There has been a recent furor over the Maharashtra Government declaring that it had decided to derecognize madrassas that give students education only on religion, without imparting formal education like English, Maths and Science subjects. The registered madrassa not teaching primary subjects will be classified by the state government as “non-schools” and children studying in them will be considered “out of school” students.
What is a Madrassa?
Madrassa is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious (of any religion). But usually the word Madrassa is referred to an Islamic religious school.
What is taught in a Madrassa?
I haven’t been to a Madrassa, not do I know anyone who has been to one. This is what I understand from what I’ve read.
– Some Madrassas teach only religious instruction.
– Some Madrassas teach subjects like Maths, Sciences, Languages, Social Sciences and other subjects.
(Read more about Madrassa curriculum)
What does the Constitution say?
The Constitution talks about Minority Educational Instutions in Articles 29 and 30. (These articles come under Fundamental Rights section. Go to a simple Mind Map on Fundamental Rights)
All minorities, whether based on religion or language
– have the right to establish educational institutions of their choice
– have the right to administer it
– have the right to receive government aid and grants without discrimination
A minority institution (that gets Government aid) should not deny admission to members of other communities. However, the minority community may reserve up to 50 percent of the seats for the members of its own community in an educational institution established and administered by it even if the institution is getting aid from the State.
The purpose of the minority educational institution is to preserve their religion or language. It is obvious that they will teach their religious beliefs or their language. The members belonging to other communities do not have the right to freely profess, practice and propagate their religion within the precincts of a college run by a minority community.
A minority institution need not impart only religious or language education. Institution imparting general secular education is equally protected. The minority has a right to give “a thorough, good general education”.
If the Government requires the property on which a minority institution is built for a public project, the government must pay the institution the amount of money they would require to buy land and build the institution elsewhere.
What I think about this
Based on the Constitution, it is my understanding that a Madrassa has the right to impart only religious education (without sceince, maths etc). The parents who send their children to such an insitution do so knowing well the education their children receive. Maybe that is what they want.
While the Government may encourage Madrassas to include secular education to equip their students for the competition that they may face, it seems against the spirit of the Constitution to arbitrarily derecognise Madrassas.
An important function of the madrasas is to admit orphans and poor children in order to provide them with education and training. Considering this, it may be unfair to derecognise the education that these poor students have acquired.
A suggested solution could be to follow the West Bengal modernisation model, where the State Government ensures that secular subjects are taught to equip students better. It is reported that many non-Muslim students enrol (Source: The Hindu, Al Jazeera). However, Muslims may feel that the aim of Madrassas is to produce religious scholars of Islam, not professionals in medicine, administration, enginerring etc. The Government could work with the body of Madrassas to come to a consensus on what can be done, on deciding a balance of percentage between secular and religious subjects. The State of Kerala seems to have a different policy (A para has been dedicated to it on Wikipedia).
This should be resolved with ‘consultation’ and ‘consensus’, bringing about solutions that are acceptable by all involved.
To pass an order without consulting them seems unfair. And to decognise them, unconstitutional.