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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Indian state to reform Muslim schools
The Victoria Memorial in Calcutta
Some called madrassas 'breeding ground for terror'

A high-powered committee set up to review the functioning of Muslim religious schools called madrassas in the Indian state of West Bengal has recommended several steps to improve their curriculum.

Headed by former state Governor AR Kidwai, the committee says the state government must arrest the high rate of dropouts from these Muslim schools and make the syllabus more appropriate to current needs.

Madrassas have been accused in India and elsewhere as acting as breeding grounds of militants, an accusation that has upset many Muslims.

But many progressive Muslims agree that the madrassa curriculum must be modernised.

Many others have said, however, that the madrassas were meant for religious education and they had better stay that way.

Discouraging results

In his report, Mr Kidwai described the drop out rate of madrassa students as "alarming".

Calcutta Muslims at Eid congregation
The drop out rates at madrassas is very high

He said around 70% of the Muslim students at the primary level dropped out of madrassas.

Among those left at the middle level, another 40% dropped out, and a further 40% of those who stayed on, eventually left studies at the higher school level.

Mr Kidwai said this was happening because most Muslim families were poor and could not sustain the costs of educating their children.

Other reasons were that students were discouraged by the high rate of failure at all levels, and also, job opportunities for madrassa-educated people were very limited.

Help assured

Mr Kidwai said the curriculum used by the state madrassa board had to be modernised.

He said vocational guidance should be added to the syllabus to ensure jobs and a source of livelihood for the students.

He said his report had identified certain curriculum areas that needed to be upgraded and be brought at par with those of other schools.

The West Bengal school education Minister, Kanti Biswas, who addressed the news conference along with Mr Kidwai, said his government would try to offer financial incentives to prevent the high dropout levels in the madrassas.

He also promised necessary modernisation of the curriculum after consulting Muslim educationists and community leaders.

See also:

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