Madrasa System in Pakistan

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Zahid Shahab Ahmed: Madarsa
Peace Prints: South Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, Vol. 2, No. 1: Autumn 2009

MADRASA EDUCATION IN THE PAKISTANI CONTEXT: CHALLENGES, REFORMS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS

Zahid Shahab Ahmed Abstract Educational institutions in Pakistan function under three separate systems— public, private and madrasas. The media and the government turned their attention towards the madrasas only after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as there was a growing perception that terrorism in the region is fueled by these madrasas. Although several studies have been undertaken to analyze the madrasa curriculum and its impact on the students, the role and attitudes of madrasa teachers, and the challenges they face, have largely been neglected. This paper is based on interviews and focused group discussions conducted with madrasa teachers in Pakistan to gauge what, in their view, is required to reform the system. It also provides some recommendations for directions that public policy could take in order to address religious radicalism.

Author Profile Zahid Shahab Ahmed, from Pakistan, is PhD scholar at the University of New England in Australia. He co-authored Attitudes of Teachers in India and Pakistan: Texts and Contexts (New Delhi: WISCOMP 2007). For the last five years, he has been actively engaged in conflict transformation projects at the regional level in South Asia. Correspondence: zahidupeace06@gmail.com.

Available from http://www.wiscomp.org/peaceprints.htm

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Zahid Shahab Ahmed: Madarsa
Peace Prints: South Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, Vol. 2, No. 1: Autumn 2009

MADRASA EDUCATION IN THE PAKISTANI CONTEXT: CHALLENGES, REFORMS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS Zahid Shahab Ahmed Introduction Traditionally, madrasas are Islamic learning institutions, aimed at building a generation of Islamic scholars and leaders. The word ‘madrasa’ means ‘center of learning’ in Arabic. They provide free religious education, boarding and lodging. For these reasons, they are essentially schools for the poor. 1 “The madrasas of Pakistan are said to be the breeding ground for much of South and Central Asian militancy, but for the accusations made, there is precious little known about these seminaries and their students”, notes Tariq Rahman. 2 The increased attention of the international media, particularly after the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and London in 2005, created pressure on the Pakistani government to address the root causes of global terrorism. This also encouraged the government to begin monitoring these educational institutions and to establish mechanisms for creating accountability. History of Madrasas Since 1947 Following the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan in 1947, a number of Ulema from Deoband migrated to Pakistan and established seminaries here. Two of these madrasas are believed to have played a prominent role in bringing a rigorous form of Islam to Pakistan in Akora Khattak (Darul Uloom Haqqania) and in the Banori township of Karachi. 3 Today, there are five distinct types of madrasas in Pakistan, 4 divided along sectarian and political lines. The two main Zahid Shahab Ahmed, from Pakistan, is PhD scholar at the University of New England in Australia. He co-authored Attitudes of Teachers in India and Pakistan: Texts and Contexts (New Delhi: WISCOMP 2007). For the last five years, he has been actively engaged in conflict transformation projects at the regional level in South Asia. Correspondence: zahidupeace06@gmail.com. A madrasa student learns how to read, memorize and recite the Qur’an properly. Madrasas issue certificates of various levels. A madrasa university is called Dar Ul Ulum, (usually having hundreds of students) a primary school, a Maktab, (up to fifty students), and an integrated school with various levels is simply called a madrasa. The graduating students are called Haffiz-ul-Qur’an (those who memorize the Arabic text of the Qur’an) or Qaris (those who can...
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