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July 2007
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Urdu Schools

Much Distance to Cover
By M. Hanif Lakdawala

Unless and until the management of the Urdu medium schools make efforts to have the vision statement and focus on achieving excellence in teaching and become result oriented the results of the Urdu medium schools will lag behind other medium schools.

Urdu medium schools in India have shown a marked improvement in this year’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) class 10 and 12 examinations. The all-India Urdu result in class 10 stands at 50 per cent while the non-Urdu result is 78 per cent. In class 12, the overall non-Urdu result is 85 per cent while in Urdu it is 66 per cent. Last year it was 57 per cent and in 2005 it was 35 per cent. By the way, this is the best Urdu result in two decades.

The class 10 board exam result is not rosy in states like Madhya Pradesh (30 per cent), Rajasthan (41 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (45 per cent), Punjab (42 per cent), West Bengal (50 per cent), Delhi (52 per cent) and Bihar (55 per cent).

Various studies indicate that non-availability of textbooks, funds and resources from State governments and “non-serious attitude of most teachers” are among many causes that have contributed to unpopularity and decline of standard of Urdu medium schools across the country.

Major reason why Urdu medium schools lag behind English and regional language schools is the approach of the management of these schools. In today’s world where there are sweeping changes are taking place in the field of education, what required is customized approached instead of traditional and outdated strategy.

Unless and until the management of the Urdu medium schools make efforts to have the vision statement and focus on achieving excellence in teaching and become result oriented the results of the Urdu medium schools will lag behind other medium schools.

After the abysmal educational scenario of Muslims was highlighted in the Sachar Committee findings, there’s rather more confusion, widespread disappointment, a sense of helplessness and some anger in the already beleaguered community as nothing pragmatic has been done to redress the wrongs except lip service. What needs to be done is to improve the standard of education in Urdu medium schools?

If we look at the literary base, Urdu language is quite rich but unfortunately it has failed to keep pace with change in the social and economic trends of the society. If we take Urdu literature it’s stagnating in comparison to Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada.

Foundational base for higher education is the competency in the core subjects which are taught in Urdu as well English. But the quality of education in many Urdu medium schools is so poor that students’ performance is pathetic even in the core subjects which are taught in Urdu. Hence foundation being weak, most of the students either drop out or are unemplo-yable.

There is a huge pool of Muslim students who cannot survive the initial years of college education because of change in medium of instruction from Urdu to English. They ultimately drop out. Those who survive are unemployable because of lack of fluency in English or regional languages.

What could be the reason for this? Many educational experts attribute the hardware of the educational system as the major culprit, for the poor educational standards in Muslim managed institutions in general and Urdu medium schools in particular.    

It is a vicious circle. The students from the Urdu medium schools cannot survive the competition at the higher education level as well as at employment level. As a result community investment is drying for Urdu medium schools. This writer visited 12 Urdu medium schools in Maharashtra. Only two can be termed as having average infrastructure. Not a single Urdu medium school can be said to be the best in the locality.

So the major problem faced by most of the Urdu school is the lack of proper hardware i.e. infrastructure.

Second, no attempts are made to induct and retain the teaching intellectual core, which forms the basics of the faculty environment. Currently none of the Urdu medium schools in India have a vision to attract and train the best talent available. In fact, in most of the cases the selection is based on whatever is available. No specific efforts are made to attract the best talent as the intention is to survive rather then achieving excellence or even improve performance.

If Urdu medium schools have to survive, it is imperative that it must improve the quality of education so that more and more students impose faith in them. For the future, Urdu Medium schools have to look for ‘speed’ and ‘need’ of the students. The educational should be tailor made for different socio-economic segments of the Muslim community.

Currently seats are more and students are less in the Urdu medium schools. Hence it’s the buyers market. The approach needs to change drastically or in few years the survival of the Urdu medium schools will be difficult.

Customized training modules are needed to sensitize the teachers of Urdu medium schools. The needs of the Students studying in Urdu medium are unique. It’s the teachers who deliver the content and are in touch with the students.

Bidar School shows the Way Forward
Urdu medium students from Shaheen School in Bidar are consistently grabbing positions in CET

For those who consider Urdu medium schools to be laggards, better take a pause at Bidar. The Shaheen School in this remote Karnataka town has been creating a stir for over a decade. Nearly half of the PUC pass students from the School have been grabbing seats either in medical or engineering colleges through CET. Look at the tally this year: 173 appeared for the PUC science stream, 84 per cent passed, 70 per cent secured first class, 60 declared eligible for BE and 12 for medical schools.

It all may sound serendipitous. Most of us who have given up hope for the Urdu medium schools may even let a wondrous gasp. All is still not passé with Urdu medium schools. It still offers hope.

But let not our fancy with Urdu sway our faculties. It has been a hard climb for the management which has been struggling to disprove the myth that Urdu is an inherently weak medium.

Shaheen School was started on December 1, 1991 with 16 students. It was to be an unaided, Urdu medium school with a syllabus that blends religious instructions with secular curriculum. Today it has 3,000 students, 150 teachers and a campus spread over 50,000 sq. feet in Ahmedbagh of Golekhana area in the town, yet totally inadequate for the needs of the students. It even runs a purely vegetarian canteen within the premises.

According to the School secretary Abdul Qadeer, the school focuses on serious academics rather than on English coaching. Of course, English is part of the curriculum from first standard, but medium of instruction is Urdu and stays so till 10th standard. Soon after SSLC examination, the students undergo a 40-day bridge course in English wherein the entire high school core subject syllabus is revised in English to familiarize the students with English terminology. This paves the ground for a smooth transition from Urdu to English.

The school has been producing 100 per cent success at the SSLC exams for the last five years. This year 174 appeared for the SSLC. Of these 70 per cent passed in first class. Only eight students were placed in pass class.

Surprisingly, the school makes it mandatory for the students not to attend any maktab (religious school) separately. There are arrangements for in-house religious instructions. In fact, several bright students are provided necessary facilities to undertake hifz (memorization of the Qur’an) from 3rd standard onwards.

Qadeer informs that the management focuses on teachers’ training, encouragement of children, remedial classes for the weak students and frequent interactions between parent and teachers.

Consistent good performance has encouraged the local non-Muslim students also to join the school in larger numbers who now nearly make up half of the strength at the PUC level. In recognition of the school’s performance, the local Lingayath community organization has conferred Shikshana Kamudi Award and Rajya Gurukul Award on the school management. The Karnataka Urdu Academy too has conferred honours.

Qadeer says the management has purchased a plot of land outside the town for building a new campus as the paucity of space is placing constrains on growth. For details contact: Abdul Qadeer, Shaheen School, Ahmedbagh, Golekhana, Bidar, Karnataka, Phone: 0-93411-11560.