The Birth of Shono Ekti Mujiburer Theke. শোনো একটি মুজিবরের থেকে

The Birth of Shono Ekti Mujiburer Theke. শোনো একটি মুজিবরের থেকে
Icon- Gouriprasanna Majumder
Gouriprasanna Majumder. Born Pabna in today’s Bangladesh. Purba Bangla then.

It was 1971. Their Bhita of Purba Bangla in what was now Bangladesh was fighting for its existence. All the Bangals who had made another world their home after the cruel partition of British India- but more so, Bengal in the East and the Punjab in the West- joined in the fight in whatever way they could.

Icon- Angshuman Roy
Angshuman Roy. Born Bikrampur in today’s Bangladesh. Then Purba Bangla.

Gouriprasanna Majumder was born in Pabna. After the cruel partition of Bengal that lead to the partition of British India, he left his Bhita for West Bengal in India and established himself as a master lyricist of songs in West Bengal in India. He was enjoying a regular Adda at a tea stall in Goriya of Kolkata. Everybody was busy gossiping. Gouriprasanna was paying attention to a piece of paper where he was writing something. He aired the piece of paper pointing to Angshuman Roy and Dinendra Chowdhury- two composers who were pioneers of Bengali folk music. He asked them for their comments on what he wrote.

Angshuman Roy had left his Bhita in Bikrampur like Gouriprasanna. Angshuman jumped like a fish to water. ‘Gouri Da’, nobody but I will compose music for these lyrics. Nobody but I will sing the tune’.

Icon- Dinendra Chowdhury
Dinendra Chowdhury. Born in West Bengal in today’s India.

The ball was now in Angshuman’s court. He composed a tune. He checked the rhythm beating the table as if it were a tabla. Thus was born one of the most influential songs of 1971: Shono Ekti Mujuburer Theke Lakkhya Mujuburer Konthaswarer Dhwani’.

শোনো একটি মুজিবরের থেকে The rest was history. Joy Bangla!

Asrar Chowdhury
Aug 15, 2016 CE. Sraban 31, 1423 BE

 

Bangla Maa: Tero Parbon Bhora

Bangla Maa: Tero Parbon Bhora
Ours paths are different. Ours destination is the same Photo Credit: Tareq Masud
Ours paths are different.
Ours destination is the same
Photo Credit: Tareq Masud

Bangla Maa: Tero Parbon Bhora
– Asrar Chowdhury

I
Yours is yours. Mine is mine
Together we can find the Divine

Mine is with me. Yours with you
The Divine is with us me and you

II
Our paths are different
Our destination is the same

No matter how you look at it
We’re playing the same game

III
You call it one. I call it another
Does it matter, dear brother?

In the past I went to yours
You came to mine and no other

IV
‘This land is your land’
And so too is it mine

This land is OUR land
But we don’t see the same sign

V
Why are we different today?
Why aren’t we the same?

Shubho Durga Puja brother
Again together, let’s play the game.

Science Laboratory T Junction
Dhaka, Bangladesh
WED Oct 21, 2015 CE. Kartik 6, 1422 BE.

Cover Photo: Durga Puja preparation in Kolkata. Source: The Dawn, Pakistan.

Post Campus V: Sun Jul 17, 2011: Why do we go to University?

Post Campus V: Why do we go to University?
— Asrar Chowdhury

Star Campus, The Daily Star
Sun Jul 17, 2011
Page 14-15 in Print
Link: http://www.thedailystar.net/campus/2011/07/03/post.htm

 

 

Post Campus V:
Why do we go to the university?

Asrar Chowdhury

The HSC results are out. Coaching centres throughout Bangladesh are housing HSC and A Level aspirants who are trying hard to get admitted in one of the universities of Bangladesh. The decision to study in a university is an individual choice. It depends on the student and their family. The question that can be asked is: do we go to the university for the sake of going or are there personal gains from making such a decision? Economic theory has been formally analysing this question for half a century.

Jacob Mincer from Chicago first introduced the notion of human capital in 1958. Individuals invest time and forego earnings from staying out of work to acquire education. They enjoy the dividends of their investment over a period of time in the job market. As individuals acquire education- from school to the university- they add to their stock of human capital. The more the human capital individuals acquire through education, the larger is the rate of return in terms of wages. It is evident that a university graduate earns more than an HSC or an A Level student simply because they have more stocks of human capital to show in the job market. Therefore, the individual’s decision to go to university for higher future earnings is justified. This simple argument has lead to the emergence of the Human Capital School in economics with major contributions from Jacob Mincer, Theodore Schultz, and Gary Becker.

