Experts call for a holistic approach and a sincere effort by the government and non-government organisations for the uplift of the community’s education status.
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
IN a recent interview with a TV channel, Maulana Mehmood Madani, the head of the Jamiat Ulema e Hind, was categorically said that madrassas or Muslim seminaries do not need funding from the government. Instead he suggested that they should be run on support from the community. nevertheless he emphasised that government should open more and more schools in Muslim localities.
Mualana Madani, despite heading a Muslim organisation that draws it support and cadre from madrassas underscored the importance of modern secular education for the uplift of Muslims. He is not the first Muslim scholar to give such a call. Community leaders and experts have been frequently asking the government to take steps for enhance the literacy rates and educational standards of Muslims.
With 14% of the 1.3 billion population of the country (2011 census), the more than 200-million strong Muslim community constitutes the second largest religious group in India after Hindus. But unfortunately it lags far behind other groups in all development indicators across sectors — social, financial, political — in comparison to other groups. The numbers are below the national average. Experts attribute this poor show to educational backwardness of the community as a whole.
This state of affairs of the community which owes it to years of negligence has not sprung up overnight. It persisted over the years despite the wakeup call given centuries ago by great educationist and reformer Sir Syed Ahed Khan. Sir Syed had once said, “It (education) is the categorical verdict of all the nations and great seers of the world that national progress depends on education and training of the people.”
The educational status of Indian Muslims explains the community’s overall backwardness seven decades after the country’s independence. Be it socio-economic or political plain, the community’s performance is below average in all indices.
The Sachar Committee, a statutory panel constituted by the then UPA government to go into the status of the Indian Muslims in 2007, came up with startling revelations about the socio-economic status of Muslims. While backwardness of the community has been an established fact, the Sachar Committee ascertained the extent of the backwardness. It found that the Muslims were educationally the most backward community in India who also suffer other social and economic disadvantage and multiple layers of discrimination.
Studies conducted years after this report have found that rather than improving the situation has, in fact, has worsened over the years. The 2011 Census Report on educational level by religious communities published by Census Commission of India on October 31st, 2016, reveals that educationally Muslims are the most marginalised community in India who occupy the last position in literacy, primary education and in the number of graduates according to their population. As regards both literacy level and higher education, they lag behind other religious communities.
The national average for illiteracy is 27.02 percent while for Muslims, it’s 31.46 percent. Jains are the most literate religious community in India with a literacy level of 94.88 percent followed by Christians and Buddhists. The gap between the most literate community, Jains, and the least literate Muslims, is 26.34 percent.
Analysis of data from last ensus clearly shows that the percentage of Muslim literacy is below the national average.
On the higher education front, the 2011 census data shows that there are significant differences in the number of graduates among the six major religious groups.
Only 9.51 percent of the total population aged 20 years and above, according to 2011 Census data, are graduates. A community-wise breakdown shows that only 5.24 percent of Muslims are graduates. In 2001, the figure was 3.6 percent. In the decade between 2001 and 2011, only an increase of 1.6 percent could be achieved as far as the higher education levels of Muslims are concerned. During the same period, the national average for higher education rose from 6.7 to 9.5, and the increase in percentage is 2.8. It clearly shows that the growth rate of graduates among the Muslims is much slower than the national average.
In 2013, the UPSC excluded Persian and Arabic from the list of optional subjects putting aspirants who graduated in Arabic and Persian languages, mostly Muslims, at disadvantage.
Muslims face discrimination in educational institutions even in progressive states like Kerala. A 2012 study found that some schools in Delhi had a fixed quota — this much, and not more Muslims — policy. While the community and its leader have a lot to answer, the state and institutions are equally responsibly for Muslim backwardness.
Experts have warned that the recent Hijab ban in Karnataka is going to further block the access to schools and colleges for Muslim girl.
They are of the view that the onus lies on the government to open more schools in Muslim dominated areas to improve the educational status of the community. There has to be a holistic approach and a sincere effort by the government and non-government organisations to uplift the community’s education standards.
Within the community, there should be a movement to educate and remove the bottlenecks that impede progress. “Such a movement is especially needed to educate Muslims women,” wrote Muhammed Haneef, a JNU scholar in her research paper The Educational Status of Indian Muslims a Decade after the Sachar Committee Report.
Experts have also underlined the need for governmental incentives and scholarships for the poor and deprived Muslims. “Muslims should be provided reservation in higher education and elite institutions such as the IITs and the IIMs. Thus access to higher education in general and the need for offering it to all at affordable cost is required,” Tasneem Shazli, a researcher, suggested in a 2020 paper. She also pitched for modernization of Madrassa education to raise the educational status of traditional Muslims. “There should be integration of vocational education with religious instructions in Madrassas. There is also a need to link madrassas with higher secondary school boards.”