‘We have to run our universities keeping up with 21st century’
Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, a noted educationist, has served as the 27th vice chancellor of Dhaka University from 2009 till 2017. A mass communication expert, he was appointed chairman of the board of directors at Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). The Daily Star recently spoke to him on the occasion of the birth centenary of DU where he discussed issues including decline of the university's position in international rankings, politics, teachers' appointment and role of university administration and his expectation.
The Daily Star (DS): How do you evaluate the spectacular journey of DU?
Prof Arefin: The main task of a university is to turn students into trained manpower with necessary human qualities. In this context, I think DU has played its role properly. At the same time, this university has gifted this country an independent flag. This is such a big achievement that DU cannot be judged on the basis of the generalised definition of a university. But it is also true that DU along with other universities of Bangladesh is lagging behind in different indicators of world rankings. Here, we should keep in mind the lack of adequate investment for the current state of education of the country.
DS: What should be done to improve the education quality?
Prof Arefin: If we compare the allocation between the front ranking universities and our universities, we will be able to understand this matter. After the Bangabandhu government, we have seen that the autocratic and military government didn't give due importance to the education sector, which has created a gap. Time has come to fill that void. We will have to run our universities in light of the demands of the 21st century.
DS: In view of the diversity in the current job market, how should we formulate the university curriculum?
Prof Arefin: We will have to think if we are creating new departments in coordination with the advancement of the country's industry. We will have to think whether we are giving practical education to our students. For this, it's imperative to keep an internship system for students in collaboration with those who are involved with the sector. The time of only theoretical education is gone. The education at universities should be completed with both practical and theoretical education.
One thing we should consider is that per head expenditure of Harvard or Princeton universities is far higher compared to our universities. Despite this, our students are doing well in the equivalent competition when they go to Harvard, Princeton or Yale.
TDS: How should a modern and progressive university administration work?
Prof Arefin: Rabindranath Tagore said a student will respect his teacher and vice versa. This should be the relation between them. Rabindranath did not say affectionate relationship but a respectful one. The administration will have to show a liberal attitude while running the universities.
TDS: How do you see the teachers' and students' politics in the university?
Prof Arefin: Politics is the driving force in today's world. It is impossible to run a country without having political knowledge. University students will lead the country in the days to come. But that politics will have to be based on patriotism. In the past, we have seen that student organisations took decisions and ran their activities on their own. But now we see that most of the student organisations are the front organisation of different political parties.
This culture was not in the universities in the past. The then military government introduced that culture after the assassination of Bangabandhu. This has damaged student politics in many ways. I think the time has come for the political parties to take decision in unison to free their respective student organisations so that they can run independently. We need to bring student politics on the right track. Teachers will also do politics at the universities in such a way so that it does not impact students' thinking and conscience. Teachers should remain careful so that no student is affected academically or other way due to their politics.
TDS: What should be the proper process for recruiting university teachers?
Prof Arefin: A teacher is the backbone of education. A teacher builds a student. We will have to turn back to Rabindranath as he said the main aim of education is to become a good human being. That's the responsibility of a teacher. That's why, while appointing a teacher, we will have to give importance whether s/he is a good human being apart from giving importance to their academic result. Besides, we will have to look into their research works and other related activities.
We are paying dearly now due to recruiting teachers only on the basis of academic results. We are now seeing that a bureaucrat or a teacher or any other professional after getting appointment only on the basis of merit are getting involved with corruption.
TDS: What is the expectation from the university (DU) on the occasion of its 100-year journey?
Prof Arefin: Dhaka University is the heart of Bangladesh. I hope DU will move forward in the next 100 years with more pace. I want our next generation and their next generation to become good human beings upholding the spirit of the country's Liberation War and the glory and heritage of Dhaka University.