Whither to, English Departments?
On February 25, the English Department of North South University, met for their 11th Colloquium in their Colloquium Series. At the outset, Dr Khaliquzzaman Elias, Professor of English, was felicitated on his winning the Literary Award from Bangla Academy in Translations. After that was completed, the round table discussion began; the topic at hand was “English Studies, English Departments in Bangladesh, and the Future.” With a large turnout of both faculty members and students, the discussion began with an introduction by Ms Maleka Sarwar who gave the subject some background information and put the reason for the discussion into context. This was followed by an in-depth historical look at the way that English Departments in Bangladesh have evolved over the years from being legacies left behind by the colonial rulers to their current multicultural status by Chairperson, Dr Shireen Huq.
Faculty members and students gathered at the round table.
Once the introductions were done, the discussion started off with a look at linguistics studies by Lecturer, Nadia Kamal Al-Siraj. After comparing the syllabus used at North South University with syllabi of universities outside of Bangladesh, she made several suggestions, including a call for more practical application-based courses, instead of focusing mainly on theory, and the inclusion of transdisciplinarity into the curriculum. While discussing the feasibility of some of these suggestions, Senior Lecturer, Shahedul Huq pointed out that the practical element can be easily worked into the current curriculum structure.
After that round of discussion, the focus turned to Senior Lecturer Shahidul Islam Khan and his assessment of the TESOL program. In his lecture, he pointed out several interesting things. First of all, unlike the practice of being under the purview of the English departments in our country, TESOL and related programmes are usually found to be under the schools of education throughout the world. He also suggested the idea that apart from having courses targeting adult or general learners, we should also plan courses that address K-12 pedagogical approaches and methodologies, in order to help out instructors not going to teach at the university level, but instead to English and Bangla medium schools. In order to better the programme, Shahidul I. Khan also said that there should be a greater emphasis on teaching practice, possibly through some kind of partnership with other schools or by making use of Institute of Modern Languages (IML) at NSU so that the student-teachers can gain real world experience.
Felicitations for Dr. Khaliquzzaman Elias on his winning the Bangla Academy Literarary Award in Translations.
Finally, the third speaker was Lecturer Ahmed Bhuiyan, who discussed the current state of teaching English Literature. He did a general comparison between NSU's syllabus and that of other private universities in the country. He noted that there were not as many differences as one would expect, with each university differing in a few specialized courses. He then compared the situation of syllabus design and course curriculum in Bangladesh and with that of other universities in Canada and the United States, pointing out problems with trying to mimic the style of Western universities to be, namely size and interest. He went on to discuss one big problem that was affecting the Literature courses and that was the lack of interest in students. In order to combat such a situation, he made several suggestions. Following a similar idea as presented by Nadia Al-Siraj, he also advocated a greater emphasis on transdisciplinarity.
Once each of the speakers presented their views on the topic, the floor was open for the audience to ask questions or raise points. Many faculty members and students chimed in, making the discussion quite lively. Some of the interesting observations that were made, such as Dr Selim Sarwar expressing his concern about the lack of students interested in courses that may facilitate further specialization into their course stream. A point that was brought up by one of the students in the audience was a question, regarding the use of Bengali literature in the courses. While it was acknowledged that some more Bengali literature could be included, the biggest problem with using such texts was the varied quality in translations for such texts. All in all, it was a successful and energetic round table discussion.