Qawmi madrasas have long resisted being brought into the mainstream.
As it stands, the Qawmi madrasa system teaches a curriculum that not only restricts the job prospects of madrasa students in an increasingly globalised world, but also distances them from the mainstream culture and values of our society.
This is unfair towards the large swathes of the population who attend Qawmi madrasas, and later find themselves lacking a number of the skills needed for gainful employment opportunities.
But of course, it has not been easy trying to persuade Qawmi madrasas to be integrated into the mainstream – Hefazat chief Shah Ahmad Shafi went so far as to threaten civil war if the government tried to pass a law taking control of the Qawmi system.
A third stream of madrasa education may be the first step towards solving the problem -- unlike Qawmi madrasas, the Darul Arqum system would follow a standard syllabus with government oversight.
The introduction of a third stream has not been without its controversies, with many claiming that it would complicate matters by creating more confusion.
However, the government’s move is merely the first step towards the tremendously challenging task of bringing all educational streams up to a certain acceptable standard.
Our goal should be to help our youth enter today’s competitive economy, and this means paying attention to subjects like science and English alongside the core Islamic education of madrasas.
The answer lies in more government scrutiny, and the current plan for a third madrasa stream just might force the Qawmi system into making some changes of its own.
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