The decision to acquire a university education is the first hurdle individuals cross. The next hurdle is to prepare for the job market where the returns from investment in education will accrue. Universities throughout the world do not only provide education to individual students. They also create an educated workforce. In 1973, while working at Harvard, Michael Spence came up with a very powerful hypothesis. Higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of earnings not only because they raise productivity, but also because a university certifies that a graduate is a good bet for advanced tasks.

It is possible for teachers and institutes to observe the productivity of individual students because the sample size is small and observable. Once students complete their university education and try to enter the job market, they compete with a much larger sample size where the individual productivity of students is no longer directly observable. How does education work in such a market arrangement?

Job market aspirants ‘signal’ their productivity to employers through various indicators. The most prominent signals include obtained grades, subject or programme, and the name of the university. How does the other side of the market- the employers- respond to these ‘signals’? Common sense suggests that the cost of training university graduates for a specific task is lower than that for non-university graduates. Common sense further suggests that graduates from certain universities or certain programmes tend to perform better than graduates from other sources. Employers respond to ‘signals’ by ‘screening’ and ‘sorting’ applicants accordingly. The cost of acquiring this information otherwise would be high for employers. This simple observation has attracted intellectual contributions from Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, Joseph Stiglitz and other leading economic theorists.

How do incumbent students respond? First and foremost students need to work hard for a high grade (CGPA). “A high grade itself during our times was good enough when there were only six universities in Bangladesh- Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Jahangirnagar, Mymensingh, and BUET”.

Today, with hundreds and thousands of university graduates entering the job-market every year- competition is very
much alive and kicking. There is a golden rule though. To create value in a labour (job) market one needs to create scarcity, i.e., create an edge over others. Today the Bangladesh economy is much more dynamic than it was two or three decades ago. Besides studies, students need to acquire further stocks of human capital through extra-curricular activities to make their CVs attractive on the job market. The more relevant extra-curricular activities one acquires the stronger the ‘signal’ sent for employers to easily ‘screen’ out from other applicants.

As Bangladesh looks forward to becoming a middle-income country, it is the ‘Campus Generation’ that will take Bangladesh forward in the 21st Century. Universities are just a launching pad towards achieving this end. We go to the university to acquire human capital and also to acquire ‘signals’. Today’s ‘Campus Generation’ is intelligent enough to understand the value of how to compete in job markets and make the best of their university education. Bon Voyage!

ImageImageImage(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University and North South University.)
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2011

UNPUBLISHED NOTE- The problem of sharing resources- Responses to a ‘Festival Quiz’

The problem of sharing resources- Responses to a ‘Festival Quiz’- UNPUBLISHED NOTE

Asrar Chowdhury

16 November 2010

 

Dear Reader(s):

 

While reading “Public Finance and Public Policy: Responsibilities and Limitations of Government” by Arye Hilman (2nd Edition; Cambridge University Press, 2009) I came across a very interesting problem from the Old Testament on sharing water in the desert between two individuals. While reading I framed the problem in my own way and threw it for discussion in Facebook. I am surprised to have seen the response from quite a few who were genuinely thinking about a solution. Here’s my interpretation to the problem that was asked Monday 15 November 2010.

 

 

Thanks for your participation in the debate.

 

Eid Mubarak and Festival Greetings

 

Asrar Chowdhury

 

16 Nov 2010

 

***

 

Respondents in the Facebook Status

 

 

Abdullah Al Mahmud Shaki; Walid Haider; Tasnuva Rahman Prema; Md.Ruhul Amin Khan Abir; Nabila Nudrat; Ratul Saha; Adnan Shafin Alin; Mahbub Farid; Sharmin Rahman Saima; Alice De Goll; Satia Muntaha Nisha; Sazid Raihan; Ahsan Senan; Rifat Mahbub; Jobayer Tunan; and Ishtiaque Khan

 

 

 

***

 

THE PROBLEM

 

There are two people in a desert- A and B. There is ‘just’ enough water for both to survive. They do not have any other resources- only the water. Individual A has the property rights to the water i.e., individual A owns the water.  There are four possible outcomes to the game.

 

Outcome (i): A keeps the water

Outcome (ii): A and B share the water

Outcome (iii): A and B go for a lottery for the water with equal probabilities

Outcome (iv): A and B fight for the water

 

There will be an exchange between A and B for the water. Exchanges between individuals can be done through either a market mechanism; or through a non-market mechanism. Non-market mechanism in economic theory implies intervention. Intervention can be made by any authority that can govern, i.e., any authority that can influence the distribution of resources between the agents in the market.  Let’s see how the above can be explained.

