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Private Universities in Bangladesh

  • Education is the root cause of development of human society. Among the various stages of education, university education is the highest and by far the most important one. There is basic difference between university education and other stages of education. The educations at school and college levels do not have to take care of the creation and updating of their reading materials. There are mechanisms for doing these jobs at higher levels, i.e. college and university levels. But in addition to disseminating knowledge to the students the universities have to take up well-fabricated programs for creating materials for elevating, upgrading and updating their education.

    In any country the universities, by all means, are the highest seat of education. They have to contribute in preparing reading materials and suggest systems for disseminating education at all the three stages, viz. primary, secondary and tertiary (i.e. university) levels. While this job for the primary and secondary levels may not be that much difficult for the universities, the same job for themselves is quite difficult and at times cumbersome. In order to perform these jobs the universities need ensure the following:

    (01) Continuous research in all fields of knowledge,

    (02) Monitoring education in various universities of the country and

    (03) Monitoring education in countries all over the globe.

    Even though monitoring education at home and abroad may at times be performed by government authorities, research in various fields of knowledge can be done only in the universities themselves. Any "so called university" without ample scope and arrangement for researches should rightly be called 'institute for learning' and not 'university'.

    In the public universities researches have been ensured in the following two ways : (01) Allocation of research funds by the government and (02) Requirement of research experience for the teachers in achieving higher designations. Nothing of this sort exists in the private universities, which run mostly on commercial basis. In a recent endeavor the World Bank through the BUGC (Bangladesh University Grants Commission) has offered research fund for public and private universities. In this case also the performance of the private universities is not satisfactory. In the first round of this project, whereas most of the public universities have got projects, the number of successful private universities is only 2. This indicates, either the private universities are not interested in researches, or they are far behind the public universities in open competition.

    In the above context, the government should take steps to introduce research activities in the private universities, such that those do not turn to mere 'teaching institutions' under the umbrella of the noble term, universities. In this article we shall discuss the issues mentioned above and suggest probable solutions for ensuring better education along with research activities in the private universities.

    APPOINTING TEACHERS IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES:

    It is said that in the universities, there is no promotion for the teachers, but they get new appointments only. In fact in every stage of appointments, the public universities invite applications through open invitations. Both in-house and external applicants are encouraged to apply and are given equal importance. Research works have been made mandatory at all stages above the lowest strata, i.e. lecturer. After the applications are received those are sent to in-country and foreign experts, where some of the experts are mandatorily nominated by the government. After positive comments are obtained from the experts, the university authorities constitute boards for finding out the most deserving candidates.

    The above system indicates that for achieving higher designation the teachers are in need of education, teaching experience and also research experience. In the public universities the government allocates funds for research activities and the teachers, willingly or otherwise participate in such activities in their own interest. However, the case of giving higher designation to the teachers in case of the private universities is quite different.

    APPOINTING TEACHERS IN PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES:

    It was published in the newspaper that a person having a bachelor degree and fake Master's and Ph.D. degrees taught in a private university in Dhaka as head of a department and issued certificates to a number of batches. While this may be a lone case of extreme deviation, the truth is, most of the private universities do not follow any well designed system for giving higher designation to their teachers. Some universities publish advertisements inviting teachers. In such advertisements they ask for teachers with such level of education as may not be available in the country. They also mention their preference for foreign degrees. Such advertisement serves the following purposes:

    (01) The universities in fact utilize it as their advertisement, alleging that they appoint teachers with higher degrees.

    (02) When teachers with lesser degrees from reputed universities appear in interview, they bargain with them for lower salaries, alleging that they lack in qualification.

    (03) They appoint teachers having degrees from disputable institutions, mostly from foreign origin.

    In such appointments their in-house teachers also are considered for and given higher designations, even though there exists no scope of research for them inside the universities.

    DISPARITY IN DESIGNATION:

    The two different systems of appointing and giving designation to the teachers described above have given birth to serious disparity. In the public universities, a teacher in his ripe age may become a Professor after crossing all the hurdles and achieving the requisite education, teaching experience and research experiences. In parallel, in the private universities, a person with degree from disputable institutions, inadequate teaching experiences and no research experience may achieve the same designation (say, Professor) simply because the authorities of his university has sanctioned him that one. This reality has created serious problems as mentioned below:

    (01) The teachers of the public universities find genuine and ample reasons to feel frustrated, and

    (02) The private universities do not feel the necessity for any research activity for their teachers.

