x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bangladesh to reform madrassas by folding religious schools into secular system

Hundreds of Bangladesh's Islamic religious schools to be brought into the mainstream secular education system in a revamp costing $70m.

DHAKA // Bangladesh is planning to integrate hundreds of Islamic religious schools into the mainstream secular education system in a revamp costing $70 million (Dh257m).

As many as five million children, out of a total of 32 million pupils, study at madrassas, but a 2010 government study found that they score significantly lower in subjects such as English and maths than youngsters at mainstream schools.

The overhaul seeks to improve the quality of education offered at madrassas by training Islamic teachers and bringing facilities up to national standards.

An education ministry spokesman, Subdoh Chandra Dhali, said: "Madrassas will be able to train their teachers in subjects such as English, science, information technology and mathematics."

The project, which is being financed by the Asian Development Bank, aims to bring madrassas - which critics say encourage hardline Islam - more closely into the mainstream school system.

"The aim is to gradually reform and modernise this age-old education system," the official said.

The project is a continuation of a programme launched last year by Bangladesh's secular government to reform madrassas, including the introduction of compulsory lessons in science, English and information technology.

The government now funds some madrassas in exchange for control over the curriculum and greater flexibility over admittance, including allowing girls to study at the traditionally all-male seminaries.