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19 October, 2020 06:21:17 PM

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Today is not like yesterday and tomorrow will also be different from today

Jagannath University celebrates its 15th founding anniversary on 20 October, 2020. The students of this university are already making their own positions both nationally and internationally. In many cases, Jagannath University is either the champion or runner-up in terms of the results of highly competitive examinations
Prof. Dr. Mijanur Rahman
Today is not like yesterday and tomorrow will also be different from today

Bangladesh is now being tagged as a ‘role model for development’ or a ‘miracle’ by many. But I am of the same opinion as Professor Elhanan Helpman, an economist of Harvard University, in his book The Mystery of Economic Growth, (2004) said, “Advancement of knowledge revolutionizes institutional progression.

Productivity is only increased by the spread of education and process of knowledge creation, and there is no other mystery beyond it.” And, from this viewpoint the emergence of Bangladesh as a role model is not a miracle.

Undoubtedly, there has been a paradigm shift and expansion of education in Bangladesh. But we have to continue our initiatives to improve the quality of education to the desired standard. The students of our universities usually acquire knowledge in many disciplines including science, arts, social science and business studies, but at the end of their studentships, what our graduates come up with is an enlightened or advanced culture by which they adapt themselves with the changing environment in a vibrant community. Their exercised analytical ability, communicative competence, and aspirations to technological usage, ability to receive, retain and present information – all develop them into expert human beings.

However, it is also true that many of our graduates do not get jobs on time. But the quality of education is not solely responsible for it as employability depends on many other socio-economic factors. Besides, the stories of remaining unemployed, even for the meritorious students with a degree of quality education, are not new in this region. Historian Tapan  Raychaudhuri in his book Banglanama (a collection of stories and anecdotes through which the historian explored the world of the bangal - the migrant from East Bengal into the city of Calcutta) wrote “The horrible condition of unemployment problems in the early decades of twenties and thirties has almost been erased from our memories. In spite of obtaining first class first position both in BA and MA, Dr. Bhabatosh Datta, a renowned Economist, remained unemployed about seven to eight years. Mr. Nirad Chaudhury had to spend several years of his life with an earning of Taka one only per day.” So to make the graduates employable, if our university education concentrates only on employability, what’s about the pursuit of knowledge? Should we then stop teaching the subjects like philosophy, literature or other basic knowledge based subjects?

Something that is useful to humankind is a commodity. From this view point, education is a commodity, and there has been business with education, even in developed countries. In fact, countries like the US, UK, and Australia are the holy lands of this commoditization of education and, this trend has long started in our country as well. However, the matter of concern for us is that here, this commoditization of education has been continuing without considering the quality of education unlike the developed countries where the quality of education is always given high-priority. We are very much aware of the grave concern recently expressed by the Hon’ble President and Chancellor of our university over the quality of education and business in the name of education. Taking the grave concern of Hon’ble President into consideration, we have already started taking actions in our university.  We have taken initiatives to shorten the evening programmes and after the completion of the ongoing courses, we have decided to stop further admission of students to its evening courses.

Convocation is a significant formal ceremony at a university but undoubtedly, this is not the closing ceremony of education. The process of education is not something static or one time measure rather, continuous and lifelong endeavour that can be divided in two parts; curricular activities and co-curricular activities. Unfortunately, although we put special emphasis on co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, most of our students’ tendency is confined to studying textbooks and getting good results regularly. Even many of our teachers and parents might assume that students’ familiarity with the textbooks and their only concern to obtain good marks translate into better learning outcomes. But that’s not necessarily true. Rabindranath told in an essay Sikshar Herpher (discrepancies in education), the essay was read out by the poet as keynote paper in Rajshahi Association on November 12, 1892, “All the books of the world can be divided into two categories: textbook and non-textbook (readable & unreadable textbooks). It won’t be unfair if the books prescribed by the Textbook Committee have been categorized under the last category.”

Our average life expectancy is rising. Now, it is seventy-three years, and I think within next twenty five years it will rise to eighty. The average age limit of our graduates is below 25 and according to this statistics they will live at least for another 55 years after completing their graduations. Now the question is, will our graduates be able to face the challenges and survive for that long period of time by using the knowledge of education that we imparted them during five years at Jagannath University. The answer is ‘No’. Everything is changing very rapidly. Today is not like yesterday and tomorrow will also not be like today. The world is changing very fast. Fourth Industrial Revolution has already started. ‘Robots’, which have been created by human species themselves, have already started working replacing the human workforce with artificial intelligence. The landscape of employability is changing. Today’s graduates have to face not only tough but the toughest realities. 

Hundred years back, while writing about the French Revolution, Charles Dickens in the first lines of one of the great literary masterpieces A Tale of Two Cities, wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” These paradoxical lines perfectly captures the sentiment and condition of Europe before the French Revolution and, at the same time, it just seems like it really applies to the time that we are going through now.  We are in the best of times with technology making our life easier and also in the worst of times when we are enslaved by the same technology. Undoubtedly, science and technology or more specifically, the latest digital and genetic technology have brought about a lot of blessings for human civilization. But with hundreds of achievements, the humankind is also under the threat of endless challenges. Today’s strategies have to be new and innovative.  To meet the challenges of the new millennium including globalization, technological development, and climate change, our graduates need to be well equipped with the requisite qualifications and skills. Even if it is needed to consider the new challenges as crisis or threats, there is no harm in it as “in every crisis lies an opportunity” and we have to take the best advantage of that opportunity that lies in every crisis.  We have to remember the fact that it is we who have to find out a way to solve our own problems by ourselves. Foreigners will never help us at the cost of their own interests. I am urging the graduates to remember the Nobel laureate in peace, the Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu. Tutu said, “When the Europeans came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘let us close our eyes and pray’ and we did that. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible, and they had the land.”