    In the recently introduced Private University Act of 2010, in Clause 27 (Committee for appointing teachers) the University Grants Commission has made provision of teachers appointments through a committee comprising of the Vice Chancellor, Pro-Vice-chancellor, 3 enthusiast persons nominated by the Board of Trustees, two experts nominated by the Syndicate, Dean and Head of the concerned Department or institute. This is a good endeavor, but this one also will not be able to eradicate the present problem. It is not possible for a committee to judge the quality of a teacher by examining his academic certificates, documents of research activities etc. while sitting in a meeting. The job of evaluation of the credentials of the applicants by local and foreign experts, as followed by the public universities is absent in this process. In order to solve the case of disparity, the BUGC would need to formulate new rules for evaluation.

    DISPUTABLE DEGREES:

    Alike what happens in Bangladesh regarding disputable degrees or degrees from non-standard universities, takes place in almost any country of the world. Some of such universities give degrees simply on payment of fees, some do the same on the basis of 'taught courses' (where there is no system of teaching and examination and still authorities certify that the student has learnt those courses). Again, some universities give degrees on submission of thesis only. In order to help such students there are thousands of companies who prepare and sell "manufactured thesis" on almost any topic. The private universities having 'money earning motive' may be benefitted by appointing teachers with disputable degrees or those from unreliable universities abroad in two ways. Firstly, they can use it as an advertisement that they have teachers with foreign degrees. Secondly, they can offer less to the teachers with disputed foreign degrees and bargain with applicants from genuine universities of this country.

    HOW THE INFERIOR TEACHERS MANAGE CLASS:

    It may be a valid question regarding how the teachers with inadequate education or fake degrees manage teaching in their classes. The standard procedure of education in the universities is, at the very outset the teacher would introduce the topic. Then he would go on explaining the difficult phenomena, by leaving the easier ones for the students to learn by themselves. He would suggest books, journals, articles etc. It would be the duty of the students to take note of the teacher's lecture and find out details of those by consulting various text and reference books in the library. At present some teachers prefer consulting internet. This is not bad, but any experienced teacher would say that books are still unavoidable and by far better than internet.

    While the above one is the standard procedure of education in the universities, the scenario in private universities is different. With few exceptions, most of the private universities admit students who can fulfill the minimum requisites for admission and pay the fees. Many universities rely upon part-time teachers from public universities. These teachers are thrown in a compulsion to see the 'given standard of students' to pass in the examination. As a solution such teachers distribute handouts (the system followed by the coaching centers) of important topics. Questions are set from these handouts. Needless to mention that such a system is extremely easy on the part of the students to pass, or get high grades. A deeper thought in the matter might disclose that, the students having excellent grades through this system would gain 'shallow knowledge' and superficial understanding only. It is interesting to note that the teachers with inadequate knowledge and disputable degrees endeavor their best to get hold of such notes, and once these are at hand the less-caliber teachers can well manage their classes in the private universities. Some students of BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) prepare class notes and sell photocopies to intending students. These are known as 'chota' and are available at the photocopying shops at Nilkhet market. A number of teachers teaching engineering subjects in private universities rely upon these 'chotas'.

    PROBLEMS OF PUBLICATION OF RESEARCH PAPERS : In the contemporary period publication of research papers is really a problem. It is observed that that the renowned publishers of research magazines have now taken up a program of publishing papers only after payment of heavy fees, with however, little consideration for qualities. On the other hand, there are numerous e-publishers who publish almost anything, without even looking for correct language, not to say anything about the quality of the papers. While some universities ignore e-publications, some others however, accept the same. In such a situation, BUGC may form a cell for evaluating papers written by university teachers. The teachers would be invited to submit their papers in this cell and the BUGC would send those to experts of relevant fields at home and abroad. The decision given by the experts would be considered as final. These papers may be considered as valid, irrespective of whether those are published in any journal or not. We are aware, in the recent years the BUGC has formed a number of cells for evaluating proposals submitted by teachers of various universities asking for research grants. The cell for evaluation of papers may be formed following this procedure.

    CONCLUSION: In conclusion we shall place our recommendations for eradication of some of the problems discussed above and for improvement of the situations prevailing in the private universities. At the very outset we should remember that the standard of education in the universities depend upon 5 major factors. These are : (01) the standard of students, (02) the standard of teachers, (03) system of education, (04) facilities for education and (05) facilities for research.

    (01) STUDENT: It is possible for the teachers to discuss difficult and complicated phenomena only if the standard of the students is high. If some or most of the students are of low standard, the teacher need to lower down the level of his deliberation in order to make them understand and to pass in the examination. The private universities have got one special limitation that they can admit only the students who are capable of paying their fees. With such a reality, it may be possible for the teacher to heighten up his standard of dissemination only if the university authorities make arrangements for admitting at least the better ones from among the intending students.

