Uniform Education Code - At School Level?

NewsBharati    07-Feb-2022 17:12:33 PM   
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As usual, the debate over the "Uniform Education Code '' is mired in high decibel political controversy. Professors emeritus, academics, and religious heads are unable to reach a consensus.
Excessive vicious politicization in India is real due to the "Freedom" guaranteed in democracy.
However, the key issue to address is simple - "Uniform Education Code'' at what levels - Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Higher Secondary School levels besides Higher Education at Under Graduate, Graduate, Post Graduate, and higher levels? Surely, it is a virtual impossibility at all levels.
Some of the key issues that need to be addressed include: What fundamentals must form the basis of addressing the issue?; Should the curriculum of all religions be taught in schools at all levels in the full realization that they divide the society based on distrust and hatred?; and, Why should exceptions be made for exercising government control over religious places - temples, churches, and Mosques?
Recognize and accept all alike that "Intellect ripens at an early stage" and "young brains are most fertile." Most impressionable is the "Young Minds". And, it is virtually impossible to erase from memory what is implanted and fertilized at a young age. So, the development of intellect and individual personality must be the primary concern at the school level.
Most importantly, national unity and social integration, sinking narrow parochial and sectarian diametrically opposite views, should be the end objective of the education system at the school level.
Yet another significant issue that needs to form the basis of the modern-day education system is the "Tech Age" imperatives. If so, the education system must create citizens to live and work in a harmonious environment to foster creativity and innovation.
Viewed in the above context, the present system of education needs to undergo revolutionary changes. Ipso facto, there are a wide variety of schools with divergent end objectives and pursuits. Churches and Mosques enjoy complete autonomy and freedom from the shackles of the government. By contrast, "Temples" are under government control and their funds are diverted for various purposes (some States fund other religious institutions).
So, the first step is to lay down uniform rules over the management of Temples, Churches, and Mosques. Either all of them should be under government control, or none of them should be under their government control. The present practice of State funding educational institutions teaching and preaching religion must stop forthwith. For, State funding religious educational institutions are the root cause of promoting societal division contra national unity and integrity. State funding must be only given to only those institutions that implement the "Uniform Educational Code".Even the educational institutions must be detached and located from religious places.
In particular, Muslim educational institutions country-wide are the cause for narrow sectarian preaching and teaching. The Madrasas deliberately mold "young Brains" in a narrow idealistic sectional egoism. It curbs development for creativity, innovation, and harmony so vital for keeping abreast of the "Technology Age" complex and dynamic developments. In the recent past, quite a few among them have made a clean break with the past.
At the School level, there is excessive focus even now on "memorizing" and examinations. Such a process is contrary to "creativity" development. According to a popular view, creativity is a product of the brain's right hemisphere -- innovative people are considered "right-brain thinkers" while "left-brain thinkers" are thought to be analytical and logical. Thus, the need to make shifts in the curriculum to enhance creativity is vital for innovation.
Even after 75-years, there are double standards practiced in various States due to political compulsions of vote bank politics. Today, there is a growing demand for governments to stop diverting "Temple Funds" for non-Hindu religious purposes. Never too late for the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of the current education system pursuing archaic curriculums contra national unity and integration and direct the government to expeditiously formulate and implement the "Uniform Education Code."
Let me at the outset highlight that the education system at the higher-level - university - is largely based on a uniform curriculum as prescribed by the universities, irrespective of communal patronage. But, their curriculum mostly follows what was formulated and in vogue since the 1950s. What is needed, therefore, is a clean break with the past to define the curriculum to meet the requirements of "Technology Age" skills. For example, there is no point in wasting precious time on "Carpentry and Blacksmith" skills in the first year of a B. Tech Computer Science Course.
Be that as it may, there are divergent Muslim schools of thought over the issue of the "Uniform Education Code" at the school level to include: Conservatives; Moderates; Reformists; and Revolutionaries. In the 21st century, most of the Madrasas schools around the globe have adopted scientific curricula that have increased the employability of their students. The Singaporean Madrassa system, for example, has begun using modern technologies like tablets. The government recognizes the need to “modernize” India’s Madrasas. The lack of a holistic approach to learning is real.
Madrasas, largely run by private religious sects, are an integral component of the education system and they continue to be huge thought-influencers. During Fridays, these imams give out sermons that can be used to convey socio-political commentary and influence the formulation of public opinion. No wonder, a section of conservative Muslim clergy oppose the introduction of scientific and modern education and improve teaching methods for they are woefully unqualified.

