Dr Md Moazzom Hossain
The radical change of social phenomenon over the last two decades has also changed the higher education (HE) system in Bangladesh. The establishment of the National University (NU) on October 21, 1992 through the Act No. 37 is a special initiative for developing college oriented HE in Bangladesh. It is an affiliating as well as an on campus teaching university. The campus teaching comprises MPhil, PhD as well as teachers training programme for the teachers of the affiliated colleges and institutes. The off campus activities provide courses and curriculum leading to Bachelor Pass and Honours as well as Masters Degrees in various disciplines through affiliated colleges and institutes. The NU, as an eminent organ of HE, controls and coordinates more than seventy per cent of the total HE in Bangladesh through more than two thousand colleges and institutes. After twenty two years of its establishment now some educationists are thinking of shifting the government degree colleges to regional public universities. It is really a bad syndrome for higher education in the country.
From the historical perspective, it is found that, HE system in Bangladesh developed in British India with an affiliation to Calcutta University, only by conducting examinations. Before the establishment of Calcutta University there were a few intermediate colleges in East Bengal. Later on, most of such colleges were upgraded as degree colleges and affiliated with Calcutta University. Some of these colleges had the distinction of offering Bachelor of Honours and Master's Degree courses of the University of Calcutta. These assignments were shifted gradually to Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi Universities as academic and affiliated universities. After the establishment of the NU in 1992 as an affiliating university, the total affiliating responsibility of Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi Universities have been shifted to this university.
National University has been given the responsibilities to develop and update the HE in Bangladesh as stated below: (a) Affiliation: To affiliate, cancel affiliation and renew affiliation with colleges and institutions of the country, (b) Curriculum: To prescribe courses of study and develop the courses to be conducted by the university and the colleges, (c) Training: To provide basic, in service, research oriented and foundation trainings for the college teachers, (d) Examination: To hold various kinds of examination, (e) Certificate: To confer degrees diplomas, certificates etc to persons who have pursued and have passed the examination of any prescribed course of study in accordance with the rules determined by the University, (f) Honorary degree: To confer in particular cases, honorary degrees and other distinctions on persons in accordance with the statutes, (g) Diploma: Grant such diplomas for persons not being students of the university as the university may determine, (h) Inspection: To inspect colleges and offices and hostels attached to the university, (i) Communication: To communicate if required with other local and foreign universities and academic institutions, (j) Recruitment and promotion: To create posts for teachers and other officials at the university and to appoint or promote them in accordance with the provision of statutes, (k) Fellowship, medals and prizes: To present fellowships, medals and prizes at the distinguished achievements of teachers and students according to the statutes and university regulations, (l) Museum, laboratory, library, workshop and amusement: To provide museum, laboratorie, library, workshop and others as per statutes and regulation, and (m) Others: (i) To receive fees and charges, gifts and grants for development of university and colleges, and (ii) To publish books and journals to promote education and research.
. But to perform these assignments NU has to face a lot of obstacles from various corners. Some critics and intellectuals never recognize it as a university; they call it as a "Higher Education Board". These groups with the help of other vested groups always destroy the glories of the NU. Some internal corrupt staffs also help them implement their ill motives for personal or financial benefit. But it is true that, the NU performed a lot for the development of the college oriented higher education in Bangladesh. Now, it has 15 lakh students with 60 thousand teaching staff. In spite of a lot of limitations the NU authority has taken some steps for the development of higher education in Bangladesh as stated in the Dailies on October 20, 2014. These steps are really great and the future planning of the NU authority is also helpful for attaining sustainable development in the sector. Government should be helpful for implementing these steps and monitor the total activities efficiently.
To overcome the multifarious problems of NU, reform is essential and decentralization of the NU is now an important issue. The Education policy 2010, emphasizing decentralization of the NU in the seven divisional centres, has already started to be executed. In December 2012, most of the regional offices of the NU have been started with new vision and action. But till today the NU is a centralized academic unit and these regional offices are just an eye wash and rehabilitation centres. A few works like script distribution and collection and some primary information are provided by these regional centres. This is not the spirit of Education policy-2010. But these regional offices should be effective and goal oriented as per the vision of the World Bank regarding HE for 2020. To perform the duties of the university in changing situation of the 21st century, some HE related academic and administrative activities should be centralized and some should be decentralized. The proposed centralized and decentralized assignments of the NU are presented below:
(a) Proposed centralized assignments: (1) Final approval of affiliation, (2) Curriculum development, (3) Decision for admission criteria, (4) Registration policy, (5) Question formulation and moderation, (6) Formation of the NU authorities as per Act, (7) Advance studies, research and other assigned works as per the Act.
(b) Proposed decentralized assignments: (1) Admission form distribution and collection, (2) Registration form distribution and collection, (3) Examination information and distribution of answer scripts, (4) Monitoring the reports of the inspection teams, (5) Monitoring the governing bodies of the colleges, (6) Teachers training programmes, and (7) Teachers evaluation programmes.
Finally, the public colleges should not be shifted to regional public universities. It will create multifarious academic and administrative problems for college based higher education in Bangladesh. For sustainable development of college based higher education in Bangladesh some tasks of the NU should be centralized and some should be decentralized. And the proper coordination of centralized and decentralized responsibilities of the NU is vital to achieve the desired outcome.
The writer is a researcher on 'Bangladesh Higher Education System & National University', currently working as Registrar In-Charge in a private university