BUET’s contribution to engineering education

--Professor M M Shahidul Hassan

Article-6

Our nation will always remember the martyred teachers with gratitude for the great sacrifice they had made for the creation of Bangladesh. My martyred intellectual father in law S M A Rashidul Hasan was a teacher at Dhaka University. My father Khabiruddin Ahmed was a teacher in physics. My father moved from one place to another with his family during liberation war 1971 and he got sick and died. Like any other patriot they dreamt of having a homeland where they could speak their own language, embrace their culture, and live freely from religious bigotry and colonial exploitation. They also thought of providing quality education to their students who would one day be able to contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the country and bring international recognition of our education system.

Unfortunately during 44 years of independence ill politics have entered our universities and seriously polluted the academic environment, especially in public universities. Now direct involvement of teachers in politics has been criticized from different corners. At present a large section of teachers’ community is very much interested in politics rather than doing research and teaching. For this our higher learning institutes have failed to understand the need to review the existing education system and to adopt the modern education system.

I entered BUET as a student in 1968 and graduated in 1973. I came back to BUET after a small break. This time I came back not as a student but as a teacher. I had a strong urge in returning to my beloved institute BUET. When I returned I could not control my tears. After few years I went to a university in USA for higher studies. After completing my Ph.D when me and my wife took the Greyhound bus to go to JFK airport, New York our hearts were filled with joy because we were coming back home where I could get an opportunity to serve my homeland through teaching and producing students as good engineers. I did not hesitate to leave this heavenly country called America. As a daughter of a martyred intellectual my wife was also delighted to come back to Bangladesh to fulfill her father’s wish. It was to his wish that she started learning songs from a very young age of six.  I will retire from the department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE), BUET just after one year. Now I often question myself, should I try to transform my institution as a modern institute or have I been more interested in materialist gain! I had an opportunity to teach at a university in USA. Besides I served two reputed universities in Asia as a professor.  So I have gathered some knowledge about the characteristics of a modern university. Here, I will discuss about the contribution of BUET in engineering education and our responsibilities in transforming it as a world class university.

There is no denying of the fact that BUET is a very dignified institute in the people’s eyes. People respect BUET teachers too. BUET is a center of excellence in technical education in Bangladesh. It is a university of dreams to millions of students and their parents. Fair admission tests, unbiased recruitment of teachers, adhere to rules and regulations are the characteristics of BUET.  Teachers are not involved in politics. Teachers, officers and staff of this university stand against all evil winds to uphold its characteristics. BUET and its students are praised and honored in Bangladesh and also in the western world for their merit, skill and contribution.

 

World renowned architect Dr. F. R. Khan is a burning example of it. Dr M A Rashid was the first vice chancellor. The Ahsanullah Engineering College was turned into a full fledged university    in the name of East Pakistan University of Engineering and Technology (EPUET) in 1962. First Dhaka survey school was established in 1876 during British regime. Later it was upgraded to the status of Ahsanullah Engineering College in 1903. In the last five decades it has produced about 30,000 engineering graduates.  Professor Dr, Rashid’s dynamic leadership, dignified personality, dedication, honesty and efficient administration set as model for others. Being an electrical engineer Prof. Zahoorul Haque was a writer. He received many awards for his books. He also received Bangla Academy awards. One graduate in the department of EEE, BUET joined Purdue University, USA as a professor with his two months experience in teaching at BUET. Another product has joined Barkley as an assistant professor in the department of Electrical Engineering. Barkley is ranked third university in USA. As far as I know seven EEE gradates have been honored with IEEE fellow. It is the international recognition given to researchers for significant contribution in the field of electrical engineering Our graduates are getting opportunities in higher studies in high ranking universities.

Most meritorious students come to study at BUET and teachers are committed in rendering good education to the students. However, BUET has not changed its education system, In the intensely competitive global environment, the economic fortunes of every country are determined by the quality of its national education and innovative systems. In this context BUET should review its education system and should modernize it. If we visit the websites of first class universities for example MIT, Stanford, Barkley and Purdue of USA, Oxford and Cambridge of UK we will come to know the  features of  those universities and will see the deficiencies and  weaknesses in the education system of BUET.  Each university has clearly stated its mission, vision and values. Long term strategic plan is also mentioned. We do not mention such things.  We can also know from their websites their grading policies, exam system and teaching methodology. Each faculty member maintains his/her webpage. Students can get much information about the course from teacher’s webpage. The course objectives, learning outcomes, methods of deliberation of lectures etc are written in the course outline. As a teacher of BUET, I believe that the quality and relevance of education that an engineer in Bangladesh receives is of great importance to our country’s development and economic activities. The nation, therefore, has a great stake in how our engineering universities are giving education to our graduates and how our engineers are being trained. It is thus my heartfelt desire that BUET will change its existing traditional education (IE) system and adopt globally preferred education system known as Outcome Based Education (OBE). Traditional education is not appropriate for today’s world.

OBE’s instructional planning process is the opposite of that associated with TE planning. TE is content oriented. Different degrees have their associated syllabi. Relevant contents are taught and examined. It provides students with a learning environment with little attention to whether or not students ever learn the materials. Students are given grades and rankings compared to each other. As a result, students become exam oriented or CGPA driven. On the other hand, in OBE system program educational objectives (PEOs) of a program are first developed from a number of sources including professional accreditation bodies, employer groups and the professional experience of staff teaching in the discipline. As we are not familiar with this new education system and are practicing TE for many years, our academicians may not be interested in implementing OBE. Academics would be challenged to interpret and stimulate student’s thinking patterns and also to assist the student in the solving of learning related problems. The most radical demand placed on BUET is to adapt learning plans and academic courses to the requirements of OBE. It could lead to the development of certain negative attitudes amongst lecturers. Course teacher needs to monitor academic performance of each student of his/her course. A faculty usually teaches three courses in a semester and deals with about 150 students. It will indeed be very difficult task for a teacher to assess and monitor progress of such large number of students. Therefore, faculty may show reluctance in implementing OBE. OBE increases faculty work-load. Therefore, more faculty members need to be recruited. Our grading system is not standard. We assign the letter grade A+ (excellent) to a student in a course who scores 80% marks in examinations and numerical value for letter grade D (poor) is 2. On the other hand universities in North America give A (excellent) for obtaining 95% marks in examinations and the numerical value for letter grade D (poor) is one.

Success of OBE in engineering depends upon proper planning, implementation, assessment and monitoring. University authority can play a key role in successful implementation of OBE. University should take advice of foreign experts in implementing OBE. Training and capacity building of teachers will be required. University should go for social mobilization and awareness buildup activities among stakeholders. If OBE is successful in engineering, BUET will create opportunities for Bangladeshi engineers to get access to world employee market and country will earn foreign currency. The  active involvement  and  creativity  of  higher learning  institutions,  teaching  staff,  students  and  parents and also accreditation body and engineering organizations and industries would  be  the  key  leading to the success of reform. Government should form a separate national academy of Engineering (NAE). This NAE, UGC and Board of Accreditation of Engineering and Technical Education (BAETE) will help BUET and other engineering universities in implementing OBE in engineering programs.

I do hope that BUET will bring a paradigm shift in engineering education from TE to OBE soon and thereby proving again that BUET will be pioneer in providing education that will adequately prepare our students for life and work in the twenty first century.