    (02) TEACHERS: The university should endeavor to employee potential teachers, having degrees from genuine universities. We have already mentioned the tendency of some universities to employ teachers from foreign universities and have mentioned the secret reason. Also we have already mentioned how a low-caliber teacher can manage his classes in the private universities.

    EVALUATION OF DEGREES: In the flood of fake, fabricated and disputable degrees from home and abroad, the BUGC may take up a program for examining the degrees and credentials of the teachers employed by the private universities. It can be done by asking the private universities to submit the c.v. and certificates of the teachers under their pay role and then by examining those by a a committee of experts.

    (03) SYSTEM: We have already mentioned the standard system of education in the universities and that followed in some private universities. The 'pro-coaching' type of education is used when (a) the part-time teachers wish to see all or majority of the students to pass and (b) the low-caliber teachers endeavor to somehow manage their classes. There is little scope of improvement of the system until and unless the private universities can employee good and full-time teachers, as done by the public universities. Only then they can instruct the teachers to refrain from giving handouts.

    RATIO OF THEORY AND ASSESSMENT: The ratio of marks in theory and class assessment may be taken as another important criterion of ascertaining standard of education. In standard system maximum 30% marks are kept aside for class performance or assessment, that includes class tests, attendance etc. The remaining 70% is kept for theory examination. Some private universities increase the class assessment up to 70%. The problem with such increase in class test is, many a times the students insist on taking class tests on easier topics, on several ocasions and at suitable times (say, immediately after the lecture is finished). Some universities prefer such increase because it lessens their load and cost on examination. Needless to mention that lesser importance on theoretical examination means lower standard of education.

    QUESTION PAPERS: The questions used by various private universities also reveal their standards of education. The BUGC may ask the private universities to submit their question papers immediately after the examinations. Even though finding out the standard of question paper is a tough job, it is extremely easy to find out the percent of repetition of questions in consecutive examinations. The rate of repetition reveal, how much labor the teachers give in preparing the questions, and also how much advantage the students get in their examinations.

    ANSWER SCRIPTS: The BUGC is the only authority for monitoring the standard of education in the private universities. It is not possible for BUGC to collect or scrutinize all the answer scripts for ascertaining the standard of education. But they can ask the private universities to submit attested photocopies of two answer scripts of each examination. One of these two will be the one achieving the highest grade and the other one, getting marginal pass grade. It is possible to ascertain the standard of education by going through the answers and seeing the marks given for those.

    (04) FACILITIES FOR EDUCATION: Facilities for education is definitely important for education where the most important one is the Library. Quite often the private universities advertise of their air-conditioned rooms, computers, internets etc. These may be important, but these are no match for a full fledged Library with plenty of books on all subjects, where book rental system may be of additional advantage.

    (05) FACILITIES FOR RESEARCH: The private universities may not be interested in research activities until and unless (a) their teachers are considered for higher designations without research activities and (b) their designations are given the same status as those of the public universities.

    TEACHERS' DESIGNATIONS IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES: The teachers of the private universities should, by no means, be allowed to use the same designation as used by the teachers of the public universities. Whereas the teachers of the public universities earn these designations at the cost of good academic results from genuine universities, teaching experiences and research works, the teachers of the private universities earn the same simply because their authorities have given those. While such gross disparity demoralizes the teachers of the public universities on one hand, the same stands against research activities in the private universities. In the above situation, the BUGC may issue an instruction saying, the teachers having their designations from private universities would have to use 'priv.' after the designation. Thus, when the teachers of the public universities shall use designations like : Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Lecturer etc. in the usual way, those from the private universities would have to use, Professor (priv.), Associate Professor (priv.), Assistant Professor (priv.), Lecturer (priv.) etc. Such a system would save the teachers of the public universities from the feeling of inferiority complex and encourage the teachers of the private universities to engage in research activities.

    In Bangladesh, the number of students willing to get admitted in universities is on increase every year. In view of limited number of public universities the private universities would have to take care of these students. However, in case the standard of education in the universities do not reach an 'acceptable level', the students even after great expenditure may find them redundant in the job market. We know the BUGC is trying hard for improving the standard of education in both the public and private universities. In this article we have placed a few observations and suggestions for improvement, which the BUGC may take up for consideration.

    Prof. Bijon B. Sarma. Department of Architecture, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh.