What should preferably be the language of teaching at private universities in Bangladesh has long become a debatable issue. English is the ‘official’ language in most cases--if not in all. But is it ‘okay’ with the students? And what about the teachers?
Learning foreign languages is not limited to a person’s hobby anymore. It is an advantage, and it portrays extra quality. Languages like French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Russian are windows to the global realm of knowledge; yet, still now English certainly rules. This is a truth that cannot be ignored. So, having a good command over English is a must.
To sense the necessity of teaching in English, the reason behind it should be understood first; the global ‘job market’ is being more and more accessible to the countries like ours. Students from such countries are in need to compete there with competitors gathered across the globe. An English-medium ‘certificate’ is understandably important here. Besides, job interview and/or viva-voce are becoming more and more English-based in home and abroad. In such a context, being able to speaking-listening-writing in English is critically important. But, is it all? It is after completing the studies with some ‘distinctions’. But what is the reality about the private universities in Bangladesh?
Without very few exceptions, ‘weaker’ students get themselves admitted in the private ones. Though decreasing, yet this is the trend in Bangladesh and the number is crucially considerable. Most importantly, teaching methods in the school and college levels are pathetically incompetent. The standard of teaching is also very poor. Most of the students get themselves admitted into private universities carry a very weak foundation especially in English. This is even true for public ones, too. In that case, students are seen at sea while delivered lectures in English. They cannot understand, they cannot perceive, and they cannot write the answers. They cannot express themselves in the answer scripts. In such a condition, students are marked poorly. Or in contrast, they are provided with very smart grades without having judged them properly. These are not just mere convictions but reflected from concrete experiences. In both cases, the students are thrashed into a hoax. They are being mishandled. And this is something very paradoxical to the philosophical and moral ideologies of education if the students even cannot understand the contents of the classroom lectures.
Though there are one or more foundation courses for English at university-level, yet, there is strong logic to say that these courses actually are not of much use. A short-time complementary course cannot make the students overcome the shortage that exists even after studying English for more than a decade! We have to admit this reality. Educating and being educated in English is definitely advantageous for the students to become more open, more outspoken and much more fluent in this language, but universities should consider seriously that this is going to be working if and only the students here are already equipped with a good foundation in that. This does not seem very practical to ‘act’ as if the students were being taught very good English by giving them some lectures on comprehension, rewriting and tense. We could wish for but this is not that simple.
Thus, private universities should reconsider the attitudes they follow for teaching students in and for a global context. No prejudice but this is another reality that there are many students who have problems with even their native language – Bangla. Many cannot write correct Bangla while Bangla is respectfully considered as the International Mother Language. Martyrs devoted their lives for Bangla to be the official language, and we are doing just the reverse. Given the global context, the necessity for being skilled in English and other foreign languages is a must – we must admit; but we should encourage Bangla in a parallel direction, too. We should not forget, the best education one can get is through one’s mother tongue. What we need is to encourage Bangla in most possible cases and simultaneously help students more and more in structuring the physique of the foreign language(s) in them from the very early level to as long as possible. Otherwise, students having weak foundation in Bangla and taught in English at university level will eventually cripple the nation soon.
Sajeeb Sarker: Lecturer & Coordinator; Dept. of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies, State University of Bangladesh (SUB).
BDST: 1800 HRS, OCT 05, 2013