Bihar’s ‘Adolescence Education Programme’: Bridging the gap between Madrasas and modern schooling

An orientation session was held at Patna as part of the programme.

Under the Talim-e-Naubalighan or the Adolescence Education Programme for the teenaged, thousands of teachers at government-run Madrasas in Bihar are trained in modern pedagogy and students, in turn, are taught about topics like changes in adolescence, anger management, time management, dietary needs, gender discrimination etc. The programme aims to develop critical thinking and scientific temperament in Madrasa students that can bridge the gap between Madrasas and schools.

Sami Ahmad | 

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BIHAR – More than 7000 teachers of government Madrasas in different parts of Bihar are being trained these days in modern pedagogy. They are expected to hone the skills of the students of around 2500 state Madrasas under the Talim-e-Naubalighan or the Adolescence Education Programme for the teenaged. 

The programme is a joint effort of Bihar’s Minority Welfare department, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Bihar Madrasa Education Board, Patna, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad and its satellite centre Darbhanga has also been engaged in this project.

Under the programme, in all government and aided Madrasas from Wastania (Middle level, class 6 to 8) to Fauqania (Secondary level till class 10) level students are to be taught about topics like changes in adolescence, anger management, time management, dietary needs, self-confidence, sex and gender, gender discrimination, media effects and microfinance etc. 

The programme aims to develop critical thinking and scientific temperament in Madrasa students that can bridge the gap between Madrasas and schools. It also aims to convert Madrasas into a modern institution with the latest technique for a better and creative environment for the students. 

One important aspect of the programme is that it is expected to help girl students. It covers problems of girls in their puberty and issues of personal hygiene. It also talks about Nikahnama, divorce, gender inequalities in a family and the role of women in Islamic history. 

Bihar’s Minority Welfare Department’s principal secretary Dr Safina A.N. said that girls are a primary focus of this programme who constitute around 75 per cent of the total students of Madrasas. 

The programme was originally started by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2018-19 as a pilot project in two Bihar districts Purnia and Katihar. Noticing encouraging results from the programme, Bihar’s Minority Welfare Department adopted it under Madrasa Strengthening Scheme. An allocation of Rs. 20 crores in three years have been made for this scheme which provides for both training and soft skills development in three years.

The pilot project was launched during the state headship of UNFPA, Bihar Nadeem Noor. Talking to, Nadeem said that the project was launched after finding that Muslims are far behind in all development indicators. 

He said that there were three major encouraging signs of this project. “First, the attendance was increased by 60 per cent after the students were taught in a fresh way by the teachers who were trained for this purpose. Second, teachers too changed their understanding of the situation. For example, many teachers were uncomfortable about the girls who started getting periods. The teachers were trained to tell the students that menstruation is not a hurdle to continue education. Third, the teachers too started thinking critically. They were trained to allow the students to question. Madrasa students were not expected to ask questions. This change has helped both the teachers and students,” he said. 

He said that for the first time in the history of 100 years of Madrasa education, the teachers are being trained. “The Madrasa teachers who were trained for the first time were quite enthusiastic and emotional about it. It is expected that they would be able to teach in a much better way now,” he added. 

Bihar’s development secretary and former principal secretary of Minority Welfare Department Amir Subhahni said that “Talim-e-Naubalighan is an ambitious programme of the Bihar government aimed at empowering the students and teachers in coping with the contemporary and future situations in accordance with Madrasas’ Islamic format.”

Former director of State Council for Educational Research and Training and an advisor to UNFPA for this scheme Hasan Waris told that “Madrasa teachers are not trained like the unskilled workforce. Therefore, there is a difference between the skilled and unskilled there.

He said that the number of classes for this purpose in a week is to be decided by the local Madrasas. 

The programme aims to train all the principals and two teachers of each Madrasa. For every forty Madrasas, there would be a Madrasa Resource Centre (MRC). There are fifty such MRCs. There would be ten Regional Madrasa Resource Centers attached to State Resource Centre. State Resource Centre is expected to coordinate with the Minority Welfare Department, Bihar State Madrasa Education Board and other government departments with the technical support of UNFPA.

Nadeem contends that despite the impression that the Muslim community has stopped sending their wards to Madrasas, there are around two to two and a half lakh students who go there, which is around 25 per cent of Muslim students. 

He said to bridge the gap between Madrasas and schools is very important for the community, citing the fact that there are only around 200 Madrasas where Fauqania or secondary level (standard 9 and 10) education is available. He explains that there is a need to think about the students of the major chunk of Madrasas which amounts to more than 2000. “Where would they go to study if there is no drop-out? So, the option for school admission should be a top priority.” Noor, however, questions, “How would the remaining students adjust in schools if the gap is not bridged?” He suggests that only such programmes would help the Madrasa students to further their education. 

It is estimated that by 2030, Bihar would be the youngest state in India. Noor opines that as India needs a developed Bihar for its complete development, the youth of the state need to be trained. He said that this programme introduces the teaching of the Indian Constitution from standard 8 while at other institutions it is taught after the 8th standard. He hopes that it would help to make Madrasa students into informed Indian citizens.

Significantly, UNFPA has introduced this Bihar government’s programme at the international level. 

On June 17, the United Nations Population Fund (New York) presented this programme at a Global Webinar on “A Matter of Faith: Gender-based Violence Prevention Strategy in Faith Settings”. It was also introduced in November 2019 at a meeting of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development held in Indonesia.