Do study disciplines have to align with the labor market to be relevant?

The idea of ​​so-called “useless subjects” is currently the subject of heated debate at the University of Dhaka. Judging subjects by their professional compatibility value is perfectly rational, but the central idea of ​​the degree solely as a cruise ship on the labor market ocean or the notion of “what doesn’t work in the traditional job market has no value” seems a bit questionable.

Recently, debate has taken the internet by storm over whether subjects like Pali, Sanskrit, Urdu, and Persian are compatible with today’s job markets and how departments fare in the realm of academics and of research.

Sanskrit was part of the Bangla department until 1970 when the Sanskrit and Pali department was established. In 2007, Sanskrit was given a completely separate identity.

The Department of Sanskrit and Pali had been created from the Department of Bengali in 1970; later, the Pali department split off from Sanskrit in 2006. Similarly, Urdu and Persian language and literature departments were together until 2006, later they became independent departments.

The Urdu department currently has 358 students and 20 teachers; annual admission is 110. In the new master plan, it was recommended that the number of seats in the first year be reduced to 70.

A student from the Urdu department shared his opinion with the writer on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons.

“As a department, ours doesn’t need to exist. The department lacks the essential structure and program necessary as a separate department, and the department fails to sustain itself as a proper entity. Being labeled as a so-called ‘lesser topic’, we don’t get our respects. We don’t have enough classrooms, so we have to take classes in our computer lab. »

The department does not need so many places, many students think. Also, many students migrate to other departments soon after arriving here. Thus, the department should clarify the subject and its program to aspirants so that only those who wish to pursue research and scholars in this language are admitted here.

“The department reflects a deplorable state of the university itself. The department depends on the university for many key aspects, and the university sometimes fails to provide them. The department should update its curriculum and take necessary measures to help students cope with the constantly changing job market,” remarked the current student who cannot disclose his identity.

Shafiun Ibn Shaheen is an alumnus of the Department of Persian Language and Literature. He thinks that the language departments should come under the Institute of Mother Languages ​​(IML), as the departments are not sufficiently equipped to conduct the necessary research.

In his own words, “Language departments produce very little research due to various constraints. And the university should strive to make students compatible with various skills and abilities; therefore, these departments should be specialized places where a small group of dedicated and qualified researchers will conduct research, and using the surplus fund, the authorities should prioritize labor market-oriented topics.

The Department of Persian Language and Literature currently has 433 students and 14 teachers.

The Sanskrit department has been blessed with many eminent scholars such as Pundit Haraprasad Shastri. However, the current state does not look very promising for current students.

“Students, in general, do not show interest in this department. They study just to pass the exams, and therefore, they take few lessons and learn.

“This trend has created a vacuum in the field of research and academics. Students must improve for the job market; because a degree in Sanskrit will not help in the future unless we learn the skills,” said a student who did not want to reveal his identity for restrictions.

He also recommended a small class size and better research facilities.

Honorary Professor of Education and Research Institute, Dr. M Nazmul Haque shared his opinion in this regard.

“Language-related subjects like Urdu, Farsi, Pali, Sanskrit should be merged into a separate umbrella department based on Oriental language, the sole purpose of which will be research.”

“The class size should be very small, but dedicated, supported by equally supportive faculty members,” Professor Nazmul Haque added.

Not being directly tied to today’s job market doesn’t make Oriental languages ​​any less important, he thinks.

“Pali and Sanskrit may not be used in our daily lives, but they play a very important role in the history of not only Bangladesh but also the South and Southeast Asian region. . They must therefore be the subject of in-depth research and study, but with a team of competent and efficient researchers. These departments should train researchers, not job-seeking graduates,” he explained.

Former Associate Professor in the Department of Persian Language and Literature, Dr. AMM Arif Billah also shared his thoughts in this regard.

According to him, “Languages ​​like Sanskrit and Pali are not just languages, they are also part of two major religions. The study of these two languages ​​allows young minds to study and understand religions. They serve as an important medium for understanding history, culture and literature.

He therefore recommends that departments reduce their class sizes and give students better training and a better curriculum. Better accountability of teachers must also be ensured.

He also emphasized the creation of qualified researchers.

“The lack of professional compatibility is not limited to these subjects, it is a university-wide problem. The university itself must be modernized to adapt to the modern job market. The administration should step in and find the most appropriate plan for such modernization,” he concluded.

The Department of Pali has 390 students and 17 teachers with an annual intake of 90 students. In the recommendation of the Deans’ Committee, he proposed to reduce the number of seats in the first year to 50.

At the recent Dean’s Committee meeting, the recommendation to reduce seats in the aforementioned subjects, along with 40 others, is indeed remarkable progress.

A joint effort of university authorities, faculty members and students of language subjects will go a long way to solving current constraints and modernizing departments to meet the needs of the 21st century labor market.

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