Public and private universities in Bangladesh are planning to revise their undergraduate curricula in favour of Outcome Based Education (OBE), a system of restructuring the syllabi around contents that directly increase students' proficiency of a particular skill or knowledge.
In short, an OBE curriculum means starting with a clear picture of what is important for students, then organising the syllabus, instruction and assessment to ensure such learning, The Business Standard has learned from the University Grants Commission (UGC).
A number of public and private universities, including Dhaka University and North South University, are already working to restructure their traditional syllabi in line with the OBE system.
The UGC's Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) will train at least five selected teachers from each public and private university on the OBE system.
These teachers will later train at least 2 more teachers from each department, who will work on reconfiguring the syllabus.
To this end, the commission in June last year sent an OBE template to every university throughout the country, asking them to restructure their curricula as soon as possible, said sources.
The UGC believes that every graduate must be creative, highly skilled, flexible, innovative, a critical thinker and possess the entrepreneurial spirit to tackle the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution. The OBE system is crucial for producing such graduates.
The commission, in its OBE template earlier sent to the universities, said Bangladesh has been witnessing an increasing demand for higher education and for institutions that provide it. Wider access to higher education has become necessary to address the diversifying demands of local and global job markets.
Improving the quality of higher education involves improving the curriculum, faculty, resources, academic facilities and research opportunities. The curriculum of higher education should be based on outcome, driven by the achievement of goals that bridge the gap between job market demand and supply of skilled graduates.
To ensure this target objective, universities should adopt and practice an outcome based education model, the UGC recommended.
Responding to a query, the head of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell, Prof DrBiswajitChanda, said the UGC was switching to the OBE system with a view to providing services – both curricular and co-curricular – of the highest quality, so that students couldutilise their skills and serve industries and society equally well at a global level.
He continued, "We have asked every university in the country to get ready for the OBE system, and prepare their teachers and students accordingly in this regard. I am optimistic that the universities will be able to introduce the OBE syllabus soon."
The IQAC will establish nine Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which will provide OBE training to the universities. Six centres will train teachers from public universities, while three will train private university teachers.
There are 151 public and private universities with around 6 lakh students and over 30,000 teachers in Bangladesh.
Prof Dr ASM Maksud Kamal, pro-vice-chancellor (Academic) of Dhaka University, said, "We have instructed the departments to prepare their syllabus under the OBE system. The university will create the curriculum within the shortest possible time.
"There are currently no OBE syllabi in any of the country's higher education institutions. The education process has been going on without taking into account the needs of the state. The curricula should be prepared considering an assessment of needs, syllabus, medium and evaluation. New departments should not be approved if they lack such components."
Prof Dr Chowdhury Mofizur Rahman, vice-chancellor of United International University, said UIU currently had a standard syllabus, but now felt the need to restructure it slightly. "We will make a curriculum based on the OBE soon. If we implement this curriculum, we will be able to know about the competency of the graduates. It is a wonderful system," he said.
Prof Dr MM Shahidul Hassan, vice chancellor of East West University, pointed out that not only western countries, but also many African and Asian countries had adopted the OBE decades ago.
He continued, "The universities in Bangladesh are going to follow those institutions. It will be the responsibility of our universities to find out how those institutions implemented the OBE system.
"Bangladeshi universities impart knowledge through the traditional education system. Under this process, many students graduate unskilled. But the OBE system will create skilled graduates who will be able to fulfill the demands of their respective fields."
Addressing the challenges of implementation, Prof Shahidul said, "Initially, the African countries failed to implement the OBE system as they introduced the process without having adequate knowledge about it.
"Even in the USA, teachers and students took to the streets protesting the OBE system when the country began implementing it. So, quality training is a must before introducing this system in Bangladesh."
Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam, former teacher of Dhaka University's English Department, said the OBE system was applicable to science, commerce and engineering institutions, but not for arts subjects.
"It is a good system. But the government must ensure an equal learning atmosphere for each student. Otherwise it will not be fruitful in Bangladesh."
Exams under the OBE
There will be two types of examinations under the OBE. One is a Continuous Internal Evaluation for 50 marks and another is the Semester End Examination also for 50 marks.
The category for the exams are Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyse, Evaluate and Create.
The Washington Accord for OBE
The Washington Accord is an international accreditation agreement for professional and academic engineering degrees between institutions responsible for this accreditation in its signatory countries.
Established in 1989, the accord covers undergraduate engineering degrees under the Outcome Based Education approach.
The signatory countries are Korea, Russia, Malaysia, China, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Japan, India, the United States, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Pakistan and Peru.
Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru and the Philippines have provisional signatory status and may become member signatories in the future.