As the government has recognised top Qawmi degree 'Dawrae Hadith' as master's one, noted educationists think it will be a useless exercise unless the curricula of such informal madrasa are vigorously reformed and modernised with its integration into the mainstream education.
They also questioned the justification of giving the top Qawmi degree master's status without recognising its certificates equivalent to JDC, SSC, HSC and Degree levels.
Talking to UNB, national professor Anisuzzaman, professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor Abul Barakat and professor Mesbah Kamal said the government's such move will not yield any positive outcome for the country and students of Qawmi madrasas since their education quality in no way matches the general education when it comes to curricula.
They said an education commission comprising Islamic scholars and academics needs to be formed urgently to modernise the Qawmi education with a holistic approach combining science, English and Arabic education so that Qawmi educational institutions can produce skilled human resources.
On 19 September, a bill to recognise Dawrae Hadith (Kamil) certificate in Qawmi madrasas with the status of postgraduate degree of Islamic Studies and Arabic, was passed in parliament.
The bill will have retrospective effect and those who have so far acquired Dawrae Hadith degrees after the recognition in April, 2017 will be considered as master's degree holders.
There will be a board named Al-Haiyatul Ulia Lil-Jamiatil Qawmia Bangladesh integrating the existing six Qawmi madrasa education boards in the country which will prepare syllabuses, question papers, conduct examinations and award certificates among the students of Qawmi madrasas.
Professor Anisuzzaman said, "I think the standard of education of Qawmi madrasas and mainstream educational institutions is not equal to give Dawrae Hadith the status of master's degree. If the government has different information and statistics, that's a different matter."
He said the standard of Qawmi madrasa education needs to be upgraded with modern education to give such recognition.
Professor Serajul Islam said Qawmi and general education are two different streams of education system as their syllabuses and style of education are also different. "So, the recognition of Dawrae Hadith certificate as master's degree status will only create confusion instead of bringing anything good for the county and people."
He also said the Qawmi madrasa students will not be benefited by receiving such certificates due to the poor standard of their education. "If you give medical students the certificate of engineering how will they be benefited from it?"
Serajul Islam also said Qawmi madrasa curricula are outdated ones as those have no focus on mother language, history, culture and science.
Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University's Economics department said it is not clear to him how the government recognises Qawmi's top class certificate without recognising its other levels equivalent to JSC, SSC, HSC and Degree ones. "I also can't understand what benefits the students will get with their only master's certificates since their education doesn't match the general one."
He said the Qawmi madrasa education should be integrated with the mainstream education through massive overhauling of their syllabuses and teaching method. "The government should now immediately constitute a commission comprising experts from both Qawmi and general education to streamline Qawmi madrasa education through reforming and modernising its syllabuses."
Barkat who conducted a research on madrasa education and wrote a book titled 'Political Economy of Madrasa Education in Bangladesh', said Qawmi madrasa degrees are not comparable to mainstream ones as their curricula give emphasis on religious aspects instead of science-based modern one.
"Around 75 per cent of madrasa students now remain unemployed in different forms as they have no opportunity to engage in jobs based on their education and skills," he said.
Professor Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University's History department said, "I think it's not a justified decision to recognise the Dawrae Hadith certificate as equivalent to master's degree."
Qawmi Madrasa education needs to bring under a systematic structure through vigorously reforming its curricula by including general subjects like history, culture, science and English and mathematics. "The reform should begin from the entry level to the top class of the Qawmi madrasas," he said.
"Without modernising Qawmi madrasa education and improving its standard what's the point of giving such certificates? Neither the students nor the county will be benefited from it," the DU professor observed.
Echoing professor Barakat, he said an education commission needs to be formed with Islamic scholars and noted educationists urgently to modernise the Qawmi madrasa education and formulate time-befitting curricula for the students so that they can get quality education and diversify their professions through receiving government approved certificates.