I have a confession to share with. I did not get chance to any university during the admission tests in 2006. My dream of higher education almost died in that year until I could convince myself to boost up the preparation to view in the next year. The intake tests of universities were tough in my time, which has gradually become harder and harder.
Almost in every cases, as many as 80 students fight for a single seat. In 2006, I was that much frustrated and exhausted that I started farming in a tiny land nearby my house. Sometimes, I used to weep at night, and found myself sinking into nightmares. However, the growing saplings during the daylight fixed my courage and made me even stronger to fight again in the next year.
Thanks to my family as well as my fortune for being not too bad. The students who are not too lucky, I mean the 79 students dropped out during a single admission test, also have their own depressing stories. The regretting tales never come out as confessions. Rather, with the untimely end of their aspirations, uncertainty rolls out every possible adversities of life you can imagine.
But this is not how the dreams are supposed to be burnt out. And here come the some positive and tremendous stories Faruk, Hasnat or Rina — some of my students at Bangladesh Open University (BOU) — who are too brave and did not let their hopes dead. They are the students of distance learning, equipped with computers or smart phones, where the classes are mixed designed — both face to face and via internet.
Like the trio, thousands of students of BOU learn from the videos and audios lectures and read e-books. They have the comfort to listen the lectures of the best professors and experts. The expenditure of higher education goes up every year.
However, I’m here to share their stories as they have the accessibility to quality education with less expense. Celebrating the founding anniversary of BOU, this is the success of our school and university, ensuring the constitutional promise — education for all. On top of that, BOU can feel proud as they are the pioneer of e-learning and have been tremendous so far walking side by side with the government’s promise of Digital Bangladesh.
We, the BOU academics, usually deal with the students anyhow denied by the assumed mainstream educational system. Besides, most of our current students also are in jobs, or the female students with children to bring up. The bottom-line is, one can say we have the unique combination of learners of different age, area or income groups while all of them commonly share a thirst for knowledge.
We take their aspiration seriously and our promise is to provide them quality education. While the general class lecture system is fitting-for-all-size, our students comparatively have unique opportunities. In BOU, some students may work on the e-lectures on preparatory topic, while other focus on mid-level learning materials and some advanced learners finds advanced e-materials interesting. And all of the students’ categories belong to the same class. The facilitators also easily can revise the curriculum as per the nature of the class.
Talking about revising curriculum, indeed BOU has a lot to focus on and introduce. The things are not producing lot of audio visual lectures and storing those online. The goal needs to be interactive learning. As Mark Twain once said regarding class lectures, “College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.”
BOU is committed to make the e-learning more interactive for the sake of quality education. Educational degrees alone, never ensure a significant workforce with proper knowledge. Open University means openness towards all, even to people who completed their academic career and still want to explore more.
The university needs to introduce online question answer session among the lecture session. It can be multiple answers, short question, short descriptive answer and even brief assignment. The effective engagement of the students then would depict a huge online learning platform — a university with virtual classrooms, academics and faculties accessible from anywhere in the county. And the students can be attending from their living rooms as well.
With the growing facilities of internet access and availability of smart phones, imagine a boy or a girl in a remote village attending the class of an eminent professor or an expert on a certain topic. Still, there are areas to develop the teaching content with more graphics, animation and charts.
Specially, this module of education has proven worldwide more appropriate in the science faculty. The subjects of arts and commerce also should seek the effective way of teaching and reaching to the grassroots levels.
The education minister previously said several times that the government has a plan of 30 percent enrolment in technical education by 2030. This plan also can be contributed through distant learning by the Open University as it has the logistics and experience as well. There can be mobile phone based learning apps, video tutorials and audios to reach more and more audiences who are yet to be covered by the mass literacy scheme.
And if BOU can meet the challenges, making education more accessible and compact, rest of the universities no doubt will follow and revise the educational system; a system with no barrier of money, availability of seats, age or proximity to the capital city.
Advocating for the 79 students who gets dropped out during a single admission test, I dream that Bangladesh. My dream, inspired by the dream of a Golden Bengal of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has no boundary. If BOU meets the challenges properly, there must be a day I dream when a student from Africa, India or USA will log into a BOU online class and join the session with pupils from multi-cultural and multi-ethnic categories.
And finally, the world of the dream enables a wave of innovation, because amazing talent can be found anywhere. Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living somewhere in a remote village in Bangladesh. And if we could offer that person an education, they would be able to come up with the next big idea and make the world a better place for all of us. Welcome to that world and cheers the 25th anniversary of Bangladesh Open University.