In this madrasa, boys and girls sit together and speak English

West Bengal gets its first English-medium madrasa.

Written by Arshad Ali | Paninala | Published:July 19, 2014 12:29 am
Students outside Paninala English Medium Government High Madrasah Students outside Paninala English Medium Government High Madrasah

It looks like any other school. A campus divided into blocks, a playground, classrooms with desks and chairs, and students in uniforms – boys in shirts and shorts, girls in shirts and skirts. But this is no regular school. It’s a an English-medium, co-educational madrasa.

The Paninala English Medium Government High Madrasah, a government-run madrasa in Paninala, a town with 40 per cent Muslim population in Nadia district of West Bengal, is the state’s first English-medium madrasa. Here, the medium of instruction is English, the board of education is CBSE, and the second language taught is Bengali. Since it’s a madrasa, learning Arabic and reciting the Quran is compulsory.

The “modern madrasa”, spread over five acres of land, launched its first academic session last week. An initiative of the Mamata Banerjee government, the madrasa bears TMC’s stamp – its building is painted blue and white. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, wants to promote such madrasas, with his Rs 100 crore allocation to the “madarsa modernisation” programme in the Budget.

Parents of Muslim children seem to be warming up to the idea of a modern madrasa. Rabiul Haque, who runs a grocery store, says he “likes” seeing his son Araful Haque, a Class I student, “carrying English, Bengali and mathematics books”. “In most madrasas, education revolves around learning to recite the Quran and rest of the education is imparted in Bengali.”

Ibrahim Nabi SK, a farmer, brings his two sons from Sonpukur, 30 km away, everyday to the school.  “My sons used to go to a private English-medium school in Sonpukur where the standard of teaching was not up to the mark. This state initiative is promising and my kids will learn better. I don’t mind travelling the distance every day,” he says.

The school has four blocks, each with a four-storeyed building, and can accommodate students up to Class XII. Currently, the school is operational till Class I (including UKG), and has five teachers, and 198 students. Arup Kumar Das, a former government school headmaster and now the teacher-in-charge of the madrasa, says that in the next academic year, the school would be upgraded to Class V and later, gradually to Class XII.

Despite being a madrasa, 15 per cent of its students are Hindu. Compulsory teaching of Arabic or the Quran appears to be no hindrance for the Hindu students. Jeet Biswas, a student of Class I, enjoys learning the Arabic alphabet. “He is picking it up very fast,” says Abul Quasem, the Arabic teacher.

Deepali Biswas, Jeet’s mother, was initially sceptical though. “I always thought madrasas were meant only for Muslims and did not want Jeet to study here. But later, when I saw this school, it appeared better than the private school Jeet was going to. No other government school in Nadia has such a huge structure and a playground. The teachers here speak in English with the kids unlike the teachers who speak Bengali at private English-medium schools. Also, many told me that Arabic is only a language and my son would benefit from learning an additional language,” she says.

Seema Biswas was also in two minds about admitting her daughter Disha Biswas to the school. “I was worried about her learning Arabic. But my husband, mother-in-law and sister-in-law convinced me that Arabic, like English, is foreign language and there’s no harm in learning it. Now, I am glad she is here,” she says. School authorities say that Hindu parents have no problem with their children learning the Quran either.

Of the five teachers, one, Mamon Halsana, is Hindu. A former teacher on probation at a government school, she learned about the madrasa through an advertisement. “They said they wanted a teacher with B.Ed and an English-medium background. I applied and got through,” she says.

Most students come from backgrounds where English is not spoken, but at the madrasa, teachers are instructed to speak to the children only in English. “There are initial hiccups in conversations, but it is good that they have started early and we will definitely get over the problems,” says Halsana.

Shahidul Islam, secretary, minority department ,says that 11 such madrasas are planned across the state. PB Salim, district magistrate, Nadia described it as the much-needed modernisation of madrasas.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. G
    gurdeep jolly
    Nov 6, 2015 at 5:43 pm
    What Pak can give to Sharukh Khan and what he will do with Pak pasport while traveling to USA or other europeon countries.I hv many Pak ftiends and from their words to hv a Pak pport is a big course today
    1. H
      Haroon Rashid
      Aug 31, 2014 at 9:48 pm
      ic comment from a typical Muslim-baiter!It was launched as a madra, meant for Muslims. It was not launched as a regular school.The Quran is NOT taught to anyone in this madra.Arabic is taught here as a language.It was launched as a madra, meant for backward Muslims. It was not launched as a regular school. Yet, Hindu parents came forward on their own seeking admission for their children. From day 1almost 20% of the students in this madra have been Hindu.Many Hindus across the country voluntarily study the Arabic language today primarily seeking jobs in the Arab countries India's thousands of government schools tens of thousands of Muslims are studying the Sanskrit language voluntarily.
      1. H
        Haroon Rashid
        Sep 1, 2014 at 9:27 am
        Reading of the Quran has never been on the curriculum of this English medium madra or any of the state-sponsored 600 modernised madras of West Bengal.The students are studying the Arabic language here- not the Quran.
        1. H
          Harsh Lath
          Sep 1, 2014 at 7:16 pm
          Haroon bhai, government's duty is to open secular schools not Madarasas, especially when there are no good schools in the area. In secular schools kids can learn to respect all religions and understand all religions then
        2. H
          Harsh Lath
          Jul 19, 2014 at 12:46 pm
          Its a government educational insution and Hindus are forced to study Quran and Arabic???? So called secular reporters wouldn't have an issue. Oh yes, as long as no Muslim is being forced to read Gita, they dont have an issue
          1. K
            Jul 20, 2014 at 1:30 am
            The Islamic nations should learn a lesson from this exemplary English Medium Government High Madrasah in West Bengal.
            1. Load More Comments