The national government supported Islamic education at several levels. In the late 1980s, efforts were being made to modernize the madrasa (school of religious education attached to a mosque) system and to introduce secular subjects in the madrasa curriculum under the Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board. In 1986 there were 4,118 madrasas and 638,926 students under the aegis of the government-supervised system. By 1985 forty madrasas had been established for female students. There were primary, secondary, and postsecondary madrasas, which, except for one in Sylhet run directly by the government, were attached to mosques and dependent on public charity and endowments. Most of these institutions had poor physical facilities and equipment. The objective of madrasa education during the Third Five-Year Plan was to modernize the system through the introduction of science courses. The program included the provision of science laboratories and equipment to 200 madrasas as part of the ongoing scheme for development of secondary education. In addition, similar facilities were to be provided in a limited way to another 125 madrasas. Furthermore, financial benefits to the madrasa teachers were raised so they would achieve parity with teachers at secular secondary schools.
Madrasa graduates usually assumed posts as imams at mosques or became teachers at nominally secular schools. Traditionally, they often would take up both occupations, since many primary schools were located in village mosques.
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