Published:  03:51 AM, 10 October 2021

How to Overcome Crisis in Higher Education?

How to Overcome Crisis in Higher Education?

Md Sohrab Hossen

As per the University Grants Commission (UGC), Bangladesh does have 49 public universities and over a hundred private universities in operation. Notwithstanding, no Bangladeshi university, public or private, has been listed at the top level of the QS World University Ranking 2022.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina voiced her displeasure on Monday, October 4th, in a press conference, over the deterioration of our universities and the apathy of university teachers toward research and publishing.

Though she expressed her annoyance at the coldness of the university teachers to Research and Publication, I expected that she would also narrate the reasons and solutions of this very deep-rooted matter of anxiety that why teachers aren't enthusiastic in the research field. Although I was aggrieved, I would like to thank, PM, for her disquiet.

She claimed that many public university teachers are neglecting their obligations and teaching at private institutions for more remuneration whereas they  be doing research.  Man wants to earn as much as possible, there is nothing wrong. But again the dilemma is unless you can't afford to pay the teachers whatever they're valued, why won't they look elsewhere? Who said teachers couldn't have a desire to earn money? But then again who argues you can't envision a lavish life yet doing research? Whilst still researching is inherently about infusing pleasure into one's living.

Inasmuch As the teachers are doing private practice in addition to their current government job, it demonstrates that something is amiss. There is a malady in the system which needs to be delineated: Lack of financing for research and publication, absence of quality in conducting research since the teacher recruitment procedure is not even unquestionable, and dearth value to research activities as a result of political polarization.

According to the annual report of UGC, 2019, among 46 public universities, 19 university teachers aren't doing any kind of research. Even in 24 public universities, there is no scope for MPhil or Ph.D. research. Teachers at these universities work or are promoted without conducting any research or by publishing in predatory journals by paying money. On the contrary, every top-ranked university in the world requires teachers to publish in top "A" or "B" ranked international journals on an annual basis.

A noble profession like teaching is seen as a mundane career by our teachers in Bangladesh. Once, one of my university teachers, while taking class, said "I don't care about you (students), I'm a teacher of a public university, I accomplished my career, I need nothing now". While the teachers think of the teaching profession to be merely a government job, then how would they think about students? how would they guide them? Rather, they emphasize the advancement of their career in one way or another.

As a result, instead of devoting time to research or offering extra care and attention to learners, teachers are preoccupied with teacher politics. Because they know that by getting into politics, they may obtain instantaneous gratification such as becoming a dean, provost, or even the highest-ranking post-VC.

According to the University Act 1973 which is also known as the Ordinance of '73, there is no hurdle in teacher politics. But the privilege to exercise free will is now being used in a worse way than ever before. Teacher politics, being the ladder for appointments, promotions, and administrative posts; is undermining higher education rather than ensuring the quality of education. Due to the influence of party politics on all these issues, in the end, it has an impact on the teaching as well as on Research.

University teachers and students should be out of politics and should be focused on obtaining and widening knowledge. Why would anyone devote himself to research if the promotion comes from political lobbying? A teacher, after being recruited with political identity, had gathered the confidence that everything is possible under the banner of politics. Even he feels some sort of obligation to the political party or leaders by whom he had been recruited, promoted.

Why would anyone do research, while observing someone having a research paper published in the top-ranked international journals, is being neglected for promotion, for mere political identity? Imagine how deeply rooted the problem is? If a teacher is not encouraged for his research work, or if he is not considered for promotion, he will refrain from conducting research.

We humans desire to attain all without difficulty. Why would he spend time researching if you can get promoted without doing so? Instead, he would invest that time in politics, which would result in a promotion. He will generate a large amount of income if he practices privately.While the country's annual budget is more than Tk 6 lakh crore, In 2019, the allocation for research in 46 public universities was around 6 crore taka in total. It's inadequate.

If political party allegiance becomes paramount, the ultimate job of a teacher, to instruct children, will become less significant. A teacher's role is to do research, publish findings, and inspire pupils. Teachers nowadays may lack the confidence to inspire since they understand how the system works. Maybe they don't want to encourage students, or maybe they don't think it's essential because encouraging students won't alter anything, not even a promotion or extra revenue.

As a result, the teacher-student relationship is doomed. On the one hand, Teachers don't think it's necessary to teach, guide, motivate students. Students, on the other hand, do not regard teachers as their ideal and, as a result, don't express mere respect to them; they may even regard them as political opponents.

The recent incident of cutting the hair of 14 students by a teacher at Rabindra University in Sirajganj has prompted a rethinking of the student-teacher relationship. Since teachers are not required to do research, also do not put a lot of emphasis on the students' learning, thus they have time to pay attention to the very personal matters of the students: like hairstyles. They consider it more important than teaching, researching and motivating students.

There are also student-teacher politics in different departments of the university. It is not always the case that this politics is based on political parties, it may be based on different teachers' genres and incompatibility with each other. So it is seen that just like many teachers are doing politics with students, many students are also becoming a part of that politics. Their purpose is achieving 'good results', and teachers use students to harass the opposition. As part of that politics, students are seen humiliating other teachers on behalf of a group of teachers or treating them differently.

Ostensibly, our country's higher education is in a big crisis ever. It's grappled with different kinds of diseases. Now, it's indispensable the university administration, the University Grants Commission, and the government adopts an integrated plan. It's absolutely necessary to have the political will to change the situation which is absent now since the prime minister addressed the deep-rooted disease of higher education but didn't talk about the cure or the reason.

We need a competent workforce to be a developed country, to compete worldwide, and to tackle the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. "Quantity without quality is the ultimate prescription for disaster," stated former UGC chairman, professor dr. Abul Kalam Azad Chowdhury. Many teachers at universities still think about education and the quality of education.

If university syndicate boards are formed with these teachers, if the mission of nation-building is handed to these teachers, and if they take on the task of navigating the students, the universities will flourish tremendously. We will be able to stand tall in the world. This is how the golden Bangladesh of our dreams will be built.

MdSohrab Hossen is a Research Assistant, Center for Advanced Social Research, Dhaka

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