Many Madrasas in the northern part of India, particularly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, have not adopted more modern curricula. No scientific and secular subjects in the curriculum. Graduates find it difficult to find employment. Things are slightly different in South India. Many Madrasas in Kerala and Tamil Nadu allow students who learn the Quran in the morning to enroll for secular education in the afternoon. Most of these madrassa graduate students can take examinations in other courses.
In Kerala, Nadwat ul Mujahideen, founded in 1924, has been opposing the Sunni orthodoxy and their alleged ‘false beliefs’ such as polytheism. There is no separation of knowledge in Islam, and the Prophet did not divide learning on the basis of what was “sacred” and what was “secular”. There is no official clergy in Islam, and a doctor or a management professional can lead a prayer. The Friday sermons in Kerala are read in the vernacular, Malayalam, while in the north Indian states, they are in Arabic and not translated to either Urdu or Hindi.
In 2018-2019, there were 24,010 Madrasas, of which 4,878 were unrecognized. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has over 20,000 Deobandi Madrasas in north India. These institutions are in desperate need of reforms. The most important religious body, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which runs most of the Deobandi Madrasas, has repeatedly refused to take part in various initiatives started by a succession of union governments after 1993. At the same time, however, they have benefited from the allocation of funds for state-run Madrasas.
For example, only State-funded Madrasas in six states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, and Assam - have adopted the equivalent of mainstream education and their certificates are also at par with the school boards. Now, they have set up a committee of Muslim scholars and educators to prepare a roadmap for introducing a modern curriculum in Madrasas. It is motivated by considerations for the socio-economic progress of the community.
In contrast, Muslim scholars like Ziya Us Salam, and Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz, authors of the book ‘Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia’ published by SAGE, highlight that the Madrasas had their own golden past as centers of excellence and learning. There was a time when Madrasas brought out the best of physicians, economists, mathematicians. We have glorious examples like Rajendra Prasad, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and Premchand, who had studied in Madrasas. They were not Muslims, but their parents chose to send them to a Madrassa because of the quality of education, much like the way many modern Muslims in India today prefer to send their children to convents.
On the flip side, Ziya Us Salam lamented that the system has degenerated into "archaic centers of Islamic learning or wrongly pictured as dens of extremism". Madrasas across the world have suffered a great loss of reputation in recent decades, thanks to a wave of extremism. They have been continually targeted during the last few years with an avalanche of searing and strident critiques.
Ziya Us Salam stated "When you go to a typical Madrassa, the atmosphere is one of deprivation and discrimination. I decided to begin my book with that kind of description after my visit to Madrassa Rasheedia on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi. I saw some 50 boys between the age of 8 and 16 staying there and they did not even have a dormitory to themselves. …….. no proper educational curriculum ….. They were just expected to read the Quran in order to memorize it." Children are enrolled in Madrasas mostly so that they could have an assured meal for the day, and they would be able to read the Quran. No high-quality teachers. Most Madrasas have no concept of organizing social gatherings or extracurricular activities like field trips that could give students some degree of experiential learning.
The greatest modern Muslim reformist thinker, Fazlur Rahman, believed that the cultural isolation of madrassa students would lead to stagnation. Rahman described madrassa learning as follows:
“With the decline in intellectual creativity and the onset of ever-deepening conservatism, the curricula of education … shrank and the intellectual and scientific disciplines were expurgated, yielding the entire space to purely religious disciplines in the narrowest sense of the word. Mechanical learning largely took the place of original thought. With the thirteenth century, the age of commentaries begins and it is not rare to find an author who wrote a highly terse text in a certain field, in order to be memorized by students and, then, in order to explain the enigmatic text, he authored both a commentary and a super commentary!”
Next, Khalid Umar, a Barrister in the U.K., in a scathing indictment has demanded to scrap "Islamic Madrasas" in India. As per him, a Madrassa is an exclusivist religious school, where MUSLIM children are taught the Quran, the Sharia, Hadith, Islamic history of invasions (Jihad). The syllabus teaches the students to hate all non-Muslims, especially the "Hindus, who are declared as idolaters-dubbed in Madrasas as hateful human beings, called ‘kefirs'." Madrasas produce "highly indoctrinated and poisoned minds, full of hate, fear, and false pride". The establishment of "Ghana-i-Hind" is taught in almost every madrassa. Nobody can dream to take the nation ahead with millions enrolled in the over 600,000 Madrasas countrywide along with another 40-50 lakh mosques with attached "makatab or madrassa." When there are 3, 60,000 "young minds" get stuck in an ancient curriculum "developed in the 1700s" in Delhi alone there are more than 3,000 Madrasas.
