universalising access to education. It must include madrasas if it is to live up to that ideal.

Source: The Times of India, New Delhi