Lost in time

Ahmed Deepto probes into the reasons behind delay in the graduation of two million National University students and finds out about the challenges they face even before they can start looking for a job

cover01Tanjida Islam was admitted into Psychology department of Eden College under National University in 2009-10 session. Even in six years she has not been able to complete her graduation due to session delays. Couple of Tanjida’s friends who went to public and private universities have already began their careers after graduation while Tanjida waits for her honour’s final year examination that is due in July.
Like Tanjida, there are 2 million students who are studying in affiliated colleges of National University (NU) across the country and all of their stories are same. In the race of life when people are fiercely trying to get ahead in their careers, students of National University have to wait around eight years just to complete their graduation – a time comprising of both undergraduate and graduate programmes in a university.
The NU, established in 1992, is the biggest university in Bangladesh with about 20 lakh students enrolled in 2,154 colleges, of which 279 are government colleges, while others include private and autonomous institutes. According to University Grants Commission’s (UGC) latest annual report, around half the students (48 per cent) at honour’s level of NU are studying in the affiliated colleges.
‘I don’t know how long it will take to complete my master’s degree, since I have not been able to finish even my undergraduate degree yet. It also takes a lot of time to get a job interview, let alone rising through the ranks in career,’ says a disillusioned Tanjida.
University authorities tell New Age Youth that they do not monitor the quality of education. They do not even monitor if the classes actually take place or not.
The University’s vice chancellor Professor Harun-or-Rashid tells New Age Youth, ‘All operations of the university have been centralised in Gazipur until recently,’ which has been one of the reasons behind a student’s prolonger period for graduation.
He went on to add that obsolete examination management has been one of the key constraints behind the university’s poor efficiency. Previously, a teacher would have to check copies of honours, masters and even higher secondary certificate examination. The university has maintained a double examiner system, where scripts were checked twice by two different teachers, making to and fro between the teachers and the university at Gazipur through the snail mail service. The script checking took an awful amount of time, he explains.
‘We already have decentralised the university’s activity to six regional offices and these offices are authorised to take all necessary steps. We got rid of the double examiner system and dependency on post office to transport answer scripts. There was no deadline for publishing results before but now a three month deadline is set from the exam date,’ Rashid adds.
He says the university currently uses Teachers Management Information Service (TMIS) software for proper distribution of answer scripts to examiners, NU central and regional teams to monitor steps like following academic calendar and proper evaluation of answer scripts within deadline.
‘It is our public commitment to make NU free of session delay by 2018. For the first time in 23 years of the university’s establishment we will arrange convocation in 2016,’ he tells New Age Youth.
New Age Youth talked to students of affiliated colleges around the country including ‘Dhaka College’, ‘Tejgaon College’, ‘Shiddeshwari Girls College’, ‘Khilgaon Model College’, ‘Chandpur Government College’, ‘Government Rajendra College, Faridpur’, ‘Government B.L. College, Khulna’, ‘Kushtia Government College’, ‘Government M.M College, Jessore’ to find out the difficulties and reasons of session delay.
The students informed that the road from HSC examinations to master’s often takes even more than eight years to complete. Shortage of teachers, irregular classes (sometimes one class a day in 6 months!) and teachers compelling students to join private coaching affect timely completion of their desired degrees.
‘I don’t see any hope for NU students as it would be so hard to survive in the competitive job market fighting with other public and private university graduates,’ says Mohammad Shipon, a third year management student of Government Titumir College.
cover02The NU authority has introduced ‘Crash Programme’ to put an end to the prolonged academic life. Under the programme, the authority has declared an academic calendar centrally and vows to hold examinations as per the new schedule by any cost.
‘There are only three teachers for around hundred students in our department which is a reason why so few classes are held. Even students become reluctant to attend classes later in the programme,’ says Maisha Tasnim, a third year student of Botany department of Government Azizul Haque College.
‘As there are no classes, I have to go for private coaching to college teachers for three running courses,’ Maisha adds.
When asked about the shortage of teachers and private coaching for students Professor Rashid says, ‘The education ministry is preparing to recruit 3,000 more teachers and private coaching is a social disease in the country.’
A World Bank study conducted on 301 affiliated colleges of NU in January 2014 states, ‘Serious concerns exist with the internal governance of many affiliated colleges. Existing accountability and monitoring mechanisms are weak and ineffective.’
The UGC in its latest report also questioned the quality of university graduates and expressed concern about the overall education of NU. ‘The situation of higher education at the National University-affiliated colleges is alarming,’ it says.
Shakilur Zaman Shakil, a 33rd Bangladesh Civil Service cadre (education), shares that he fell behind his peers at attending BCS exam due to session delay as he had to spend eight years to graduate from Charmichael College of Rangpur.
Shakilur, now a chemistry lecturer in Naogaon Government BMC Woman College says, ‘I have experienced problems with NU affiliated colleges both as a student and a teacher.’
‘What makes things more difficult for us is that NU has a larger syllabus than any other university in the country, and we don’t even have regular classes or adequate teachers,’ Shakilur asserts.
In Bangladesh it often takes a few years to work two or three unfulfilling jobs to finally get a desired one. The questions that remain unanswered are what chances do these two million students have compared to their contemporaries in other academic institutions? Even if authorities fix the problem of session delay by 2018, how long will it take them to actually ensure the quality of education?

Source: New Age