Sunday, 17 October, 2021

Preserving Dignity of Teachers

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday

Preserving Dignity of Teachers
Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday

The remarks made by the Hon'ble Minister of Education and General Secretary of the Awami League about teachers have remained one of the most important topics of discussion in the newspapers for the last few days. While attending an event organised to observe the education day, the Education Minister said that those who do not get jobs in different places become university teachers. Similarly, the AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader has said in the same programmes that the leaders of the Chhatra League control the heads of educational institutions.

These two comments are being debated among different parties. University teachers are criticising this issue in various forums without accepting it very well. Besides, many teachers and journalists have already written columns in newspapers on this subject. Many of them have tried to say that such remarks of two ministers are tantamount to belittling the teaching profession. We all need to keep in mind that we have been unable to maintain the reputation of a noble profession like teaching.

There is no room for disagreement on the issue that teaching is a noble profession. We all know that teachers play an important role in nation-building by producing the human resources needed to run the country. So there is no scope to underestimate those who are in this profession. When Bangabandhu enacted a law in 1973 recognising the country's public universities as autonomous institutions, he considered teachers the nation's conscience. He knew that their conscience would drive them. He always believed that it is not possible to control the behaviour of teachers by law. Now the question is, have the teachers been able to maintain their self-esteem? My realisation from being engaged in the teaching profession of the university for around 24 years is that we have lost our glory over time.

When I joined Rajshahi University in the late 1990s, the university's teachers were highly respected in society. If someone from a village could get an opportunity to teach at a university, people from different villages would come to see them. But if we ask ourselves, we will see that the honour of this great profession is no more today. Over time, along with the respect of university teachers, the respect of the teaching community has decreased in society.  One of the main reasons for this decline is the high practice of politics in educational institutions. The level of politicisation has reached such a point that teachers are busy flattering ruling party leaders starting from the student organisation in the hope of gaining various posts. They did not even hesitate to slander each other.

A type of culture has been created in the country where political considerations determine everything, and merit is always losing to the power of politics. Teachers who are internationally renowned for their research do not receive adequate praise for their excellence. The situation has reached such a stage that the teachers in each university are divided into different groups and sub-groups. As a result, a teacher starts lobbying since joining the university. The senior teachers use junior teachers for political gains, while junior teachers disrespect senior teachers due to politics. I believe that the situation will worsen in the coming days if the universities are not brought out of this terrible grip of politics.

There is no denying that it is much easier to get a job in a university than in a government. If we compare the university's recruitment process with the recruitment process of BCS, we will see that a student in BCS has to go through many steps to get the final selection. But the recruitment process in most universities shows that a politically tough competitor gets a job even if he lags behind other competitors who are meritorious. I know many of my colleagues who have not been able to get a competitive job but have become university teachers. This argument is not meant to disrespect anybody. Rather, I am trying to present the real situation through this example. As a result, when a candidate gets a job for political considerations instead of merit, it is very easy to estimate how much he can contribute to the teaching and research of the university.

Our Hon'ble Minister of Education has rightly said that teaching should be chosen as a profession by those who have passion for this profession. If someone joins the teaching profession only to get a job, they will not be able to contribute to the development of the university and the country. However, it would not be right to generalise this issue in all cases. We have seen many teachers whose academic results may not be very good but later established themselves as real researchers.

What we need at the moment is to bring a radical change in the recruitment process at the university level. In the world's developed countries, we have seen that research experience is considered an important criterion in getting a job in the teaching profession. A candidate must have a PhD degree to be considered for a faculty position. A candidate is expected to acquire knowledge about research while pursuing a PhD, which is then applied to research after getting a job. But in Bangladesh, we recruit teachers in a system where a student is hired as a teacher after passing the Master's degree. Someone who does not have any research experience has to teach research to the students. If we do not get out of this process, it will not be possible to bring about a radical change in the quality of university education.

At the same time, the work that needs to be done is to change the promotion policy of the university. Our autonomous universities follow the 1973 rules.  In the context of that time when the law was enacted, a teacher with more than one publication was promoted to the next post, but it is not at all desirable in the current context. I sat on a university recruitment board a few days ago. There I saw how the candidates sought promotion through waiver with the publication of low-quality online-based journals. They published their research in a journal where the title of the study is incorrectly written.

To get out of this situation, we need to change the promotion policy. We know that the UGC has formulated a united promotion guideline for all universities. But sadly, even though more than four years have passed, this policy has not yet been implemented in universities. If this is not implemented, teachers will be promoted in the same way where merit will not be considered. As a result of easy promotional rules, the tendency of teachers to concentrate on research decreases.

There is no point in just blaming teachers for degrading the quality of education in universities. In many cases, the government does not give importance to the candidates' academic, research, and administrative qualifications while appointing someone at the highest administration positions of the university. If qualified candidates had been appointed in the important places, the quality of education in the universities would have been changed drastically. Of course, the government has appointed some qualified academics at some universities; however, their number is not so high. If this were the case, the ministers would not have made such remarks about the teachers, just as the teachers would not have felt their reputation had been tarnished.

The main job of teachers at the university level is to teach students and conduct research work through which the country can move forward. But many public university teachers always remain busy with political activities instead of getting involved in research as they want to avail different positions at university. If we fail to get out of this culture very soon, we will have to hear such comments about teachers in the days to come. Therefore, the government, teachers, and the administration should work together to get out of this situation.


The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University