The Madrasah Education system in Bengal was grown up and flourished with the foundation of the Calcutta Madrasah in 1780 by the British East India Company. In 1915, the new scheme of Madrasah Education was introduced by the initiatives of Moulana Abu Nasar Mohammad Waheed, I.E.S., the renowned educationist and administrator and the then Principal of Dacca Senior Madrasah. The East Bengal Secondary Education Board (1921), the Board of Islamic Intermediate and Secondary Education Dacca for High Madrasah Education (1922) and the Central Madrasah Examination Board for Senior Madrasah Education (1927) were established to conduct the Madrasah Examinations till 1947. As per recommendation of the Moazzamuddin Committee (1946), the Central Madrasah Examination Board was converted to the Madrasah Education Board, Bengal and later, in 1950 it was renamed as the West Bengal Madrasah Education Board, the oldest Board of Madrasah Education in our Country.
Once again in 1994, the Board had been given the status of a statutory autonomous body by passing the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education Act 1994 (West Bengal Act, XXXIX of 1994) in the West Bengal State legislature. Now the Board is allowed to function with the same academic, administrative and financial powers, facilities, status and privileges as enjoyed by the other Education Boards, Councils and similar Bodies in the State Government. Board’s activities are regulated by the relevant Acts, rules, regulations and guidelines of the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education in the Government of West Bengal. The responsibilities of the Board is not only to direct, supervise and control all types of Madrasahs but also to make these institutions as centre of excellence, more students friendly, community friendly and more comfortable specially for minority families so that they can be a natural member of the knowledge society of the 21st century.
Madrasah Education in West Bengal
The term ‘Madrasah’ is an Arabic word meaning educational institution or school imparting education to all irrespective of religion, caste, creed and gender. The idea that it imparts religious and theology based education to a particular religion is not true. In fact, the Madrasah education in West Bengal is fulfilling the constitutional commitment by providing access to free education up to secondary level for the most deprived people most of whom are first generation learners live in rural areas where avenues and opportunities are markedly limited. Most of the Madrasahs are situated in the remote rural areas of the state and they were founded with the initiative of community donations. In course of time, these Madrasahs were recognised by the Board and funded by the Government. West Bengal was the first state to offer recognition to Madrasahs and to convert the Board into statutory body in 1994. Recognizing the importance of Madrasah education in the state the Department namely Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education along with the Directorate of Madrasah Education and a separate teaching & non-teaching staff recruitment commission for Madrasahs namely Madrasah Service Commission has also been established has been created and is now functional.
The Board has received recognition at national and international level. Recently the Hon’ble members
of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission proposed that the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education may recognize Madrasahs (without any aid ) in the state of Karnataka under Educational Model and Curriculum and syllabus of the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education. Recently the Brookings Doha Centre, Washington has held up Bengal’s Madrasahs as models of secularism and also said that Pakistan, where the radical Islamisation is blamed a great deal on Madrasahs, should learn from such Madrasahs in West Bengal and emulate them. The study says “In other parts of the Muslim World, Madrasahs have served an appropriate educational purpose. For example in West Bengal, India, a survey of Islamic schools in January 2009 found that because of higher quality of education at Madrasahs, even Non-Muslims were actively enrolling in them”. The core group constituted by the Govt. to review the syllabi, text books and other related items based on NCF-2005 has reviewed all Text Books published by the Board and remarked “It is heartening to note that the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education which follows the syllabus of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has started publishing text books for all classes and all subjects. Subject experts have reviewed these books and found them qualitatively better”.
There are two types of Education system in West Bengal :
One is School Education system and other is Madrasah Education system. In Madrasah Education system two categories of institutions are functioning: one is recognized by the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education and aided by the Govt. of West Bengal with entire liability of Salary, Retirement and other benefits (Gratuity, Pension, Leave etc.) of teaching and non-teaching staff. The Govt. also bear financial liabilities for infrastructure development, incentives and other facilities i.e. free text books, sanitation and drinking water etc.
The other category of Madrasahs are established, run and maintained by the individual or by community or by organization etc. and those are called Muktab or Khariji Madrasahs.
For the first , institutions recognized by Board, two types of Madrasah Education are functioning in the state namely:
i) the new scheme –High Madrasah Education System
ii) the old scheme-Senior Madrasah Education System
i) High Madrasah Education System
It is a modern education system which was introduced by the Government of Bengal following the recommendations of Maulana Abu Nasar Md. Waheed. To cope up with modern trends and to meet the global challenges, the Govt. of West Bengal had constituted Madrasah Education Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. A.R.Kidwai a renowned educationist of India and also the former Governor of Hariyana and West Bengal. The Curriculum and syllabus has been restructured according to the recommendations of the said Committee. The syllabus and subjects taught in High Madrasahs are same as that of Madhyamik system except two subjects Arabic and Islam Parichay. From the year 2007, the four co-scholastic areas have been included in the curriculum of the Madrasah Education to promote the all round development of the learner. The details have been discussed later on.
ii) Senior Madrasah Education System
This education system is a balanced blend of moral teaching-learning (Theology and Islamic Culture) with modern education (Science and Technology). The reformation and modernization has been done following the recommendations of the Review Committee 1978 (chaired by Prof. Mustafa-Bin-Quasim) and Madrasah Education Committee 2002 (chaired by Dr. A.R.Kidwai). The curriculum and syllabus ( from Primary to Post Graduate) have been restructured with a view to open access to higher education, employment possibilities and social opportunities. The Senior Madrasahs running from class I to class X are called Alim Madrasahs and the Madrasahs from class I to class XII are called Fazil Madrasahs. In addition to Language, Social Science & Science subjects like Bengali / Urdu, English, Mathematics, Life Science, Physical Science, History and Geography the subjects like Arabic, Islamic Theology (Hadith, Tafsir and Fiqh) are also taught at Alim level (10th class standard). At Fazil level (12th standard) Bengali/Urdu, English, Arabic and Theology are compulsory subjects. The students are also offered the opportunities to choose two elective subjects from the following list namely:
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