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OP-ED: What are the universities doing?

  • Published at 02:11 am March 22nd, 2021
university graduate education

Why we need to restructure higher education

Get a good CGPA, get a good job, get a promotion, become self-dependent to an extent so your family can depend on you -- that’s the dream for a majority of Bangladeshi students. 

We can’t deny we live in a country of soaring unemployment. For the students who choose to study in private universities and are dependent on their families for a stable source of payment, families often make big financial sacrifices, from selling land to taking loans. 

From both logical and effusive points of view, let’s admit it: The university plays the most substantial role because of the circumstances, and yes, they are to be blamed.

This would have been different in a country where we received state benefits for unemployment, but the sad reality is that the unemployed people out there are not entitled to benefits or any social security support. 

Let’s begin from the very root. A majority of the renowned universities has a curriculum which includes several courses a student would never require in his/her desired area of expertise. 

The current industrialized world prioritizes skills, and that’s where university students are found to be lacking. If you have a friend or relative who is currently an undergraduate student at one of the “top” universities in the country, have a look at the material being taught to them and ask yourself: If this is the standard of the top universities of Bangladesh, what are the universities actually doing? 

How many university teachers are regularly updating their slides, question papers, and other resources in order to maintain relevance? 

Why are textbooks which are decades old still being used? And if the majority of teachers are failing to upgrade the curriculum, why are people celebrating the successes of university ranking charts when they are constantly failing to bring about change? 

If you are in touch with people working in the HR of local and multinational organizations, ask them why, despite having a good CGPA and graduating from a good university, students' CVs are not impressive enough. 

You’ll notice that a majority of the students don’t even know how to create a proper resume, an adequate LinkedIn profile, a suitable social media account. 

We do have a number of e-learning platforms that are constantly working to bring positive change, but how much can they do on their own? 

The entire system needs to be restructured. A student should be enlightened enough to answer why a certain course is mandatory for them, and the impact it will have in their career. 

Instead of boasting about rankings that don’t really matter, universities should upgrade their backdated resources and syllabi which students are digesting without understanding their usefuless in the future. 

Instead of arranging irrelevant seminars and bragging about them in press releases, they should ensure that each of their students is representable, astute, and well-groomed. 

If I dive deep into the entire unemployment problem, higher education is a big piece of the cake, but there are countless other factors at play. 

But if we don’t take this most vital factor into account, we will be meeting a most devastating reality where, instead of contributing to a meritocracy, all universities will be doing is reinforcing inequality.

Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury is an author and trainer.