Master’s Status for Top Qawmi Degree: Towards legal recognition

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Asianbangla, Dhaka : The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the draft of a law framed to recognise top Qawmi degree Dawra-e-Hadith as equivalent to master’s in Islamic studies and Arabic.

The proposed law will bring some 15 lakh Qawmi madrasa students under the mainstream education system, said Cabinet Secretary M Shafiul Alam.

A cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office, gave the approval, he told reporters after the meeting.

On April 11 last year, the prime minister had announced that Dawra certificates would be recognised as equivalent to master’s degrees. Two days later, the education ministry issued a circular to this end. Besides, it formed a committee led by Hefajat-e Islam chief Shah Ahmed Shafi, also the chairman of Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh, to facilitate the recognition.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, those linked with Qawmi madrasas said students with Dawra degrees, the highest in Qawmi education, can now seek jobs meant for master’s degree holders.

Educationists, however, expressed scepticism about the government move, arguing that it would create confusions as Qawmi and general educations are two completely different modes of education.

“The quality of their [Qawmi] education doesn’t match with that of mainstream education. People will raise questions about the standard of the degrees in both formats. The degree in mainstream education has been undermined through this move,” said Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University Serajul Islam Choudhury.

Noted academician Syed Manzoorul Islam, a former teacher of the university, said it appears to be a political decision rather than an academic one, as this comes ahead of the national elections.

However, Islamic thinker Maulana Farid Uddin Masoud thanked the prime minister for the cabinet approval, saying the matter would not have progressed this far without her interest.

“Through the honour and dignity that have now been given, the students of Qawmi madrasas will be able to get jobs,” he said.

The country’s madrasa system is divided into two categories — Alia and Qawmi.

Alia madrasas, registered with and supervised by Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board, offer a distinctive combination of modern and religious education.

Qawmi madrasas, on the other hand, have so far been an uncharted territory with no government monitoring, supervision or support. They are run mostly with private donations.

There are about 14,000 Qawmi madrasas across the country, according to last year’s report of Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.

These madrasas operate under six boards with a common name — Bangladesh Qawmi Madrasa Education Boards or Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh. They are said to follow the syllabus of Darul Uloom Deoband, a historic Islamic school of India, focusing mostly on Arabic, Fikah (Islamic law), Tafsir (explanation of Quran), Hadith, and Persian and Urdu languages.

The Qawmi madrasas have six levels of education, starting from Ibtedaiyah (primary) to Dawra-e-Hadith.

THE PROPOSED LAW
The cabinet secretary said the proposed law was designed on the basis of a gazette notification the education ministry published on April 13 last year, recognising the Dawra-e-Hadith degree as equivalent to master’s degree, reports UNB.

The bill, titled “Making Dawrae Hadith (Takmil) Certificate in Qawmi Madrasa Equivalent to Master’s Degree (Islamic Studies and Arabic)”, would have retrospective effect and those who have acquired Dawra-e-Hadith degrees after the recognition in April would be considered having master’s degree, he said.

Shafiul said there would be a board named “Al-Haiyatul Ulia Lil-Jamiatil Qawmia Bangladesh” integrating the existing six Qawmi madrasa education boards.

The chairman of Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh would be the ex-officio chairman of the 17-member integrated board. The board chairman can co-opt one or more persons as the members of the board, but the number of such members would not exceed 15, reported the news agency.

Shafiul said the board would prepare syllabus, question papers, conduct examinations, evaluate answer scripts, and award certificates among the students of Qawmi madrasas.

Besides, the status of the post graduate degree would be effective for the madrasas having registration with the board.

BACKGROUND
The issue of recognising Qawmi madrasa education first came to the fore during the tenure of the BNP-Jamaat government.

On August 21, 2006, just three months before leaving office, the then PM Khaleda Zia said the government decided to recognise Dawra certificates. However, the decision could not be implemented as the required process

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