The education ministry has taken up the move to frame integrated rules and regulations to bring the Quomi and other mardrasha education system under government's registration. A 15-member committee now working on this is also tasked to suggest on the formation of a single Quomi education board. For sometime now, there is an increasing attention on the system of education being rendered in these institutions which have all along refused to give in to suggestions for a change/modification in their curriculum.
By definition, all madrasahs not regulated by the Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board are Qoumis. As private charitable organisations, Qoumi madrasahs are supported almost exclusively by donation. During the British rule, these types of madrasahs were called 'Khariji' or outside of government, as they reject state funding and rely on donations from the public. Curriculum of these madrasahs predominantly follows the Islamic Deobandi model. In the past, the academic degrees they conferred lacked accreditation or official recognition unlike those conferred by the official Alia madrasahs, which follow the Calcutta Alia tradition. Starting in 2006, two years after the founding of the privately run Befaqul Mudarressin Education Board for Qoumi madrasahs, the Bangladesh government began to recognise some Qoumi degrees. As of 2006, there were approximately 15,000 registered Qoumi madrasahs in Bangladesh with 200,000 teachers and some 4,000,000 students. Actual figures are unknown and Qoumi madrasahs do not reportedly keep enrollment records. Moreover, it has been argued that if unregistered Qoumi madrasahs were counted, then it could put the total number of Bangladeshi madrasahs as high as 64,000 suggesting that the Qoumis outnumber their official Alia counterparts.
In recognition of the need for bringing the Qoumi education closer to the country's general education system, the government had for the first time set up a Commission in April 2012. The Commission, manned by Islamic scholars, had submitted a proposal recommending a six-stage qoumi education, from primary to master's level, along with the establishment of institutions for women's' education. Meanwhile, the government was preparing to enact a law in the name and style of Bangladesh Qoumi Madrasah Education Authority Law-2013 in order to modernise the curriculum and update the methods and scope of these institutions. However, things did not move as planned, and although there were some subsequent developments as regards recognising Quomi Madrasha's highest degree as equivalent to the Masters degree of Bangladesh universities, no worthwhile action is yet to be seen in bringing the Quomi and other Madrasha education system under an integrated framework.
Observers have noted that over the past decades since the seventies, there have been slight changes in the Qoumi curriculum- though confined to inclusion of some basic English and math lessons only. However, by and large, these institutions continued to thrive sticking to their age-old methods commonly believed to be instrumental in shutting them off the vistas of knowledge and learning, not to mention the developments of science and technology. The successive government, aware of what mushroom growth of these institutions would cost the nation, were more occupied by electoral concerns rather than a commitment to improve the system. That the unregulated growth of these institutions does not at all match the system of learning pursued in the country is pretty well known. A greater concern is that these institutions besides being what they are - a breeding ground of ill-informed bigots -- have also been alleged to be promoting militancy.
The reason the qoumis are able to attract a large number of students is their providing free food and lodging to the vast number of impoverished children whose parents are in no position to feed them, not to speak of giving them education. The fundamental issue, however, must not be missed: it is the state that is solely responsible for guarding against things going haywire in the name of free education, free food and lodging. Moreover, it is also for the state to see education as an important tool in earning a decent living.
Mainstreaming the qoumis is the need of the hour. Doing away with harmful social divide should be one of the main objectives in this endeavour. This can also be found to countervail, among others, sprouting of religious extremism. The process has to be a gradual one. Mainstreaming is needed to not just bring them under governmental supervision, but to inject some light into those dark pits of ignorance and illiteracy.
Now that the education ministry is working on bringing this education system under a single umbrella, it is important that the committee formed for the purpose examine the pros and cons before finalising its suggestions and recommendations. Also, it may be worthwhile to work out a mechanism to better coordinate the functioning of the proposed education board.