Madarsa facts & fiction

EducationWorld July 08 | EducationWorld

The word madarsa (variously spelt as madrasah, madarasaa, medresa, madrassa, madraza) is derived from the Arabic lexicon denoting a place for teaching/learning with no religious connotations per se.In the Islamic academic context, it refers to any school below university level which provides education (religious and secular) and prepares future scholars for hifz (memorisation of the Quran) and alim (comprehensive study of Islamic sciences). Madarsa students learn passages from the Quran through rote memorisation. The earliest madarsas grew in and around mosques be2cause of the custom of congregating in mosques to discuss religious issues.
Today there are an estimated 30,000 madarsas across India with an aggregate enrollment of 1 million Muslim children (of 28 million) in the six-14 age group. The real numbers could be vastly different given that formal counts done under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan acknowledge only 10,700 government recognised/aided madarsas. The heaviest concentrations of these schools are in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.
While its commonly believed that all Islamic learning institutions are madarsas, in practice they are classified as maktab, darul Quran, madarsa and jamia, which correspond to school, high school, college and university respectively.
In some states of the Indian Union madarsas are affiliated with state level madarsa boards and offer curriculums similar to state run schools and colleges supplemented with Quran studies. Other madarsas are affiliated with prominent Islamic seminaries such as the Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband (estb. 1886), Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow (1894) and Jamait-ul-Hidaya, Jaipur (1985).
Contrary to popular perception, secular subjects such as logic, history, philosophy, scholasticism, geography, arithmetic, biography, anthropology, civics, rhetoric, philology, calligraphy and the sciences, are taught in madarsas, albeit in Arabic. But of late the managements of several seminaries are beginning to discern the advantages of utilising Urdu/Hindi and English as media of instruction. In the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulma, English is taught as a compulsory subject upto class XII with secular education being dispensed in Hindustani (Urdu-Hindi).
Madarsas should not to be confused with maktabs i.e neighbourhood schools, often attached to mosques which provide supplementary religious education to children who attend government and/or mainstream schools. Maktabs provide part-time complementary religious education.

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