 

DISTRIBUTION THROUGH THE MARKET

 

Outcome (i): A keeps the water. If A has the property (ownership) rights to the water, A will keep the water for survival. This will be an efficient solution. The marginal benefit of A is his/her life. Why? A has the water and A survives. B does not get the water and B dies. The marginal cost is the life of B. We have MB=MC.

 

Outcome (iv): A and B fight for the water. If the property rights of A is challenged then in a market arrangement the two individuals will ‘bargain’ for the water. The water will go to the highest bidder (A or B- but not both because there’s only just enough water for one to survive). Outcome is again efficient. MB attributes to the individual who survives; MC attributes to the individual who pays with their life.

 

DISTRIBUTION THROUGH INTERVENTION

 

Outcome (ii): A and B share the water. Why should A share his/her water with B with the knowledge (information) that by doing so means losing their life?  A could share the water with B if there is a reward from doing so. How can A and B both be rewarded if both will lose their lives by sharing the water? If there is a religious intervention (non-market arrangement) then by sharing the water both will be rewarded in the after life. This arrangement is ‘fair’ since both benefit from sharing the water by getting rewarded in the after life.

 

Outcome (iii): A and B go for a lottery for the water with equal probabilities. If A and B are the only two people in the population and if one of them has to survive to ensure the human race does not get extinct how can the solution of distributing the water be made that seems ‘fair’?

 

A governing authority (the government or any other) can IMPOSE A and B have a lottery for the water with equal probability. One of them will die (no doubt), but one of them will survive and by doing so the human race will survive. How can such an arrangement be fair? The human race survives as it has always through such sacrifices made by governing authorities on individuals like A and B in similar situations.

 

MORALE

 

The above analysis is theoretical. Which option will be the solution depends on which of the four options is more dominant than the other.

 

Eid Mubarak and Festival Greetings!

 

Asrar Chowdhury

16 November 2010


UNPUBLISHED NOTE: “Real Beauty of a Campus”- Piece for Teacher’s Day: 2010 Sep

I wrote this piece for Teacher’s Day, 2010 for Campus of Daily Star. This year 5th Sep was a Sunday. Incidentally, this piece failed to get pass the printers! Next Sunday’s issue won’t come out due to Eid festivals. Since later this piece will loose its relevance, I thought of sharing it in Facebook should it fail to find the issue after the Eid festival.

 

Too bad. I really wrote this piece with a lot of emotional attachment. For three days, I laboured to bring the word count down from 950 to 800- the critical maximum for one page in the weekly.

 

Hope you enjoy reading as much I enjoyed living through the events and later writing them for an audience

 

*** *** ***

 

UNPUBLISHED PIECE

 

The Real Beauty of a Campus: Homage to Teacher’s Day

Asrar Chowdhury

 

I was born in Chittagong College campus where my father was teaching in the department of economics. All my life, I have been associated with a campus- either in the shade of my parents or on my own. University campuses are centres of wisdom that attract minds who question and challenge their environment. I have always taken such minds for granted. Three Gurujis in three different capacities at Jahangirnagar campus helped shape my universe. This is a treasure I always cherish.

 

In class nine I was facing difficulty in physics and chemistry. We lived on the top floor of a three-storied building at Jahangirnagar campus. On the ground floor lived one of the most gifted scientists Jahangirnagar has ever seen- Professor Syed Shafiullah. One afternoon I saw Chacha busy gardening. I went downstairs and started a conversation. At my first chance I mentioned my problem. Chacha looked at me. “Bring your books and meet me in my front veranda” was the call, which instantly became my command. Chacha took my book and read it. He closed the book and started narrating the life story of Neils Bohr. I was puzzled. I now realise this was my first talim in quantum physics. That afternoon was the beginning of more addas that unravelled concepts of physics and chemistry complemented with a historical and philosophical introduction- a rarity in any teacher.

 

In my college days after afternoon sport we would go to Prantik gate for refreshment. One gentleman would be sitting in the bus stand looking at the passers by. Sometimes he would call us and talk to update himself. To the outside world this gentleman was a living legend in his lifetime. To us he was our dear Selim Al Deen Chacha. In those days, I was very much into western popular music. Being a teenager, I would go all out to show how much I knew. One day, Selim Chacha told us music has a universal language with a universal alphabet of only twelve letters. Some call them Sa-Re-Ga; some Do-Re-Mi; others A-B-C. Whatever the names, there can only be 12 notes in asaptak (octave). All music expresses human emotion just like even mathematics. Heavens! This was serious food for thought. Symmetry exists in maths and music as it also does in nature.

