Sample Education Paper on An evaluation of Christian Sunday School and Islamic Madrassa

The Arabic word madrassa (plural: madaris) generally has two meanings. In its more common
literal and colloquial usage, it simply means school while in its secondary meaning, a madrassa
is an educational institution offering instruction in Islamic subjects including, but not limited to,
the Quran, the sayings (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad, jurisprudence (fiqh), and law.
Historically, madrassas were distinguished as institutions of higher studies and existed in
contrast to more elementary schools called kuttab that taught only the Quran.
Recently, madrassa has been used by many observers to generally denote any school- primary,
secondary or advanced-that promotes an Islamic-based curriculum. In many countries, including
Egypt and Lebanon, madrassa refers to any educational institution (state-sponsored, private,
secular, or religious). In Pakistan and Bangladesh, madrassa commonly refers to Islamic
religious schools. This can be a significant semantic marker, because an analysis of madrassa
reform could have different implications within various cultural, political and geographic
contexts. Therefore, the term madrassa refers to Islamic religious schools at the primary and
secondary levels.

As an institution of learning, the madrassa is centuries old. One of the first established
madrassas, called the Nizamiyah, was built in Baghdad during the eleventh century A.D. It
offered food, lodging and free education. Madrassas spread rapidly throughout the Muslim world
and although their curricula varied from place to place, it was always religious in character
because these schools ultimately were intended to prepare future Islamic religious scholars

(ulama) for their work. In emphasizing classical traditions in Arabic linguistics, teachers lectured
and students learned through note memorization. During the 19 th and early 20 th centuries, in the
era of Western colonial rule, secular institutions came to supersede religious schools in
importance throughout the Islamic world. However, madrassas were revitalized in the 1970s with
the rising interest in religious studies and Islamist politics in countries such as Iran and Pakistan.
In the 1980s, madrassas in Afghanistan and Pakistan were allegedly boosted by an increase in
financial support from the United States, European governments, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian
Gulf states all of whom reportedly viewed these schools as recruiting grounds for anti-Soviet
mujahedin fighters.

Although some madrassas teach secular subjects in general, madrassas offer a religious-based
curriculum focusing on the Quran and Islamic texts. Beyond instruction in basic religious tenets,
in the recent years some observers have argued that a small group of radicalized madrassas,
specifically located near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, promote a militant form of Islam and
teach their Muslim students to fight non-believers and stand against what they see as the moral
depravity of the West. Other observers suggest that these schools are wholly unconcerned with
religious scholarship and focused solely on teaching violence. Other concerns surround more
moderate schools in which students may be instructed to reject “immoral” and “materialistic”
Western culture. The static curricula and dated tutorial techniques, such as note memorization as
used in many moderate schools may also produce individuals who are neither skilled nor
prepared for the modern workforce. Defenders of the madrassa system view its traditional
tutorial approach as a way to preserve an authentic Islamic heritage. This is because most
madrassa graduates have access only to a limited type of education and are commonly employed
in the religious sector as prayer leaders and Islamic scholars.
Authorities in various countries are considering proposals for introducing improved science and
mathematics content into madrassas’ curricula while preserving the religious character of
madrassa education.


Madrassas offer a free education, room and board to their students hence appeal to impoverished
families and individuals. On the whole, these religious schools are supported by private
donations from Muslim believers through a process of alms-giving known in Arabic as zakat.
The practice of zakat, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, prescribes that a fixed
proportion of one’s income be given to specified charitable causes, and traditionally a portion of
zakat has endowed religious education. Almost all madrassas are intended for educating boys
although there are a small number of madrassas for girls.
Role of Persian Gulf States:
In recent years, worldwide attention has focused on the dissemination of donations to Islamic
charities and the export of conservative religious educational curricula by governments and
citizens in the Persian Gulf. Concern has been expressed over the spread of radical Islam through
schools, universities, and mosques that have received donations and curricula material from
Persian Gulf governments, organizations, and citizens. These institutions exist around the world,
including South, Central, and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan
Africa, Western Europe, and the United States. Some view the teaching of religious curricula
informed by Islamic traditions common in the Gulf as threatening to the existence of more
moderate beliefs and practices in other parts of the Muslim world.
However, some argue that a differentiation should be made between funding to support
charitable projects such as madrassa-building and funding that has been channeled overtly or
implicitly to support extremist teachings in these madrassas. Critics of Gulf states’ policies have
alleged that Persian Gulf governments long permitted or encouraged fund raising by charitable
Islamic groups and foundations linked to Al Qaeda. Several Gulf states have strengthened
controls on the activities of charities engaged in overseas activities, including madrassa building
and administration. Several Islamic charitable organizations based in Gulf states continue to
provide assistance to educational projects across the Muslim world and channels of responsibility
between donors and recipients for curricula development and educational control are often
unresolved or unclear.


