Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, February 07, 2008

By Adnan M. S. Fakir

One comparison I often hear nowadays is that of China to Western Europe; that the amount of growth that Western Europe had had in the last century, China had so in just the last 30 years with a rampaging growth rate of 9-11% annually, in the last 10 years. China's bulldozing growth, of course was not an easy endeavour, and many studies show that it was a drastic improvement in China's education system (along with many other factors) that triggered this explosion of escalation. I do not intend to compare China's education system to that of Bangladesh, but truthfully speaking, Bangladesh's education system is lagging way, way behind than the global standards.

Ironically though, just like real sweet lemon juice, Dhaka is oversaturated with universities, schools, coaching centres, GED centres and what not other money making businesses. Looking at so many, you would expect Dhaka students to be super-smart and start making up Microsofts and Oracles! However we all know anything “real” is not usually available in our country; and that also includes this specific lemon juice. And you know why? That's because majority of the coaching centres and universities are appalling… are terrible… and a school can turn this horrific only when its teachers themselves have become like so; and worst of all, in Bangladesh, they have no one to tell them what they are becoming. And that's why we need a student based Teacher's Evaluation System, to keep the professors in check most of the time, much like system followed in the US and Canada.

The typical scenario:
Please excuse me if I sound too rude, but here is a typical scenario in a high school: The teacher lazily comes in, pulls up his chair, mundanely notify the students to open their text book to an exercise and tells them to do it while he relaxes himself in the coziness of the chair as his mind drifts to how he can expand (of course, monetarily) his coaching centre. The bell rings. He leaves.

Another day with the same teacher, but this time someone from the administration comes to check on him. A miraculous transformation folks! The teacher comes in and doesn't even pull up his chair to sit. No exercises today but actual succinct understanding of the content - not for the students though, just as a show off to keep his salary in pocket.

The administrator is satisfied and leaves, and the teacher comes back to his usual routine.

So, what's good with this stuff?
The students obviously notice the difference because they are with the teachers all the time in class; not the administration. Yet they have no ground to make any complains. A student will obviously not simply go up to an administration

And complain about a teacher (unless something severe occurred) and get into the bad books; and this is exactly where the student based teacher's evaluation comes in. In the US and many other countries now, at the end of every semester, students are made to evaluate their professor, anonymously, on several grounds including the professor's teaching pattern, effort, communication clarity, availability, manners, course content etc. usually on a rating basis from 1 to 5 along with additional comments about the professor. Of course, this is taken seriously and if the professor gets bad rating, he is firstly given training and still if no improvement is shown, the teacher loses his job. This way, he is continually kept under a mutual pressure, not only from the administration but also from the students to do his job properly.

When this system was first proposed to one of the universities in our country, it got much criticized from the administration and teachers, saying that the students cannot be trusted that the students would give bad evaluation if the student received bad grades from a professor. The counter argument is very simple - what is the mindset of an education institution if it doesn't even trust its own students? Also a professor gets a bad rating only if several students give him such an evaluation not only one or two. Ultimately the system was not implemented and the reason was seen to be straightforward: the teachers and administration did not want more “hassle” and “work to do”.
It's about Time to Trigger the Changes!

A teacher's profession, or being a professor, is certainly a very noble profession. In Bangladesh however it has become a title of much exploitation where many teachers have lost their pride in their job. By pride I am referring to the fact that teachers no longer seek for their own development, but rather just for a senior title to sell their “business,” and to make money.

Most teachers say that they have done their masters/doctorates and have studied enough for their life; but that is certainly not what a teacher should be like, especially in this continually changing world. It is the lust of money, sheer laziness and lack of desire of self-improvement that makes the professors use the same notes relentlessly, give the same lecture without any in class discussion, while they themselves get back-dated in what they know. So how on earth are they fit to teach in this modern world?

This trend of growing laziness has been apparently present for a long time. One Dhaka University graduate says, “I remember that in 1979 when Dhaka University was shifting from a 3-year exam system to a semester system, it were the teachers who had protested, not the students. Their reasons were plain and simple, even said aloud that it was too much work and hassle to take and check papers so often; however it was better for us (students) though, because it made giving the exams a lot easier.” Although the semester system was initiated the lethargy of the professors has increased by a lot; and one of the prime ways to seriously counter it, is through the Student Based Teacher's Evaluation System, seriously taken and run by the administration. Implementing this will certainly boost both the teacher's and the institutions performance immensely.

www.ratemyprofessor.com is another way to bring about a similar teacher rating to the open public. It is a US based website which has track of all the professors in all the universities of the US where students go and rate their professors for other students to see and judge while selecting a course. This is certainly not as effective as the evaluation would be (as there is no pressure from the administration) but this might give an incentive for more aware professors to do better with regular feedback from the students.

Wrapping it Up
Certainly all teachers are not like this, but increasingly many are. If things keep on going this way, then the education system of our country will simply keep on degrading further. In order not only for advancement in education, but for our whole country, it is about time this is taken seriously and actually implemented. As a conclusion, a request to all our professors: “We are your students; we reflect what you teach us; please do not exploit us. Instead, give us your best so that we can give back the best to our country.”

PS: I deeply apologize if anyone was angered by this article, but this an important issue we felt had to be addressed.




home | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star