 

The dilemma came after my HSC. What to study? Physics? Music? The choice of a subject and university is a one and for all gamble. You win all or you loose all. My Late mother’s prayers still ring bells. “The chance of failure is very high when you try to make your passion your profession. Study economics”. My father was abroad then. I searched my father’s majestic library and ended up finding nothing. Luckily, that day, Professor Amir Hussain came to visit. I asked him which book to pick. He suggested reading the introductory chapters of Principles of Microeconomics by Roy Ruffin and Paul Gregory. My first text in economic theory- an azure cover, printed on acid free paper. The concept of scarcity looked interesting. I decided to ‘follow the leader’ in Amma- study economics.

 

The random decision to study economics preceded another random event- our first class in economics. The Late Mirza Mozammel Huq took our first class in what would be microeconomics. I had heard about him as a teacher from others. I had known him from my childhood. I could not have imagined what would happen when the two personalities gelled in a classroom. ‘Expected averages’ were maximised!

 

A foundation course of any discipline is critical because it is here you either grow or lose interest totally. The role of the teacher is crucial to ensure the first outcome. I was lucky again. Mirza Sir’s classes would blow my mind out and make me want to think and question. Through asking ‘why not’ to search for the answer to ‘why’ the boundaries of the mind broaden and with it broaden the boundaries of an ever-expanding universe. Mirza Sir had an extra-terrestrial ability to address foundations of microeconomics and show how the mind of an economic theorist operates. To have learned this foundation from Mirza Sir twice in my undergraduate raised my confidence in other branches of economics at Jahangirnagar and later at Cambridge. Teachers like Mirza Sir still exist, but like the foundation of economics, they are a ‘science of scarcity’!

 

Shafiullah Chacha and Selim Chacha invoked in me a passion for the physical sciences and music. Mirza Sir’s training helped make my profession become my passion; and the journey into the ‘beautiful minds’ of economic theorists ever so enjoyable. Credit goes to the common meeting place- the university campus of Jahangirnagar- a citadel of wisdom where ideas and thoughts start only to give birth to newer and better ones. That is the real beauty of any campus.

 

Word Count: 816

 

After Seven Semesters at NSU- Time for a Break- 27 April 2010- UNPUBLISHED

After Seven Semesters at NSU- Time for a Break
Asrar Chowdhury

UNPUBLISHED
Dhaka 27 April 2010

I felt obligated to write this piece. And thus I wrote it. It’s as simple as that

***

Goodbye don’t mean I’m gone
– Carole King

I
January 2008. Had I known at the time, I would have written down the date. It was in the first 12 days of the month. This is all I remember. I was not at home. At the dinner table I was informed that a phone call came. I was asked if I would be willing to teach as a Part-Time Faculty in Economics at North South University. This was certainly an unexpected proposal. Outside my own universities, Jahangirnagar and Cambridge, until then I had not taught at any other university. Accidents happen for two reasons. First for the bad; and Second they can also happen for the good. I wondered and then pondered. The last time I agreed to such an unexpected proposal was when I was asked to teach at the Institute of Business Administration of Jahangirnagar University. What started as a fun exercise ended into a wonderful experience where I met some of the best students from four batches of IBA, JU. This time, again I told myself, why not? What’s the harm?

Whatever knowledge I had about private universities till January 2008 was based on observation from other peoples’ direct experience and my own inference based on the stories and analyses I heard from others. When we don’t have direct experience we tend to rely on conjectures to form an opinion. This is unscientific. I have always tried not to comment on something I know nothing about. Since I had no experience with or about private universities, I thought this would be a good opportunity to see for myself what one of the top private universities in Bangladesh really is.

II
Universities in Bangladesh do not have a unified assessment system. Public Universities have two types of assessments- year-end (annual) and bi-semesters (six month) in one academic year. Except for a very few universities, Private Universities in Bangladesh assess students on the basis of tri-semesters (four month) in one academic year. The credit system of all private universities in Bangladesh differs from public universities in their open credit system. Through the open credit system, it is technically possible for a student to complete their under-graduate before four years (12 semesters). This was the first difference I noticed at NSU. One serious problem with this incentive mechanism is the classic lottery-utility phenomenon we see in risk and uncertainty analysis from the days of von Neumann and Morgenstern. When the stakes are high the potential for losses and wins is also high. Students can get caught up in a conundrum of risking their CGPA to save time.

Tri-semesters mean 12 weeks of class in a semester. There are two lectures per week. Each lecture is 90 minutes. Thus 24 classes accumulate to 36 hours of class per course. A course is divided into three parts. Part I is known as Mid Term I; Part II as Mid Term II; and Part III is the Final Exam. Total Marks is 100 per course. The final exam is not assessed on the entire course. The final exam covers only those parts that are not covered in the Mid Terms. In essence, each course therefore has three separate final exams because contents of each component are not revisited in other components. This is one interesting area where private and public universities in Bangladesh differ. Public universities assess students on the basis of a comprehensive final exam where short tests covering various parts of the total syllabus are also taken.

