Mother tongue neglected in higher education | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 20, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:31 AM, February 20, 2021

Mother tongue neglected in higher education

University students find very few textbooks, research works written or translated in Bangla

Bangla has long been neglected in the country's higher education as a medium of teaching and learning mainly because of a lack of textbooks and adequate research work.

Educationists say the authorities concerned lack the eagerness to ensure that there are adequate academic and reference books in Bangla.

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Outside of the department of Bangla literature and some other departments in the arts faculty, not many books written or translated in Bangla can be found in academia.

At Dhaka University's sciences, biology, earth and environmental, and engineering and technology faculties, only 34 out of the 3,201 reference books are in Bangla, according to the syllabus of the departments.

Seven of the 13 departments of these faculties do not have a single reference book in Bangla.

Sadly, 104 authors of many of those reference books are Bangla-speaking.

Juwel Rana, who graduated in microbiology, said "I have never seen a Bangla book being referred in my classes at Dhaka University. And I hardly ever see good translations of academic books.

"Many students lacking in English skills feel frustrated and that must affect their grades."

The DU published 174 books since its inception in 1921. Only 61 of those are in Bangla. But 26 of those books are not available anymore, according to records.

DU Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman said, "We need to encourage our scholars to write science, medical and engineering textbooks in Bangla."

He added that a foreign language is a barrier in learning.

Nowshin Tabassum Rupa, postgraduate student at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said there is almost no use of Bangla in the study of medicine.

National Professor Rafiqul Islam said since Bangla is not the medium of education in higher studies, there are not enough good books.

He said according to the Qudrat-e-Khuda Commission which published the country's first education policy in 1974, the medium of education from primary to higher levels should be Bangla.

"But the recommendation was never implemented. The main reason behind that is our inferiority complex," said the eminent educationist and scholar.

Syed Abul Maksud said Bangla Academy could have played a role, but it was negligent.

"One of the key aims of establishing Bangla Academy was to make the use of Bangla as a medium of education easy. But the institution has obviously failed to do that," he said.

He added that the academy used to publish good Bangla books in the years preceding 1980.

"Had the Bangla Academy and education ministry taken sincere efforts, Bangla would have been established in higher education to a great extent by now," he said.

According to Bangla Academy Act-2013, it is one of the basic functions of the academy to make available and publish dictionary, terminology, grammar, reference books, bibliography and encyclopedia in Bangla. It should also widen and enrich the use of Bangla in science and technology.

The academy, established in 1955, has a division for translation.

In its latest catalogue, the academy has 1,418 saleable books. Less than 100 of those were translated into Bangla from a foreign language. And most of those were published in the early '90s.

A total of 21,527 books were published in the last five years' Ekushey Boi Mela. Of those, only 186 were translations.

Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, director of the division for translation, said, "We are going to launch a new project to publish at least a hundred translated books and we will publish a new yearly magazine titled 'Onubad' from next month."

National Professor Rafiqul said Bangla Academy alone would not be able to do much to ensure Bangla as a medium of education.

The academics and the university authorities will have to make sincere efforts to promote Bangla in higher education.

"We discuss the issue in February and tend to forget about it the rest of the time," he said. 

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