It is wonderful indeed to see madrasah students – such as Nur Masyitah Borhan and Murshidah Albakri – performing so well in their O-Levels. Lest we forget, for many of these madrasah students, their O-levels are not their bread-and-butter, and we must not judge them by how well they do in it. Hence, for those who do brilliantly despite the fact that they have many other subjects to study for (yes, they do not stop reading other subjects just because it is O-level year), it is a phenomenal feat.
Unfortunately, I have met many people – even Muslims – who do not really know too much about the madrasahs, but somehow ‘know’ enough (usually from their ‘own experience’, which actually involves encountering one or two madrasah students) to believe that madrasah students/graduates are somehow less able than students/graduates of national schools. It is almost like modern-day orientalism.
From my own limited experience, I believe madrasah students are just like students of other schools: on average all of them are just as smart. Then you have some hardworking ones, and some less-hardworking ones. Some are naturally more gifted, others, less so. There is nothing ‘special’ or ‘inferior’ about their abilities.
Two things, however, I believe are different:
1) The workload of these students far outweigh their national schools counterparts, so naturally, the amount of work required is more as well.
2) On average, these students are far more well-behaved, and well-mannered. I can understand why many choose to dedicate their entire lives serving the madrasahs, because the students – more often than not – make it worth the sacrifices.
I am not at all saying that the madrasah system is perfect; no system is, after all. I am sure many could list some problems the madrasahs face, just as many could do the same for national schools. All i am saying is that we should always consider and reconsider our preconceived notions and possible biases before making sweeping statements about things that many consider integral to their communities, such as the madrasahs.
Source: Walid J.Abdullah