In between these three assessments, short tests are taken. The composition of 100 marks depends on the faculty. I follow MT I and MT II 25X2=50 Marks; Short Test: 20 Marks and Final: 30 Marks. Duration of the Mid Terms is usually 90 Minutes. Duration of the Final exam is usually 105 Minutes. Using the “I” implicitly implies that the distribution and assessment method of a course rests in the hands of the course instructor, the faculty. Although different individuals follow different distributions, the MT I, MT II and Final with short assessments are followed in unison.

The open credit system has its flexibilities. Each course is offered to all students who qualify for that particular course in each semester. However, there is a constraint. A course cannot be offered to more than a certain number of students by a single faculty in a single class. There is an upper limit to each class size. All students who qualify for a course are therefore divided into sections (classes). The cut-off number of students per section varies from one Private University to another, but tends to stay within 35-45 per section. Therefore if a course is offered to say 400 students in a semester, it could be offered in 10-12 sections where more than one faculty will be responsible for each section. Open credit system also implies that students from different departments can take the same course.

Freedom to choose does not always go in the benefit of students. Students can register to do a course under a certain faculty where the course will be offered by more than one faculty. This does not necessarily mean that the student will get the faculty of their choice. The distribution of courses is done through a system called “advising” where the director of the programme or the head of the department ‘advises’ who gets which course and which section (ie which faculty). Although there is no unified system in the advising sessions, senior students are given priority over junior students.

With an entire semester of classes sandwiched into 12 weeks and a full semester of within 16-17 weeks, the course teacher is the single assessor of a course. Students are shown their exam scripts where they do reserve the right to comment on any discrepancies. This is another area where private and public universities differ. In the public universities there is an exam committee where the course teacher and an external examiner submit separate questions to the committee. The committee moderates questions, where and if necessary. Two examiners assess exam scripts. The average mark of the two examiners is recorded as the final score. If the difference between the two examiners is more than 20 percent the script(s) goes a third examiner. The final average is calculated against the first two examiners to whom the third examiner’s marks are the closest. The composition of 100 marks varies from university to university and within departments of the same university in public universities. Students in public universities do not “usually” get to see their final scripts.

What are the problems with this open credit system? First: it depends on how many courses students take in a semester and the level of difficulty of the course. The ideal number of courses in a semester is three or four. Students can easily get tempted on taking five courses in a semester to finish early. That’s when problems can start and have a negative domino effect. If one course turns out to be a disaster and the student is late in responding, performance in other courses can and are affected. Students end up dropping courses to re-take them at a latter point, or they end up doing bad in more than one course.

Second: from my observation success under this system also depends on the physical and mental well being of the student during a semester. With classes and exams sandwiched into 12 weeks, students (and also teachers) do not have the luxury of missing one week of classes.

Every system must have its checks and balances to stand the test of time. With classes sandwiched into just 12 weeks, students do get a chance to sit for make-up exams of the two Mid Terms. If such a situation does arise in the case of the Final Exam, students can take an “I” grade. This “I” (Incomplete) Grade is at the discretion of the course teacher where the student completes the final exam at a convenient date later, preferably if possible, under the same course teacher.

Although the system does allow students to sit for make-ups of missed Mid Terms, make-up dates are not always convenient for the students. Another interesting loophole in the open credit system is clashing of exams. A student could find himself having two Mid Terms at the same time. These clashes can be avoided by discussions between and with the faculty, but the worst is back-to-back Mid Terms or Finals. The time in between would not be more than 15 minutes. I have seen students enter my final exam a few minutes late. This is not due to the inevitable traffic jam, but a jam of a different nature.

Third: Sandwiching courses into 12 weeks means that classes that are missed due to a national holiday or any other reason are compensated within the 12 weeks. This is usually done on Thursdays. Although this arrangement is good to ensure no “session-jam”, it can become very demanding for both students and teachers. With make ups of lost classes taken on a Thursday and Mid Terms almost always taken on Fridays and Saturdays, students and teachers can both find themselves not having a weekend break for three or even four consecutive weeks. If the teacher misses a class or foresees any such misses, they are expected to make-up the class at their convenience. From my observation and experience, this initiative to keep the records right can and does contribute to burn out of both the students and the teachers.

