It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. -- Albert Einstein
A university is a place of higher education and research that prepares the students to be future leaders and decision-makers. The role of a university is to spearhead knowledge and develop the personality of individuals to shape change lives in a positive direction. Therefore, a university is not just a place to offer degrees and certificates; instead, it nourishes the students to promulgate diverse thoughts and ideas. University makes (or supposed to make) the students think out of the box, challenge the norms, and equip themselves with techniques and skills of the 21st century so that they can live life in a meaningful and fruitful way.
With the fast advancement of technology, the world is running at a super-fast pace. The invention of the mobile phone and the internet has turned the world into an actual global village where everything is virtually on our palm and just a click away. Technology is creating wonders and offering us amazing and unexpected experiences. The pace of technological innovation is so fast that many people in poor countries are finding it difficult to cope with it. Rich and developed countries are reaping most of the benefits of technological advancement.
The fact is that various research teams of prestigious universities of the developed world are the forerunner of these innovations in the tech world. But, what about the universities of the rest of the world? Are they capable of playing their due role in this technological new normal?
If we observe the Bangladeshi universities, we see that we are not really ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We need a radical but planned restructuring of our education system and policies. On top of everything, we need to grow and build up the organizational and leadership capability to shape our education in a way that it moves along keeping pace with the developed countries.
However, my concern is that we do not know what to do to bring changes in education and learning. Changes do not come overnight and sudden changes are not sustainable. To ensure sustainable development in the education sector we need good leaders and thinkers. Hence, the prime focus should be to ensure an environment of creativity in the universities. Creative culture plays the role of a catalyst to create innovators and future leaders.
The potential of human capacity is immense. The universities must convert this capacity into great skills to solve any problems. The changing world will pose many difficulties and challenges before us and it is the academicians who should educate their students to overcome the barriers. A teacher must cultivate a problem-solving attitude and must be a good communicator to influence the learners.
A great teacher being a mentor provokes, stimulates, and ignites new ideas and thoughts inside the mind of students. He must hunt talent and create an environment of fostering aptitude inside and outside the classroom. And, that is why a teacher must entertain diversity in the classroom. Different people are equipped with different creative arsenals, and an excellent teacher nourishes these arsenals to make a world of diverse talents.
In our country, university teachers remain busy with finishing the syllabus in the conventional manner. Besides, university authorities instead of encouraging creativity and wisdom try to ensure a submissive and conforming environment. Accordingly, teachers hesitate to make an innovative lesson plan or course design to make learning possible creatively.
Most public universities are busy with offering degrees while private universities are looking for profits, though in theory the latter are nonprofitable ventures. In public universities, teachers are often seen to skip their duties and responsibilities; whereas, in several private universities, teachers are treated as employees only. So, the question of creating a knowledge acquiring environment remains a far-fetched dream.
Teaching is a very dynamic and creative profession. A responsible and creative teaching staff is the life force of a university. A good teacher helps to flourish the creative energy among the students. A great teacher is like the 'West Wind' of poet P.B. Shelley: 'Wild Spirit!' and a great changemaker. He makes the class engaging and creates space for the students to exercise their freedom of speech and thought. A creative teacher asks questions, comes with new cases and problems, and helps students work collaboratively to ensure learning. He turns the classroom into a pragmatic place of learning and implanting ideas. A creative teacher must know how to handle difficult students in any given situation.
Nowadays, universities are busy with marketing. More students mean more business. On many occasions, universities arrange easy admission tests. Many private universities admit whoever comes with a bare minimum CGPA in school levels. A handy number of students are not qualified enough to get admitted into a university. In addition, ours is a generation that is becoming degree and certificate hungry. Thus, teachers face uphill challenges to teach these tertiary level students who are hardly qualified to study in a university. Hence, a classroom environment becomes unmanageable to a great extent too. So, the question pops up, how will learning happen in such a quagmire?
Teaching becomes difficult in above mentioned situation. It becomes more difficult when a teacher is not trained. In Bangladesh, we do lack trained teachers. Besides, in many cases, teachers are paid poorly. On top of everything, teachers are kept busy with clerical works that demean their self-esteem. In these circumstances, teaching-learning is so hampered that the teacher is not able to do his job effectively.
If an institution can create a sense of belonging among the teachers, they can become passionate about teaching. A passionate teacher can bring changes among students. A good university feeds the spirit of a teacher and lifts his self-esteem.
Day by day, we are following an 'industrial model' of education. Does it help bring any positive change? We always look for output avoiding our objective of learning. We depend more on tests and examination marks. Isn't the industrial education system too linear and predictable? Research says that teaching and learning are always circular and diverse.
A teacher possesses a human soul, and a human soul believes in change; it also changes with time. So, we must accept changes in education. It takes a great revolution to bring change. And, a creative mind can bring change, not a machinelike one. Though teaching is a very humane journey, technological help is always welcome. In the teaching-learning milieu, technology can only play the role of levers to expatiate learning.
In this era of sweeping change, we need to transform our learning a lot. A pundit on the stage is a dying culture. For optimum learning, we need to know the creative use of technology too. First, we must admit that we want optimum learning and, for that, blended learning might be the solution. But again, a teacher must not be too technologically dependent while giving and managing lectures. Conversely, a lecture should not merely be based on memorized words; it should instead maintain a process of storytelling where the storyteller unfolds layers after layers of the single story before the enthralled audience.
Whatever the case is, a teacher must reach each student. No student should be left behind in the classroom. A creative teacher not only generates learning; he ensures implementation too. So, fostering both productive and ingenious culture is a must in teaching-learning. Research claims that education and innovation go hand in hand. Hence, we must invest more in productive education. To conclude, education needs to be nurtured and taken care of here in Bangladesh, and the rise of better universities is crucial to foster intellectual inquiry and creativity.
(Md. Ariful Islam Laskar is an Assistant Professor at Daffodil International University)