By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
21 February 2020
Contrary to general belief that madrasas promote radicalism and a narrow and communal world view, madrasas in West Bengal have become multicultural centres of learning, which even secular education system could not achieve. Government schools generally belong to various linguistic communities and so are categorized as Hindi Schools, Urdu schools, Gujarati schools etc where children from religious communities speaking a particular language study. But government madrasas in West Bengal have broken this communal categorization and have felled the barrier of religion established under the garb of linguistic communities.
In madrasas of West Bengal students from both the Muslim and Hindu communities study under the same roof and take lessons from the same teachers. They have lunch together and play together and help each other with their homework. In these madrasas spread across the state, 20 per cent of the students are Hindus and the number is increasing every year. In the state, a total of 850 madrasas affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education impart education out of which 614 are recognized and aided by the government while 235 madrasas are recognized and unaided. This year 64000 madrasa students both Hindus and Muslims appeared for the Madhyamik Examinations starting 10th February.
The syllabus of the madrasas is almost the same as that of the secondary schools of the state. The madrasas have additional subjects like Arabic, Introductory Islam and Islamic history. On graduate level, the madrasas offer subjects like, Political Science, Islamic Studies (Fiqh, Usul-e-Fiqh, Tafsir), Fine Arts, Drama, Computer Applications, Economics, Psychology, Accountancy, Business Organisation and Management and Geography. The modern madrasas of West Bengal offer a progressive education system which can be a model for a multicultural society like India.
The reason behind Hindu students enrolling in these madrasas is that the quality of education is high according to a survey of Islamic education centres in India in 2009 and secondly, madrasa certificates are recognized at par with Secondary school certificate by the government. Thirdly, the Hindu students choose madrasas when they do not get admission in Hindi and Bengali medium schools in their area due to non-availability of seats in those schools. Since madrasas do not discriminate between Hindu and Muslim students, Hindu students get admission freely in these madrasas. In fact, in some madrasas, Hindu students outnumber Muslim students.
The fact that madrasas of Bengal have become a model of secular education is evident from the recognition and praise they have got from international educational bodies like Brookings Institution, Washington. Its report even said that religious seminaries in Pakistan that are blamed for Islamic radicalization and terrorism should learn from madrasas of West Bengal. The Islamic seminaries like Deoband and Nadwa can also think about a self-reformation of their century old education system to bring it at par with the modern education system of the country.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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