There is one arena where, I think, public universities are one notch ahead of private universities in Bangladesh. The VIVA VOCE. In all public universities, students are required to attend an oral examination. This can happen either at the end of each academic year where students are assessed on courses they covered in that particular academic year. It can also happen at the end of the Honours (or Masters) where students face a comprehensive viva that covers all courses in the Honours or the Masters. Vivas are effective because they train students to face a professional body and show how much of the contents of course(s) they have actually absorbed. It can also contribute to developing a sense of self-confidence in students. Since no private university in Bangladesh to my knowledge has a formal viva assessment, it will not be possible to comment on its potential if implemented. However, from experience and observation in the public universities I think such an inclusion will not go in vain.

III
My personal experience at NSU has been one that I have enjoyed to the brink or TOITOMBOOR as one would say in Bangla. I came to the teaching profession with a vow to make a contribution to influence the young. Teaching is one of the few professions where one has the privilege to keep in touch with young and fresh hearts. In the process it is the teacher who learns from students more than the students do from teachers. Teaching is upside down unlike any other profession. And it is the students who keep the teacher young at heart and updated.

My first observation has been how students can cope with large syllabi within 12 weeks. My trademark course at NSU has been Eco 203: Intermediate Microeconomic Theory-I. I have taught this course for six semesters at a stretch in seven semesters so far. At the moment, I am taking a similar course in Economics at Jahangirnagar. There we have the flexibility of teaching almost the same syllabus over a span of 8-9 months. That same syllabus would be covered at NSU in just 12 weeks. It is true that at JU we can go into a more in-depth analysis than at NSU. Still, having to do justice towards a course, covering crucial topics in 12 weeks is demanding for both the teacher and the student.

One common feature I have observed in students from both sides of the fence- is their eagerness to learn. I think this is because of the competition students are exposed to these days when they see their friends from school and college in other universities. When we were students, there were only four universities in Bangladesh where Economics was offered in the Honours. Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong and Jahangirnagar. Honours in Business Administration did not exist during our times. Our job market was limited and it was possible to know who the top students in other universities were. Today the scenario is more complex. Economics students have to compete with students from public and private universities in the job market. Even worse, students of Economics have to also compete with students from Business Administration. With Business Administration offered in almost each university in Bangladesh, the competition in the job markets is fierce to say the least.

Another interesting feature I have noticed is the emphasis on English as the medium of instruction at NSU. Teachers are required to deliver lectures in English and students are required to answer in English. I think this is good for international competitiveness. However, having said this, this trend is also catching up on students in Economics at Jahangirnagar these days. Competition between the two types of universities in course of time can only be for the good of the students.

Not all is rosy though. In education it takes two to dance the Tango. If students face pressure keeping up with the busy schedules of classes and exams, then the teachers face equal pressure in taking exams, marking scripts and returning them within the shortest possible time. In a 12 week semester there can be no scope for any margin of error. This at times can become very stressful. And this is why I have decided to take a semester off from NSU this year. It’s time to have a break. It’s time to have a Kit Kat.

IV
I would like to re-state that I enjoy teaching. I am very happy I am in a profession that I enjoy. For this reason I never feel that I am working. Financial rewards have always been secondary. If it comes, great. If not, still no complaints because I am doing something that I enjoy.

Last year, our daughter, Amira Labiba Chowdhury aka Annapurna, started school. From now on, she will be enjoying an annual vacation during the summer semester at NSU. This is why I have decided to take summer semesters off from now on. Much as I love investing time with the young and fresh hearts and the minds of tomorrow’s Bangladesh, I also need to invest quality time with my daughter, Annapurna. Also, the travelling distance and the impossible traffic jams have started to their toll on my health. I get exhausted very quickly these days. This is where I need to elaborate on two tragic incidents in my life that have disturbed an otherwise smooth path.

I had a brain operation in 2004/05. I was diagnosed with aneurysm with blockages in my brain vessels. At birth two of my brain vessels were thin. For this, I have experienced terrible headaches from childhood that would last for up to one week. Not being able to focus on work and then trying to pick up the threads I would get depressed. Medical science still has not been able to find a cure for depression. At the time had I known it was due to a problem in the brain, cure may have been possible. It was almost too late when we found out that I was diagnosed with aneurysm. Fate was on our side and my heavenly Mother’s prayers paid off. We went to Delhi to the Indira Gandhi Hospital (also known as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, AIIMS). The operation was successful. However, I was advised by the doctors at AIIMS not to stress myself for the rest of my life. Ever since, I have tried to follow this prescription. A couple of years later, I lost my Mother. I was very close to my Mother. Her departure was a shocking experience from which I have never recovered fully.

The brain operation and my Mother’s death disrupted crucial targets and goals in my life. I lost crucial years in my career and have black spots of unfulfilled desires. It is only recently that I have come to terms that as long as one is in good health, one can always pick up lost time and lost goals. May be that may never come in the way they were originally intended to, but come they will in another guise. I am happy I am in good health. And if I remain in good health, I know I will be able to make up for any lost time and lost cause. I ‘think’ I am now finally in the mental frame of mind to pick up on lost time I should and could have a long time ago.

