Low-Cost Private, Government-Registered Medersas
Registered Medersas in Mali: Effectively Integrating Islamic and Western Educational Epistemologies in Practice
This article examines government-registered medersas in Mali and suggests that their appeal and expansion are due to their unique and innovative integration of Western and Islamic educational epistemologies (not simply subjects).
Registered medersas respond to parental demands for the early introduction of “secular” knowledge, alongside Qur’anic memorization. Secular subjects have not overwhelmed the schools’ focus on spiritual development and discipline, even as they feature more Western organizational features and teaching methods. The value placed on secular subjects by parents signals their newer and expanded views on the purpose of schooling. Further, parents viewed registered medersas as accountable to them in terms of ensuring student learning, both in secular subjects and appropriate Muslim behavior and in ensuring the ability of students to continue their schooling beyond the primary level (and ultimately find productive work). Finally, because of their unique history, the regulatory environment in which registered medersas operate is significantly more autonomous and efficient than regular public schools in Mali.
This article draws on data from a qualitative research initiative on registered medersas undertaken by the Mali USAID/PHARE program.