The West Bengal government’s education department has decided to start English-medium madrassas in the state from the next academic year.
“In the first phase, the department plans to open 12 such schools in 11 minority-dominated districts like Malda, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad and Kolkata,” said state minority welfare and madrassa education department minister Abdus Sattar.
The minister said such madrassas would offer poor Muslims the opportunity to get an education in English medium.
West Bengal has about 400 madrassas affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Madrassa Education. The number of madrassas not affiliated to the board is about 5,000.
So far, the medium of teaching has been Urdu, Hindi and Bengali.
“Apart from studying Arabic as a compulsory subject, the students in these new English medium madrassas will study all subjects in English, including Islamic Studies,” said Sattar.
Students will have this facility in some of the existing madrassas till the new schools are ready.
“Studying in English medium will provide the students of the minority community better opportunity for higher education,” the minister added.
Like in other madrassas across the state, students of the English-medium madrassas will get free school uniforms, mid-day meals, free hostel facilities (for children from distant villages) and free education material.
Education would be free for poor students. Teachers’ salaries would be on a par with state government schoolteachers’.
The department for primary education has decided to introduce English-medium schools alongside existing Bengali-medium schools. “If the state Madrassa Board of Education continues to follow only one medium, students of the minority community will be left behind,” said Sattar.
In 2007, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry had declared the West Bengal madrassa system as a model that could be replicated throughout the country.