V
The seven semesters at NSU have been a roller coaster ride. Fate had it that except for the first and the seventh semesters, I have never taken one course in a single semester. It was only in the seventh semester I was kindly given three sections of my trademark course Eco 203. I am grateful to the Chairman, Ataur Bhai (AAR as he is known at NSU) for this. At the same time, I am also grateful to him and the previous Chairman, Gour Da (GrG as he is known at NSU) for giving courses I could automatically adjust to.

My two greatest challenges came in the semesters of Spring and Summer 2009. In Spring 2009 I was asked to take a section of Eco 303. This is the next part of Eco 203 that delves into a more rigorous analysis of microeconomics. I was happy because this would mean a chance to revisit selected topics and especially one that has always baffled me- game theory. As the semester started I learned I would have to do two sections of Eco 303. That would not have been a problem if the duration of classes were the same for the two sections. That was not to be. The afternoon classes (1:00-2:30) were of 90 minutes and the evening classes (6:30-9:45) were of 180 minutes with a 15 minute break. This meant 24 classes for the afternoon slot and 12 classes for the evening slot to keep in line with the 36 hours of lectures in a semester.

Two sections with two different time allocations was simply too demanding. Whatever I could cover in two classes in the afternoon slot would be very difficult to cover in a single class in the evening class. The reasons are obvious. It takes two to dance the Argentine Tango. By the evening, I would be exhausted from classes during the day. This is the story of the transmitter. And by the evening the students in the class were exhausted from either lectures from the whole day; or even worse office and then commuting to class. This is the story of the receivers. This still would not have been a problem. A section of the evening class was graduate students. This meant having graduate and under-graduate students in one class. The graduate students took the course as an optional requirement for their Master’s programme. On this note, I must say that I was lucky. All the graduate students put in a big effort to cover the topics in the course.

Spring 2009 was the first time Eco 303 was offered in two sections at NSU. The size of the two sections surpassed my wildest imagination. 104 registered with 100 sitting for the final exam! Still I have no complaints. I got the chance and also the privilege to meet the cream of the cream of NSU in Spring 2009. When the receivers have sharp and faultless antennas, the transmitter has to be at their toes all the time. I have no regrets. It was in this semester and in this course that I realised game theory is not as difficult as it seems. It was my dear students who taught me. It was not the other way round. Teaching is truly an upside down process. And for that, Thanks to the students for ‘fine tuning’ the transmitter.

After Spring 2009, Gour Da asked if I would be willing to take Eco 341- Labour Economics. Once again, I took this as a challenge because Microeconomics in Bangladesh seldom focuses on factor markets (the buyers market). It has a very strong bias towards product markets (the sellers market). Labour Economics would give me a chance to learn how labour in the factor market works. Once again, I met the cream of the cream of NSU. And I was once again facing problem in giving grades. In a class of 37 students, 17 (almost half) students had a CGPA of 3.7 and above. This is very unusual in a single class. 3.7 at NSU is the A Minus. These were senior students who had done well in most of their previous courses. Otherwise how could they have got a minimum CGPA of 3.7 out of a band of 4.00? And once again, the students taught the teacher. And once again, the teacher found it more than a pleasure to go beyond his capacities.

Eco 203 is the first real taste of microeconomics for undergraduate students at North South University. It is a compulsory requirement for students of economics and those from the business school who do a dual major in economics. The course is divided into three components. Part I analyses the consumer; Part II analyses the firm and perfect competition; and Part III discusses selected markets. I have always felt that 12 weeks is not enough to do proper justice to a core course like Eco 203 and also Eco 303. Nevertheless, it is quite surprising how students can cope with the content in such a short span of time. In our days we would study the entire content of Eco 203 in a whole year. Even then, in those days, we never covered Game Theory. Game Theory has become a regular feature in microeconomics in Bangladesh in only the last half decade.

This brings me to one small unfulfilled targets regarding Eco 203, which has almost become my trademark course at NSU. Microeconomics courses in Bangladesh tend to neglect factor markets. For this reason I emphasise on monopoly and monopsony. Oligopoly can almost never be covered more than the Cournot and the Stackelberg models. By the time I start the latter model, the bells of the final exam starts. This means game theory can never be started in this course. Nevertheless, concepts of game theory are covered as strategic behaviour in the Cournot and the Stackelberg models.

This is not too much of a loss because industrial organisation is offered where students can get study product markets under imperfect competition. Labour economics is also offered where students can learn how factor markets of labour function. Finally, game theory is also offered as a separate course.

