Quality of higher education

| Updated: October 25, 2017 05:21:57

Quality of higher education

It is a serious charge made by none other than Vice-chancellor of the University of Dhaka, Dr. Arefin Siddique. The charge concerns publication of results by the National University (NU) without even checking answer scripts. Sounds incredible! But he cites a particular example of such irregularities. Once an examiner of answer scripts of bachelor degree (honours), who happened to be a relative of a Dhaka University teacher, fell ill and informed the authorities that he was unable to check the answer scripts he received. So, he requested for taking the answer scripts back soon. Even after a month, those scripts were not taken back. This did not stop the NU from publishing the results a few days later. A few hundred answer scripts were still lying unchecked with the examiner. 
Referring to this incident, the DU VC comments to the effect if this is how studies are undertaken, it is easy to guess the standard of education there. He was speaking as the chief guest at a seminar on 'Quality education, prevailing problems and their remedies' at Titumeer College in the capital city. The arrangement of such a seminar at this college comes on the heel of the government's decision to affiliate seven colleges, including Titumeer College, with the DU. The message is loud and clear. Those seven colleges will have to change their ways now that they will be under the supervision of the country's premier university. The lax approach to running academic activities under the NU will not do any longer. 
In any other country, the disclosure made by the VC of DU would have come as a bombshell but people here are so familiar with similar other gross educational aberrations that it may send nothing more than a ripple through society. It is a classic case of abominable ways of undermining education -higher education in particular. Now the VC knows he has a tough task ahead. After all, old habits die hard. He has made known his anxiety to see qualitative changes in the colleges brought under the DU. From his part, the VC assures of doing what is needed to be done but he finds that the main stumbling block to improving condition is the lack of seriousness on the part of teachers. 
Taking the cue from the DU VC's theme, the secretary of Titumeer College Teachers' Association came hard on the education system now introduced under the NU. He contended that anyone with a Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) is now eligible for pursuing honours courses, courtesy of the NU. This should not happen. One could not agree more. There is no point offering higher education by colleges which do not even have the minimum infrastructure and qualified teachers to teach different subjects. But this is exactly happening right now. In a situation like this, ensuring quality of education is impossible.
When higher seats of learning in this country are struggling to maintain quality of education, the question of doing so by each and every college does not arise at all. The secretary of the Titumeer College Teachers' Association sounds more than convincing when he asserts that he does not subscribe to the view that all need and are capable of receiving higher education. It should be selective and limited to the brilliant students who can do justice to knowledge at its highest level. 
Even this much is not enough if the higher seats of learning cannot create enough opportunities and facilities for discourses on a higher plain complemented by scholarly devotion, research, experiment, innovation and greater investments in science and technology. Even the best universities in Bangladesh do not figure among the Asia's best let alone among the world's best. Why? One of the reasons is, of course, their contribution to knowledge generation. Dearth of fund for laboratories, research projects and of advancement in innovative technology has been the main reason for the overall performances by the country's universities. 
The picture, contrary to this grim one, is bright when it comes to individual or group performances by students. On this front, they have to their credit beating the best in the world on several occasions. This shows that there are talents but nurturing those is what really matters. Where creativity or originality is concerned, there is no monopoly of any people. It is a shared human knowledge bank from where everyone has the right to draw. But a nation needs to develop its own system and tradition to facilitate the process. There lies the responsibility of great institutions and higher seats of learning. 
To make this happen, unwarranted interference including that of politics, has to be stopped. Propagation of knowledge demands promotion of talents irrespective of their political allegiance or not. Teachers at this stage are not only scholars, they also ought to act as guides for students under them. Only then the quest for knowledge receives the kind of boost it needs. Alongside the intellectual collaboration between teachers and students, there is need for collaboration between universities and businesses. If funds are available for research projects undertaken by scholars at universities, the outcomes most of the time are likely to be mutually beneficial, which in turn can benefit the nation in general as well. This shows why higher education should be selective and in certain cases exclusive. Students of mediocre and below mediocre type should pursue education for suitable careers only.    
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