Dhaka: Bangladesh is planning to integrate
hundreds of Islamic religious schools into the mainstream
secular education system in a revamp costing USD 70 million,
an official said on Monday.
Up to 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 like 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, 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," he said.
The project, which is being bankrolled by the Asian
Development Bank, aims to bring madrassas -- considered by
critics to encourage hardline Islam -- more closely into the
mainstream school system, he said.
"The aim is to gradually reform and modernise this
age-old education system," he added.
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.