On September 6, 2019, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) hosted a global symposium titled “Re-envisioning Higher Education in an Era of Technology Convergence” with Dr. Vistasp M. Karbhari, President, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) as the keynote speaker. Zunaid Ahmed Palak MP, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) had graced the event with his presence as the guest of honour. The event discussed the need for change in the traditional opportunities for higher education based on the evolution of modern society and the possible initiatives that could be taken collaboratively.
The event began with a speech by the acting Vice Chancellor of IUB, Prof. Milan Pagon, who spoke about the importance of pursuing higher education in an accredited university and enabling research. Prof. Pagon ended his speech by saying, “We should not wait for the best to come; we should create it.”
The guest of honour was then invited on stage to share his ideas about the given topic. He first spoke about the IT sector in Bangladesh. He further explained and requested the universities to join forces with the ministry and facilitate Bangladesh to be a centre for the fourth industrial revolution. He then talked about the need to teach the students of our nation to be taught how to learn through collaboratively designed courses and opportunities by utilising online education.
Moreover, he requested that a tri-patriotic memorandum of understanding be created among IUB, UTA and the ICT Division to solve the problem of proper mentoring and abundance of workspaces available to utilise the “intellectual property” that the country holds.
Next, A. Matin Chowdury, Chairman, Board of Trustees, IUB, gave a short speech about Bangladesh being a centre for investment as it has great potential and has always given back. He urges the universities to work together before inviting Dr. Karbhari to take the stage and begin his talk.
Dr. Karbhari began by talking about the major transformation the world has observed in the past 30 years and how technology has converged due to increased global competition, the need for information on demand, the rapidly changing workforce and increasing societal needs. However, the delivery and modality of education has remained relatively constant. He believes that traditional universities still facilitate the structure for an agrarian society in a world of “digital natives”.
This conflict therefore, leads to certain implications on the students. Thus, it is required for universities to allow for diversity, innovation and a focus on interdisciplinary research to enable learning through discovery and enquiry, along with providing an entrepreneurial ecosystem by growing to meet the needs of the students. He urged the learning must occur at a continuum and that we must “democratise education”.
The talk was followed by an invigorating question and answer session by Dr. Karbhari and a presentation by Dr. Pranesh Aswath, Vice Provost for Academic Planning & Policy of UTA, to explain the curriculum followed by UTA. After which, Mustaque Ahmed, Alumnus, UTA put an end to the event with a closing speech.
We asked Dr. Karbhari about the ambitious vision he shared through his presentation, and how he thought the process of the shift from a traditional education system could be streamlined, to which he replied, “The faculty and students would need to be enabled to play their parts, by providing opportunities to create the change possible and the support from administrative bodies and the government, such a transformation could be possible.”