Madrassas in Pakistan have remained one of the core organs employed in the conservation of religious knowledge while working to generate spiritual leadership. It is important to note that madrassa, as an institution has a glorious legacy. However, there is a section of the religious seminaries that is disseminating radical thoughts among its pupils.
The narrow outlook that such biased religious institutions preach may inculcate intolerance among their students. Thus, there is a need to overhaul the curriculum and regulate the institution. A Directorate General of Religious Education (DGRE) has been lately established for the regulation and facilitation of madrassas in the state. However, the venture has a long way to go in order to bring any substantial improvement in the situation.
The precondition, still, is that the country should consider the religious institutions as a stakeholder and undertake a solemn monetary and administrative commitment to implement the changes
In the recent past, extensive madrassa reforms have been introduced in Pakistan as a part of the National Action Plan, in the light of which religious institutions are required to reform their curriculum. It is to ensure no bigotry and prejudice is taught. However, as the state was created as an ‘Islamic republic’ any reform concerning the religious text needs to be handled with concern. Forced measures to secularize the syllabus are not probable to remain effective.
Apart from that, the finances of the seminaries are also required to be audited in order to make sure they are not facilitating the political agenda of any external entity. The foreign students that visit the country to study in such madrassas are also now required to go under rigorous scrutiny. Therefore, a decrease has been observed in the number of pupils that visit the country to study in such seminaries.
Besides, the alumni of religious institutions have only limited work opportunities once they are done with their education. For that reason, on 8th January 2020, the state announced its plan to introduce vocational and technical learning in madrassas, as a part of its largest skill-development program.
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If all the madrassas are mainstreamed by registering them and introducing in them modern disciplines, it will be thoroughly helpful in the long run. Such changes will facilitate the pupils with substitute work opportunities and prospects along with diminishing the likely enticement to violence. Reformation in this vein has been deliberated upon intermittently for a long time in the country.
In the past, the reforms could not be implemented thoroughly given the resistance of some madrassa administrations toward the state initiative and lapses in political will. However, recently the state has assembled the National Curriculum Council in order to design a comprehensive curriculum for all the educational institutions including public schools, private schools, and religious seminaries. NCC is filling the gaps in the curriculum and planning to introduce the new curriculum from class one to five by March 2020.
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Time will tell if the state will be effective in aligning the madrassas to play an increasingly productive part in society’s progress. The precondition, still, is that the country should consider the religious institutions as a stakeholder and undertake a solemn monetary and administrative commitment to implement the changes.
Fareha Iqtidar Khan holds an M.Phil in International Relations from NDU, Islamabad and teaches Pakistan Studies at IIUI and is an Instructor of Development Support Communication at AIOU. She also works as a freelance researcher at NDU, Islamabad. She has contributed pieces for The Muslim Vibe, Pakistan Observer, the Daily Times, and other newspapers. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.