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Private universities — ensuring quality education

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16th-Nov-2016       
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Professor Yousuf Mahbubul Islam,
VC, Daffodil International University :
There is in fact a lot of talk about "quality" and particularly in this special issue on "Quality of education-delivery from private universities in Bangladesh" Without agreeing, however, on a definition of quality education, can any level of discussion lead to a fruitful conclusion or direction? In the case of private university education, would it be helpful to define the quality of education delivery in terms of the characteristics of the graduate that it produces? For example, do we want graduates who
i) are willing to accept challenges that a developing country like Bangladesh presents and become problem solvers, or do we want
ii) graduates who can easily memorize notes and reproduce in the exams competing for high CGPAs?
In the case of ii), our education system - primary, secondary and tertiary levels are already quite adept. In such a case, we could perhaps argue on the quality of notes or improvement of syllabi. The question is however, regardless of the quality of notes, can memorized concepts help to solve real world problems? Just for the sake of comparison, imagine if a parrot were able to memorize and repeat all the notes of 40 courses of an undergraduate degree, what GPA could be awarded? How would the parrot fare when given a task/problem at work? Teachers complain that students do not understand, nor are they motivated. The question that can be asked is- can a photocopy machine be motivated towards the content it is photocopying? Equally, are students given an opportunity to develop their latent creativity or even apply learning skills? Recently, 50 employers were invited to share their experiences regarding graduates they hire. The most common complaint was that graduates are unable to think, i.e., they cannot break down a job into its component steps. Being dissatisfied with the performance of graduates we go back to discussing the quality of education delivered by the mushrooming private universities and insist on curriculum improvement.
Given that private universities are necessarily more consumer-oriented, they have the opportunity to do research on the nature of students produced by the primary and secondary schools and experiment with teaching/learning processes that actively engage the brain and inculcate learning. Little children are highly inquisitive, face challenges and enjoy learning; is there any reason this interest should be lost when becoming adults - unless interest is killed by pressurized rote learning, i.e., meaningless memorizing? So, can private university education delivery be changed around to produce the type of graduates stated in case i)?  
To become experienced problem solvers, students must be regularly challenged to solve unknown subject questions/problems on their own or as part of collaborative groups in their classrooms. As they progress with brainstormed ideas on how to solve a question or problem, they will start looking for theories to find a solution and become independent learners. Will private universities take the opportunity to critically examine what they are doing and change the way they deliver education?

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