So its pretty well established that generally the madrassah is considered to be not really very good in raising modern students and citizens. The common argument is that they teach medieval stuff at best and obscurantist stuff at worst. So what’s the real truth? Well, here’s one answer from Bangladesh. So what did the researchers do? But before we go there, some points.
In the early 1980’s, the Bangladeshi government made sure that the madrassah’s teach English, Bengali, Science and Mathematics along with the religious subjects in return for government funding for teachers and official registration. This is, of course, in stark contrast with the majority of madrassah’s elsewhere in the Muslim countries where teaching of modern subjects is a tad lacking. God (rather Allah) only knows what their output is but that’s not the point.
So the researchers went and asked questions on attitudes toward working mothers, desired fertility, higher education for boys vis-à-vis girls, and a number of political regimes such as military rule, democracy, and Islamic rule. Interviewing 1280 teachers over 94 madrassahs and 231 public secular schools with each school providing a rough 20 students sample size.
On the question of desired fertility, teacher responses differ significantly: madrasa teachers either favor larger families or are more likely to rely on ‘destiny’ to decide on the desired number of children. Compared to their secular school colleagues, they significantly favor boys over girls for higher education and men over women for political leadership. They are also significantly sympathetic to religious leadership in political affairs. For instance, relative to secular school teachers, they significantly prefer Islamic rule, are at greater ease should religious leaders influence people’s voting choice, like to see more religious people in public offices, and are more likely to support religious leader’s interference in government affairs.
Even after controlling for earlier religious education (maktab schooling), madrasa graduates are 31% more likely to prefer an unspecified number of children.
Female graduates in our sample were interviewed on whether they agreed with the following questions:
- 1. “Compared to housewives, working mothers are more cordial with children”
2. “A married working woman and a married housewife are equal”
3. “Both, the husband and the wife should contribute towards family income”
On the question of whether housewives, instead of working women, are better mothers, there is no madrasa effect. A negative association with religious school attendance prevails in the other two outcomes. Madrasa graduates do not agree that both husband and wife should contribute to family income
Even after controlling for educational histories (maktab attendance, class rank in grade 6 and grade completed), parental background, and socio-economic conditions, madrasa graduates are 21% more likely to conclude that higher education is a preserve for boys.
Lastly, females in our sample were asked three questions related to the desirability of various regimes for governing the country:
- 1. Military rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good
2. Democratic rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good
3. Islamic rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good
A large and significant madrasa effect prevails in all three cases: madrasa students are significantly opposed to military rule, support democracy and favor Islamic rule
In sum, the analysis of graduate responses reveals that madrasa attendance is not associated with perverse attitudes toward working women and military rule. They are more likely to support democracy although they have a preference for religious political representation. At the same time, these female madrasa students have a perverse attitude toward higher education for girls and larger family size. Also, our female madrasa respondents are more likely to delegate the choice of desired number of children to destiny.
Well, as you can see, a much more complex and richer set of results are emerging. For one, they are against the military rule which is a great step but then they desire islamic rule which is frankly like jumping from the frying pan into a fire. Surprising coming from females where an islamic state actively drops them in the order of priority on almost every aspect.
Then you have the other problem of fertility. Bangladesh and other Muslim countries are facing a massive problem in feeding, educating and raising their young. As it turns out, the problem is not going to get better but going to become worse if they all leave it up to God. God unfortunately doesnt have anything to do with contraception. All these kids will ruin the women’s lives. And they want this to continue. Bloody strange. But one very positive thing comes out, more female teachers the lower is the madrassah influence. Unfortunately, it conflicts with the other finding that its boys who deserve education more.
Sighs, more complexity….