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New educational methods
urged for Indian Muslims

New teaching methods and mass media should be utilised to impart both religious and secular education to Indian Muslims who have been ranked the most educationally and economically backward community in the country, a prominent Indian Muslim intellectual said in Dubai in a seminar recently. 

‘Indian Muslims go by traditional methods of imparting education. This will take 100 years or may be more to eliminate the wide gap. The situation calls for adopting newer methods of imparting education, including deployment of mass media,’ said Dr A.M. Khusro, chairman of India's 11th Finance Commission. He is the first Muslim to hold this prestigious position since India's independence. 

Dr Khusro said there has been a tremendous increase in the literacy levels of Indians since 1951, but Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular continue to lag behind other Indian communities in the educational field. 

Addressing a seminar on ‘Empowerment of Indian Muslims and their Educational and Economic Upliftment’ held at Dubai Inter-Continental Hotel, he said attention should be given to improving the quality of education while efforts should also be made to provide more opportunities to Muslims to pursue both Islamic and modern education. He wanted Indian Muslims to take up institution-building exercise to bring about a sea change in different areas of education. ‘We should work hard for our empowerment instead of waiting for others to come to our rescue. The odds are seriously against us,’ he said.

Dr Khusro said the private sector, which has been growing at a much faster rate than the public sector in India, would offer more job opportunities to people, especially Muslims. ‘Jobs in the private sector are and will be decided on the basis of merit and competitiveness. This means there will be more employment opportunities for Muslims in this sector,’ he said. 

There are not enough Muslims to apply for jobs advertised by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) although there has been a relatively low percentage of job reservations for minorities, said Dr Khurso, who served as a member of the UPSC few years ago.

Stating that Muslim Madrasas were languishing in India for a variety of social and economic reasons, the former chief editor of The Financial Express said that there had been a growing interest among students of these institutions to also learn modern subjects, especially computer science, languages and undergo vocational training.

Referring to his recent visit to a Madarsa in Delhi, Dr Khusro said that he was taken aback when students expressed their keenness in studying English language and learning the Internet. 

FICR, an organisation founded by Dr Khusro for this purpose, has successfully adopted a Madarsa in Delhi while work is under way to introduce modern education in a Madarsa in Hyderabad. 

Referring to the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), of which he was vice-chancellor nearly two decades ago, Dr Khusro said quality of education had started getting affected due to the increasing number of students on its rolls.

‘Nearly 27,000 students in one campus of one square mile is not a good sign. Quality (of education) is declining in many of its departments. We have to seriously think about limiting the number of students to keep up the institution's global reputation,’ Dr Khusro said while listing problems faced by the AMU management. There were only 13,000 students during his tenure, he said. He described two Pakistani institutions - Sir Syed University of Education and Technology and Sir Ziauddin University of Medical Sciences - as two great extensions of the Aligarh movement since partition. 

Dr Khusro called upon Muslims, especially Non Resident Indians (NRIs), to come forward with help and support for the proposed Rs 200 crore Sir Syed University of Science, Technology and Management in the north Indian state of Haryana, for which a trust had been set up. ‘The day is not far when Parliament will allow private universities in India. This university will be a step towards this end,’ said Dr Khusro who, is a member of the trust.

Moosa Raza, a retired civil servant and chairman of the trust presented a research paper at the seminar, listing out problems confronting the Muslim community and a 40-point action programme to change the situation. He said 37 acres out of the required 100 acres of land had been purchased for the university.

He said Muslims accounted for nearly 15 per cent of India's total population of one billion, but remained far behind other communities in the educational field.

‘The enrolment rate has been declining in the case of Muslim children. Currently, it stands at 62 per cent - almost 16 per cent behind their other compatriots. As for graduates in the community, Muslims account for a mere 2.3 per cent as against over eight per cent for Hindus and 13 per cent for Christians. Women graduates account for less than one per cent,’ he said, adding that Muslims accounted for an extremely low percentage in government jobs.

Mr Raza suggested a number of remedial measures, including the establishment of a Minorities Educational Upliftment Board, reservation for Muslim students in Navodaya Vidyalayas and Polytechnics in keeping with the Muslim population of districts or the catchment area and educational incentives, including scholarships for Muslim students on par with those existing for SC and ST students. 

‘Resistance to the introduction of modern subjects into Madarsa education is declining. A Board for Madarsa education should be formed. Socially useful and productive work should be introduced into Madarsa education. Resources should be mobilised to support the introduction of modern education into Madrasas,’ he said. 

Dr Abdullah A. Ghazi, president of the US-based Iqra Foundation, listed out the aims and objectives of his organisation and the projects it has taken up in different parts of the world in the sphere of Islamic education. He said an Islamic school would be established on the Internet by September while the first Islamic University would make its debut in two years time. He said his organisation had so far published 115 books with the aim of imparting Islamic education to children based on modern methodology and child development concept. 

Describing the world as a ‘supermarket of ideas’ following the rapid strides made by the Internet, Dr Ghazi said there had never been a time in the human history which was more appropriate and conducive for the propagation of Islam's message. Syed S.M. Khalil, chief advisor to the Chairman of Galadari Group, said efforts were under way to revive the All India Muslim Educational Conference, with the first meeting taking place in the southern Indian city of Bhatkal in September. Muslim intellectuals, educationists, policy-makers and leaders will attend this three-day conference, being organised to coincide with the 75th anniversary celebrations of Anjumane Hamee-e Muslimeen in Bhatkal. 
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