The youth have to be innovative giving up their traditional or typical thoughts. Coming out of traditionalism, we have to start our journey with skepticism/doubt. The French Philosopher René Descartes in his book Discourse on Method, published in 1637, wrote: ‘Our surroundings are full of many accepted and established misconceptions, remembering these, we have to start our searching from the very beginning with the hope of reaching the truth.’ Whatever our teachers have taught or whatever has been written in textbooks, nothing of these is absolute truth rather apparent truth.

As the real truth is unknown these are considered truth. In the words of Heraclitus, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Change is the only reality in nature as nobody exactly remains the same in every moment rather he/she changes either for good or bad. People didn’t even know till then that why an apple falls on the ground when it is ripe instead of going upwards.  To know this fact human beings have to wait till 1665 when the Cambridge scientist Isaac Newton discovered the theory of gravitation. Although already on that day the main property of this planet i.e. the earth was the gravitational force.  Although many people prefer belief, according to René Descartes “Not belief, we have to start with doubt.” To search the truth, or to reach the truth, we have to start with doubt. As Descartes did not stop after doubting all his beliefs rather his goal was to regain and rebuild knowledge after doubting the traditional beliefs.

15 years is not enough to evaluate the achievements and progress of a university. Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography which was published in 1906 “Numbers confuse me.” Perhaps the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, "There are three types of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics." So without mentioning any statistics, I would like to say during this short course of time the academic and cultural achievements of Jagannath University is incredible/ outstanding. The university has achieved visible developments in many sectors with the involvement of the meritorious teachers and students. This achievement is possible because of the concerted efforts of all the teachers, students, officers and employees working at Jagannath University. At the same time, I do believe and expect that these efforts of all will continue in future to make this institution into a full-pledged university with international standard.

According to the instruction of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for building the new campus of Jagannath University at Tegharia Union of Keraniganj Upazila, the formalities of land acquisition has already been completed. For building the new campus the implementation of the development project of Tk 2000 crore is going on. It is expected that all the infrastructural problems of the university will be solved with the establishment of this new campus. The new campus will be an institution of international standard and full of eye-catching aesthetic beauty. Like the British Poet John Keats I also believe “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”Philosopher Rousseau told “Every man is the creation of environment …. His nature changes with the changes of the environment.” To maintain the standard of education, along with the devotion of teachers-students, the environment especially, the normal political environment i.e. political stability is necessary. In this regard, we are always aware of keeping the environment of our campus peaceful and normal.

Whether our students are being able to avail the opportunities of employment offered by globalization, whether they are making their places in the highly competitive job markets with their academic results and skills—all these are the factors that should be taken into considerations. 

It is better to achieve name and fame by spreading the quality of education; the research and innovative publications of the teachers both nationally and internationally than to dream of becoming the best university of the country by establishing buildings in the name of infrastructural development. We have to prove our greatness and convince others with the help of our high quality research, innovation, and publications. I do believe, high quality learning-teaching, examinations, regular publication of results and inquisitive mentality of the teachers for knowledge to keep continuing their own flames to light the lamps of the students—these are enough at this moment for Jagannath University to make its own glorious position.

Our students are already making their own positions both nationally and internationally. In many cases, Jagannath University is either the champion or runner-up in terms of the results of highly competitive examinations. 

Our graduates will occupy more prestigious positions, they will spread throughout the whole world through free and fair competitions by dint of their talent. This is my last appeal to the graduates, how far, wherever they stay, they must continue their love and commitment to this beloved country Bangladesh that we achieved at the cost of millions of martyrs’ blood. At the same time, they will never forget their beloved Jagannath University and never let the honour of this university down. 

Although, in 2002 Nobel laureate, economist Daniel Kahnemansaid, “People prefer harm to well-being, they forget their past, they are more sensitive to present.”

Still, I would like to conclude my speech quoting some lines from a Rabindranath Tagore:

Taalgach ek paye dariye (‘Palm-tree: single-legged giant)              
Sob gach chariye (topping other trees)                          
Uki mare aakashe…… (peering at the firmament’ )

Tarpore hawa jei neme jay (But when the wind dies down)

patakanpa theme jay (the fronds subside, subside:)

phere tar monti (the mind of the tree returns)

Jeibhabe Ma je hoy mati tar (To earth, recalls that earth is its mother)

Bhalo lage aarbar (and then it likes once more)

prithibir konti (its earthly corner) (English translation of the poem by William Radice)

 

The writer, Vice-chancellor of Jagannath University, has originally written the article in Bangla. It is translated by Khandoker Montasir Hassan, Director and Associate Professor, Institute of Modern Languages (IML), Jagannath University. E-mail: [email protected]

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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