The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modern touch to madarsas

Calcutta, March 6: Senior madarsas, which primarily teach theology and Arabic, will be brought under the integrated learning improvement programme of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a Centre-state initiative aimed at achieving 100 per cent literacy in the 5-14 age group.

The induction of the senior madarsas into the Abhiyan will stem dropouts, said Abdus Sattar, the president of the West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education.

The programme, introduced in Class I and continued in the successive classes, involves a participatory approach in which the children are their own teachers.

Over 300,000 students attend the 102 senior madarsas, which teach Arabic, Islamic theology, history, culture and jurisprudence from Class I to the post-graduate level. Almost 60 per cent of the students are girls, but the boys outdo them in the dropout rate as many quit after the first few years.

Sattar said: 'Most students in senior madarsas come from backward families and face several hurdles.'

A majority of those who drop out quit studies. 'Some move to a junior high or high madarsa after the second or third standard,' said a board official.

In addition to Arabic and Islamic history and culture, the high and junior high madarsas impart general education beyond the primary level.

Sattar said the programme would later be implemented in the 238 high ' of them 36 teach up to HS ' and the 167 junior high madarsas.

The programme has to be implemented in phases ' admitting all children between five and nine to a madarsa, retaining them for at least five years and using learning techniques to improve the quality of education.

'We have developed study materials for all subjects, including Arabic,' Sattar said. The materials were earlier not available for madarsa courses.

Out of the 102 senior madarsa superintendents, 55 have already undergone training in north Bengal. The second phase would be held in the south.

Besides, one voluntary resource person would be chosen for each madarsa to oversee the programme. These volunteers would undergo special training, said an official. 'As there are very few women teachers in madarsas, we have decided to pick women volunteers,' said Sattar.

The volunteers would ensure that the number of lectures is minimum and the students are involved in activities. 'The teaching should be based on illustrations, charts, modules and specimens to arouse interest,' said an official.

The move is part of the government's efforts to mainstream madarsas across Bengal. The madarsa board signed an agreement with Intel last year to train teachers to conduct classes in computer laboratories. Intel conducted the training, attended by teachers and heads of about 44 high madarsas, for free.

Officials said all these high madarsas have been provided computers and students from Classes VI to XI will now be taught various subjects with the aid of multimedia.

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