Khalid Umar apportioned the blame also on the UPA Government for initiating "an ill-thought plan as part of its appeasement politics" - “Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas” (SPQEM) in 2009-10. This fruitless scheme was introduced to encourage "Madrasas and Maktabs" to introduce formal subjects i.e. Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, Hindi, and English; the scheme is STILL ongoing in 18 states in the country. As per Khalid Umar, the UPA initiative was mindless stupidity. ISLAMIC TEACHINGS and modern education can’t coexist. Would the students of madrasa trust Science which says Earth is spherical and revolves around the SUN or will believe QURAN which says, the earth is flat and the SUN sets in the murky water of a lake? How can you teach them harmony and love when they learn from the Quran that all IDOLATORS are consigned to eternal HELL-FIRE?
"If India doesn’t control Mullahs, mosques and the Madrasas, peace and communal harmony in India will remain a pipe dream". If China, Singapore, and Egypt can all control mosques, "why can’t India," the country with the "second-largest Muslim population world"? Khalid Umar has advocated "ONE COUNTRY-ONE CURRICULUM" as the recipe for "communal harmony and peace" in India.
How did the Madrasas reduce their status to producing first-generation learners? Lord Macaulay's "Minutes of Education in 1835" was the death knell of the concept of Madrasas that made a distinction between sacred and secular learning. Madrasas until then were provided both sacred and secular learning. Non-Muslim students who did not want to read the Quran could read the Vedas, the Hindu epics. But Lord Macaulay wanted a generation of Muslims to come up where the secular, well-read Muslims would not know much about Islam and theologians would not know much about the subjects beyond religion. This was a well-thought-out division made with a view to weakening the Islamic learning system. The modern Indian Madrasas are following the same concepts even today.
Most importantly, the British East India Company was not concerned with the development of the education system because their prime motive was trading and profit-making. To rule in India, what they needed is a small section of upper and middle classes to create a class “Indian in blood and color but English in taste” who would act as interpreters between the Government and the masses.
The issue of ‘standardization’ is contentious - politically most volatile. The Sachar Commission’s recommendation of modernization of Madrasas has remained merely a slogan. Institutions continue to remain fund-starved to pay for the salary of mathematics, science, and computer teachers. Unlike in the Christian missionary educational institutions, community funding by Muslims for Madrassa education is both erratic and meager. In an interview, Justice M S A Siddiqui, former chairperson of the National Council for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), insisted that there was a near consensus on the standardization of the madrassa system and mainstreaming madrassa education to create an inclusive atmosphere, promote social justice, tolerance and economic development. The suggestion is to establish a Central Madrasa Board (CMB) as an autonomous body to standardize curriculum and encourage Madrasas to pursue academic studies at par with state boards. The CMB should be set up by an act of parliament.
Visionaries like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Vastanvi were quick to understand the need for modern education to meet the challenges being encountered by the community. Mullah Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi has developed a network of religious schools, hospitals, and colleges. Vastanvi University, the Jamia Islamia Ishaatul Uloom, has 200,000 students on its rolls in schools across India. It has 15 colleges equipped with modern facilities and running engineering, medicine, teaching, pharmacy, information technology courses and also has 30 hospitals, besides about 4,500 mosques across the country.
Madrasas, like those run by Vastanvi, can play a vital role in bringing secular and religious education. Since the students are schooled in classical and modern science as well as secular and religious thought, they are better able to spot scriptural distortions. They also tend to be more connected to their own communities as well as to the mainstream society and their stable sense of identity, religious and otherwise, shield them against radicalism.
As per yet another view, the Madrasas actually present an opportunity, not a threat. For young village children, these schools may be their only path to literacy. For many orphans and the rural poor, Madrasas provide essential social services: education and lodging for children who otherwise could well find themselves the victims of forced labor, sex trafficking, or other abuses. Rather than undermining the madrassa system, policymakers should engage it.
In West Bengal, former governor Dr. A R Kidwai, during 2002, issued an exhaustive report on madrassa education in the state, giving practical recommendations to the state government for standardizing the madrassa education system. West Bengal has become the first state to begin the modernization of the traditional Madrasas with support from the central government. As a result, nearly 600 government-recognized Madrasas have modern curricula. They offer courses in physics, chemistry, biology, geography, mathematics, computer science, English language and literature, and other regular subjects. Islamic studies and the Arabic language course form a small part of the curriculum. Interestingly, 15 percent of students in these Madrasas are non-Muslims.
In sum, the present vicious political dynamics do not lend hope for the fulfillment of major reforms. The initiative to formulate the "Uniform Education Code" at the school level will be anathema or mirage, sans "Uniform Civil Code".
So, all that can be done is to encourage right-thinking Muslim scholars and academics to convince the conservatives/radicals to change archaic Madrasas curriculum at the school level for promoting the community interests in the "Tech Age". Conservatives may be sent to Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, etc., to learn from their education system. By doing so, one can expect a change of heart among the conservatives to abandon the archaic religious curricula of the 13th century and carry out internal reforms. External intervention/imposition like scrapping the present system will be opposed to "tooth and nail".

