Secular and Koranic literacies in South Asia: From colonisation to contemporary practice

Bryan Maddox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the distinction between 'secular' and 'Koranic' schooling and literacy in South Asia. It begins by tracing an archaeology of the distinction between secular 'literacy' and religious 'illiteracy'. It locates the emergence of the distinction in the colonial census of the 19th century, in the development of 'English' education, and the responses within madrasa schools. The second part locates these debates and their on-going importance within a contemporary ethnographic setting. It examines the relevance of the distinction in relation to women's literacy practices. The paper argues that both secular and religious literacy practices are significant for women's status and well-being, and illustrates the centrality of religious reading and learning in Bangladesh. The paper challenges the conventional distinction between religious and secular schooling and literacy, noting their complementary and overlapping nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-668
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007


  • Literacy
  • Ethnography
  • Islam
  • Gender
  • Schooling
  • Census
  • Colonialism
  • Bangladesh

Cite this