The government has taken two key initiatives to mainstream the country’s madrasa education, which is not just largely informal but has a curriculum often viewed as irrelevant.
The minority education division of the Human Resource Development Ministry, which oversees education, this week approved a recommendation that now makes madrasa certificates recognised by state madrasa boards equivalent to CBSE certificates for job purposes. This is being viewed as a revolutionary step.
Furthermore, the government has recast its madrasa education programme, ‘Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (2008-09)’, to “provide linkages with the National Institute of Open Schooling” with an allocation of Rs 325 crore, which may be taken up to Rs 625 crore.
However, experts have warned that unless followed up with “uniform curriculum” and “substantive reforms”, real benefits will continue to elude students of India’s 10,000-odd madrasas. “Will this make these students capable of appreciating modern subjects,” asked Arshad Alam, religious education expert and sociologist at Jamia Millia Islamia.
The majority of madrasas are azad madaris, ones that teach purely theological education and not modern subjects. Those run by state madrasa boards teach a bit of modern subjects.
“Many students from azad madaris appear as private candidates and are passed. But they do not have a modicum of knowledge of these subjects,” Alam said, adding: “Standardisation of madrasa curriculum is critical.” According to him, an equivalent certificate could make them “eligible” to apply for jobs, but will not ensure they get the job in a competitive environment unless curriculum is modernised.
Under the recast plan, the government has provided nearly 5,000 institutions with aid of Rs 136 crore.