Brig. G B Reddy (Retd)

G B Reddy, former Brigadier has seen frontline battles in India-China War in 1962, India-Pakistan War in 1965, and India-Pakistan War in 1971 (Liberation of Bangladesh). He has served in various insurgency areas to include Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and West Bengal at the height of Naxal problem; Punjab, J & K and IPKF in Sri Lanka.

Author of seven books and numerous articles covering national security strategy, international, national and local political and social developments, he participated in international and national seminars whilst serving as Consultant/Senior Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad. He also served in Corporate Assignments of Vice-President, Kitply Industries and C.E.O, Hilton Tobacco Ltd.

He is a Graduate of National Defense College, New Delhi, Command and Staff College in Canada, Long and Senior Defense Management Programs at College of Defense Management in Hyderabad. He has served on the faculties of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Combat, and Infantry School, Mhow.

He was awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal for Distinguished Service of an Exceptional Order in Nagaland 1986. Menitoned-in-Despatches for gallantry in 1971 war. Chief of Army Staff Commendation Medal in 1977 for exceptional contribution for faculty development.

Seven books published: 1) Rising Dragon – China’s Holistic Security Strategic Perspective; 2) Nation in Crisis – Dimensions of National Security and Terrorism; 3) In Search of National Values - Withering Democracy, Secularism and Socialism; 4) India’s Nuclear Dilemmas; 5) Fight Against Corruption and Leadership Decay; 6) Democracy in Peril; and, 7) Cost Effective Rural Housing Technologies.