VI
The last time I said goodbye to a stint of teaching outside Economics, Jahangirnagar, was when I discontinued after four batches at the Institute of Business Administration, Jahangirnagar University. I had a wonderful time at IBA, JU; and thus felt obligated to write a note that was later printed in Star Campus of the Daily Star.

This time round I again feel obligated to write because I have enjoyed my time at NSU, TOITOMBOOR. If I survive another quarter century or more, I will once again write another piece on my times at Jahangirnagar after retirement.

The inevitable consequence of a beginning is an end. Rather than grumble an end, we should try to celebrate the end. I have learned this after my Heavenly Mother’s death. If you can celebrate a death (end) you will feel happy and appreciate the times you had in the lifetime (during the continuum).

Now. Goodbye don’t mean I’m gone. I do plan to return in Fall 2010. If not then in Spring 2011 assuming a place is still available by that time. I am tired and exhausted commuting between two jobs. I haven’t been able to read any new book (academic and non-academic) because of two jobs. I haven’t published professional pieces because of two jobs. I need a break.

The pleasure is on this side. I am happy that I was offered to teach at NSU. I got to see with my own eyes how one of the top private universities in Bangladesh functions. But above all, I had the privilege of meeting wonderful fresh and young minds. Fresh and young minds who will one day rule Bangladesh and the world. The youth is the same in Bangladesh- whether in the public universities or in the private universities. Why? Because they both come from the same schools and colleges. The source is the same. How can we convincingly say one is better than the other?

The power of youth is universal. And may this power of youth take Bangladesh forward. The ball will soon be in your court to play.

Goodbye to you all and see you soon, ceteris paribus!

Asrar Chowdhury, ArC to NSU students
Dhaka
27 April 2010

DS Campus: 2010 01 24 Jan: A Career Development Talk Out of the Ordinary

A Career Development Talk Out of the Ordinary
by Asrar Chowdhury

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Daily Star Campus
24th Jan 2010
URL: http://www.thedailystar.net/campus/2010/01/04/feature_ordinary.htm

I attended the following talk at an invitation from Star Campus of the Daily Star. The discussant talked about his own story almost the whole talk instead of how to formally develop a career.

Almost half of the audience was my own students. I was happy to see them happy although (off the record) I was not too much impressed. Nevertheless, who cares what I think!

The following is the printed version of my fly on the wall view of the talk. I wrote it unwillingly. And guess what? I wrote it in less than an hour. Read it twice and emailed it off. This is something I would strongly advise others to avoid always, unless unavoidable. But then, here it goess nevertheless.

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STAR Campus of the Daily Star in collaboration with Prothom-Alo Jobs organised a seminar “Motivation for Career Success” at the Prothom-Alo Office 20 January 2010. The key speaker was Munir Hasan Khan, Founder and CEO of Impra Consulting International, USA. I was fortunate to attend this wonderful talk that gave an insight to Munir’s own life story to inspire the young who were present that day. Abdul Quayum, Joint Editor, Prothom Alo; and Shahnoor Wahid, Editor, Star Campus, Daily Star inaugurated the ceremony. Riyad Hossain, COO), Prothom-Alo Jobs introduced Munir Hasan Khan to the audience. Students from Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University, Independent University, North South University, Ahsanullah University, and Dhaka City College were present. Faculties from Daffodil International University and myself were also present.

Munir Hasan Khan is a success story of the American Dream that if you work hard and persevere with your goals you will succeed. Born to a humble family in Bangladesh, Munir started his schooling in Rangpur where his Father was working as a Government Officer. He went to the USA after finishing studies at the Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka University. Like many other immigrants to the USA, Munir started with odd jobs, but with determination and above all having a dream to look forward he persevered and gradually made his way up the social ladder. Today he is based in California and is a successful international consultant on Micro-Credit Financing and Career Development.

Munir repeatedly stressed from his own life story that it is very much possible to succeed in any career and anywhere in life. However, job satisfaction has to determine the choice of a person’s career. Without this satisfaction it is impossible to make a meaningful contribution. It is also of paramount interest that after making the choice of one’s career that one has time and freedom to enjoy life. We work to have time to enjoy life, not for life to enjoy us.

The students were mesmerised at the charisma of Munir Hasan Khan. Positive externalities spilled over to the faculties including myself that career is important, but life is bigger. Life is a gift from the heavens that is meant for enjoyment in whatever and however way we define our lives. Happiness is the ultimate destination of all careers.

(Asrar Chowdhury teaches economics at Jahangirnagar and North South Universities. Email: asrarul@gmail.com)

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