A bdnews24.com news says, “Islamic Studies has been added as a new group to the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC)” curriculum “as per government instructions”. Many of my friends have expressed their concerns/despairs over this decision taken by the current government. The reason behind such an expression is pretty straight forward—Bangladesh is going to wipe out ‘secularism’ from its existence, and that it is going to cultivate ‘religious extremism’ officially with all-out support from the government.
While I don’t really think of this in that direction, I do totally understand why they possess such a ‘suspicious look’ to such a decision. Recent activities of the government were sufficient enough to give rise to such a cautious outlook to government’s decision. Arresting the ‘bloggers’ based on the allegations brought about by the right-wing political parties (apparently headed by Hifazat-e Islam) without specific evidence, and making them appear before the media in a way as if they were thugs/criminals, made the secular section of the nation believe that the bold stance of current government against religious fanaticism has been brutally compromised. Introduction of “Islamic Studies” in HSC curriculum might well be evaluated keeping those connotations in mind.
While I am on the similar, if not the same, boat with all my secular friends suspecting the ‘compromise’ government might have had with the right-wing political parties, of course with a deceptive view to attracting those voters keeping upcoming national election in mind, I choose, however, to be on a different boat this time. Not only do I advocate such a decision, I am little upset to think why such a decision was not made way earlier! Nevertheless, better late than never!
The rationale of my stance follows. There is wide-scale consensus that Bangladesh is messed up with multiple diverging curricula that are seldom comparable! Well, the fact that these are not ‘comparable’ is not the point of concern; the concern lies in the ‘divergence’ and the ‘applicability’ instead. A lot of countries across the globe have multiple curricula; all of those are ‘recognized’ by the respective countries, have a common essence of education and learning, and are comparable in terms of applicability (‘comparable applicability’ intends to depict the fact that the diplomas/degrees/certification from all those curricula are considered ‘comparable’, if not ‘equal’). In Bangladesh, by contrast, sadly, the certification from yet-to-be-recognized ‘Bangladesh Qawmi Madrassah Education Board’ is practically not ‘comparable’ to that from National curriculum or one from English medium stream. The issue of non-comparability arises predominantly from the differences in the curricula which these streams are based on.
There are examples of earlier initiatives taken to ‘reform’ or ‘modernize’ madrassah education system (comprises largely Alia and Qawmi system); there has been notation of successful ‘negotiation’ of modernizing Alia madrassah system (the state-funded one, having about 5.5 million students), while such an enterprise was rejected and criticized by the Qawmi officials (the privately-funded one, with more than a million students). The Qawmi officials told that “religious education will be destroyed” by the government’s effort in modernizing the madrassah system.
Even if the comments made by the Qawmi officials appear immature and unconscientious, the concerns surrounding it are manifold. First of all, it clearly demonstrates that these ‘officials’ have no trust on the government’s effort in modernizing the system, and hence making it more applicable in everyday life. It may be assumed that there was a substantial gap in understanding the definition and scope of ‘modernizing’ the system. If this is not true, there might be fear in Qawmi officials’ mind of losing the grip on the system, and of translating their agenda. And the third is, such a message/comment spreads faster than a malicious virus to the mass people, especially to the potential clients, i.e., those who have started experiencing the lowest possible state of poverty to have no other choice but to send their child(ren) to the Qawmi madrassahs.
Obviously, people have the right to choose whichever education system they want to. However, this very problem is not that uni-dimensional, and we need to decode the local context and consequences. Two major concerns drive children to ‘attend’ (those with parents are sent to, and those without, i.e., the orphans have to) Qawmi madrassah: tuition fees, and ‘proper’ religious education which is expected to make them Islamic scholars.
The adjective ‘proper’ is used deliberately to indicate that the Islamic education in other streams (parenthetically, the Islamic education, at least up to secondary level, has been historically endemic in Bangladesh, in all the education systems, even outside the scope of formal education system) is not appropriate enough (modernized?), and hence the ‘only’ way to be a ‘truly’ Islamic scholar is to attend Qawmi madrassah.
First of all, this is not the only ‘proper’ way (if at all) of being an Islamic scholar, and secondly, the curriculum of this stream is so ‘backdated’ that the graduates (if they can be called so) lack minimum academic/technical knowledge/skill to be recruited in the employment industry. Such a frustration affects most, if not all, of the Qawmi graduates quickly, leading them to feel worthless in the society. This is possibly the best time for the ‘extremist grower’ to target these graduates, and show them how to make their worthless lives worthwhile by sacrificing their lives to the path of God (read, by killing other people who they think are not on the ‘path of God’). It is assumed that they are taught in that way, in contrary to the popular stance of Islam for peace. Therefore, the system is responsible for letting them be in such a situation, which mandates viable alternatives to be provided.
The best possible alternative would be to bring them under the ‘unified’ education system, which would include provision of technical education to make them ‘employable’. This, however, doesn’t seem to happen in near future if ever. Next would be to create a ‘trustworthy’ alternative for those dreaming to be an Islamic scholar where they can get ‘proper’ Islamic education, along with the technical education which would make an Islamic scholar capable of competing in the job market. Alia madrassah is the one which is under the process of ‘modernization’. This requires the teachers to be trained and the system to be upgraded, which surely will take time. Therefore, provision of Islamic education under the category of “Islamic Studies” in the mainstream education system is a pretty wise decision to take that makes government’s regulation convenient within its already-built infra-and-suprastructure. Just to remind the critics of this inclusion, you don’t have to opt in if you don’t want to!
Once the ‘politics’ was made ‘difficult for the politicians’, and thus was made easier for the non-politicians (e.g., businessmen, thugs, perpetrators, killers, assassinators etc.), we are blaming the politics as a whole. Secular section of the population left the mosque only to let partially-educated extremist clergymen lead the Islamic institutions, and now we are blaming the Islamic institutions as a whole. Please don’t advocate keeping Islamic Studies away from the national curriculum only to let those clergymen ‘produce’ extremists in the name of creating Islamic scholars! Take the courage, time and effort to take care of your child(ren), and do not leave it to untrained ‘nannies’ only! Please!
Source: Bd news24