MD. MASUM BILLAH
According to a report of the UGC 20 of the 51 private universities do not have any allocation for research-based activities, which would help set standards of the institutions. UGC chairman Prof. Nazrul Islam termed this a “Serious operational flaw “of these universities. The research-oriented expenditure of the rest 31 universities is also quite insignificant. Pointing out that there is no alternative to research programs for making progress, the UGC Chairman said the Commission inserted a new provision in the private University Act 2010 making compulsory spending on research. Interestingly, a section of private university teachers do not think research is necessary for higher education.” Higher education does not depend on research “says Royal University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Nurul Alam Khan. “Our students study their text books in line with the syllabus. Research is not much essential said the same VC who received his Ph.D in Mathematics from Charles University of Republic. A 2009 survey of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics revealed that the private universities, colleges and English medium schools in the country made a profit of Tk 4.23 billion in a decade mainly from fees for tuition, admission, session, development and extra-curricular activities. The annual expenditure of private universities raised Tk 11.62 billion in 20009 from Tk 7.32 billion of 2008. The 31 private universities spent some Tk 0.19 billion in 2009 for research purpose ( daily sun 31 January 2011) which means each of the university spent average Tk 6 million.
January last week I visited Sylhet to visit several secondary schools and participated in ‘ English Week’ which is an innovative approach of BRAC Education Program (BEP) to remove the shyness of the students to learn and use English in their practical life situation. I could not resist my temptation to visit’ Shahjalal Science and Technology University’ where several of my friends work as teachers. I did not miss the opportunity to meet and see for myself Dr. Kabir Hossain who holds the position of Vice Chancellor of Leading University, Sylhet (Private University). He actually teaches Statistics at SUST. Meeting me after a long time he was beside himself with joy even though he was awfully busy. My another friend Dr. Aktaruzzamn who is the General Manager of Bangladesh Bank early in the morning reminded me over cell phone not to miss the opportunity to meet Kabir (Our VC dost as he said) and see the Leading University how it actually works. Dr. Aktar happened to be the associate professor of Economics at Rajshahi University before joining Bangladesh Bank and so he stills shows interest in the activities of universities. Immediately I seized the opportunity. As I was busy all day long, I met my former colleague Dr. Suresh Ranjan Basak who teaches English at Metropolitan University (another private university at Sylhet) at night. Both the VC of Leading University and Professor of English of Metropolitan University Dr. Suresh Ranjan Basak took me to different faculties and classes which further gave me insight into the atmosphere of private universities. This is the strength of private university to hold classes at night to extend the facilities of higher education for the service holders and businessmen who usually remain busy at day time. Classrooms are modern and modern equipments are installed in the classrooms. Interactions between the teachers and students seem to be closer than public universities. Teachers have accountability to the authorities as well as to the students. Students assess the performance of the teachers which matches the developed countries university system. Our public universities in spite of having many opportunities don’t have these options.
Private universities are the realities of the time. It has not evolved automatically rather through some hard realistic facts. Private universities have widened the opportunities for higher education those who could not qualify for enrolment in public universities but possess the means to look for alternatives. Private universities stick to academic schedule and permit no ‘session jam.’ ‘Students will have to come out from air conditioned classrooms of their universities to acquire practical knowledge to realize the lives of common people and know about their happiness and sorrow.” President Zillur Rahman said in the 11the Convocation of AIUB. We appreciate this invitation but side by side we need to give attention to the fact that these students have some apathy towards state run universities where pupils study are to pay a negligible amount of tuition fees and enjoy state-run dormitory facilities. But private university students are to buy their education at an exorbitant rate with almost no dormitory facilities. They are deprived of open space and open play ground and big library facilities.
In public universities a teacher in most of the cases teaches a particular topic year after year keeping him confined to a small area of knowledge dissemination which stands contrary to the purpose of higher educational institutions. One of my colleagues one day told me that the private universities don’t teach subjects like literature, history, economics, pure science which really registers a serious flaw of the private universities. Without learning these subjects, humanity can be learnt and real taste of studying science stands far apart. The editorial of daily sun of its February 6, 2011 issues rightly says that only market related subjects such as BBA, MBA, Management , Hotel Management etc. are taught in private universities. The same editorial places a question like this, ‘Can proficiency in these subjects be called higher education and can an institution which teaches merely these subjects be called a university?” This question leaves enough room for the policy makers and educationists of the country to give a serious second thought in connection with the standard of private universities of the country. About two lakh pupils receive education in our private universities and half of the learners study under the faculty of business administration. Of course, private universities must think of commercial aspects which foster the idea of producing BBA students. With the passage of time education problems are getting manifested in various forms which call for serous research and pupils also must be made research orientated otherwise their analytical capabilities will hardly develop to serve the broader field of the nation after coming out of the university. Teachers’ involvement in the politics cannot be discouraged but more involvement in research is needed as private universities are catering to the demand of a large population who were out of the reach of higher education or abandoned the hope to receive higher education. Moreover, some private universities are producing high quality students with necessary competencies. Allocating more funds for research and encouraging the teachers to conduct research will add new values to the private universities.
Writer: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.