This country is hosting over 12,000 madrassas and 14 Pakistan’s religious and public educational
infrastructure. In an economy that is marked by extreme poverty and underdevelopment, costs
associated with Pakistan’s cash-strapped public education system have led some Pakistanis to
turn to madrassas for free education, room, and board. Others favor religious education for some
of their children, whose siblings may be encouraged to pursue other professions. Links between
Pakistani madrassas and the ousted Afghan Taliban regime, as well as alleged connections
between some madrassas and Al Qaeda have led some observers to consider the reform of
Pakistan’s madrassa system as an important counterterrorism tool and a means of helping to
stabilize the Afghan government.

Other Countries of Interest:
Currently, the popularity of madrassas is rising in parts of Southeast Asia like Indonesia home to
the largest number of Muslims in the world. Almost 20-25% of primary and secondary school
children attend pesantrens (Islamic religious schools). Indonesian pesantrens have been noted for
teaching a moderate form of Islam, one that encompasses Islamic mysticism or Sufism.
However, authorities in Bangladesh have expressed concern about the use of madrassas by a
network of Islamist activists being investigated in connection with a number of attempted and
successful bombing attacks across the country with a number of madrassa students being
detained in connection with the investigations.

It is important to realize that Sunday schools were originally literally schools: they were places
were poor children could learn to read. The Sunday school movement began in Britain in the
1980s. The Industrial Revolution had resulted in many children spending all week long working
in factories. Christian philanthropists wanted to free these children from a life of illiteracy. In the
19th century, working hours were long with the first modest legislative restrictions coming in
1802. This resulted in limiting the number of hours a child could work per day to 12hrs. The
limit was not lowered again until 1844. Moreover, Saturday was part of the regular work week
leaving Sunday to be the only available time for these children to gain some education.

The English Anglican evangelical Robert Raikes (1725-1811) was the key promoter of the
movement which soon spread to America as well. Denominations and non-denominational
organizations caught the vision and energetically began to create Sunday schools. Within
decades, the movement had become extremely popular. By the mid-19th century, Sunday school
attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood. Even parents who did not regularly attend
church themselves generally insisted that their children go to Sunday school. Working-class
families were grateful for this opportunity to receive an education. They also looked forward to
annual highlights such as prize days, parades, and picnics, which came to mark the calendars of
their lives as much as more traditional seasonal holidays.
Religious education was a core component of the Sunday school thus the Bible was used as the
textbook for learning to read. This made many children to learn how to write by copying out
passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such
as prayer and hymns. Inculcating Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the
movement. Sunday school pupils often graduated to become Sunday school teachers, thereby
gaining an experience of leadership not to be found elsewhere in their lives. Even some Marxist
historians have credited 19th-century Sunday schools with empowering the working classes.
In both Britain and America, universal, compulsory state education was established by the 1870s.
After that, reading and writing were learned on weekdays at school and the Sunday school
curriculum was limited to religious education. Nevertheless, many parents continued to believe
that regular Sunday school attendance was an essential component of childhood. The trend for
permissive parenting in the 1960s, however, meant that a widespread culture of insisting that
children go to Sunday school whether they want to or not (especially when the parents were not
themselves going to church) was abandoned.


Blanchard, Christopher M. (January, 2008). Islamic Religious Schools, Madrasas:
Background. USA Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division.
Larsen, T. (2008). Christian History: When did Sunday School Start? Carolyn and Fred
McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College and a member of the Christian History
advisory board. Retrieved from: