Educational curriculums are not sufficient to fulfil all the needs of young students. Extra-curricular activities bridge between the real world and curriculum, offering chances to students to shape skills like — poetry recitation, sports, debate, art and organising. After talking with students involved in such activities, Nahid Riyasad maps current practices of these activities
Talebur Islam Rupom, in his words, was an introvert as a fresher and had a hard time socialising. Then he started involving in different clubs and extra-curricular activities. Not long after, he found himself in a comfortable situation in social gatherings. During sophomore year at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, he got involved with a youth leadership programme and eventually attended a number of international conferences making friends from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. ‘Surprisingly, my result, which was nothing fancy at the beginning of my degree, after my involvement in extra-curricular activities, it started going north. Moreover, I became more confident about myself and my confidence also started reflecting on my academic results and my personal life,’ he said.
Extra-curricular activities are set of different activities that reside outside regular educational curriculum of any given institute. These activities exist in all levels of educational institutes and they are usually voluntary and performed by students. In order to offer the young students a robust chance of personality development, alongside the classroom curriculum, these are spaces to engage students to complement their studies through extra-curricular activities. Such activities offer students a wide range of benefits helping them in — social, cultural, cognitive, emotional, moral and aesthetics — development. This is to be considered that such activities transform with time. For example, a young person who went to university during the 1990s has a completely different idea of these activities than today’s youth. This story will try to catch the transformation and changes by focusing on contemporary extra-curricular practices in tertiary level educational institutions in Bangladesh.
Central Women’s University rightly addressed the security issues of a young woman living in a patriarchal society. They regularly run a karate course for their students to get a grasp at self-defence as well as involve them in activities outside of the curriculum. Tasnuva Yeasmin, a sophomore student in English language and literature department, attended the course. ‘This course gave me confidence as well as self-respect because now I am able to handle a difficult situation by my own,’ she said adding ‘when the university offers such an opportunity, it complements my education because it helps to find my confidence.
Zarin Tasnim is the president of BRAC University communication and language club. It offers students a wide range of activities focusing on strengthening the ability to communicate and gaining a proper grasp over English language. ‘Most of the freshers who enroll are from the Bangla medium background and many of them struggle to cope up with an English speaking environment right away. So, this club helps to break that ice through different initiatives. Also, through this club, students are groomed for their career lying ahead by some of the top level professionals,’ she said. While mentioning about some of their successful initiatives, Tasnim indicated to last year’s vashar kolorobe where students performed in a number of languages — Chakma, Marma, French, Chinese and Japanese were some of them.
Muhammad Kamruzzaman recently graduated from Premier University Chittagong from the department of English language and literature. His department, routinely, has been arranging at least two drama productions each year with student crews. ‘Regularly participating in these dramas has taught us many things and most important of them is teamwork. We have learnt how to work within a team and also how to successfully organise such cultural events,’ he said. Kamruzzaman also mentioned that students of architecture department were a step further in case of extra-curricular activities. In special national occasions like pohela baishakh or victory day, they decorate their department; which really stands out and manages to attract students across the university from various other departments.
While mentioning about her one year exchange schooling in United States of America in a community college, Rubaiya Tasmia, a final year student of ULAB, thanked her engagement with extra-curricular activities. ‘From my fresher year, I am involved in a long array of extra-curricular activities, organising seminars and conferences, working as facilitator in the university’s English Zone, being president of Paper Canoe a literary club of university and participating in other organising activities through clubs are to name a few. In turn, these activities bagged me the chance to study in an American community college for a year,’ she said. Elaborating on how that experience helped her in future studies, Tasmia said, ‘there I had to take courses on different aspects of teaching children and it helped me a lot to make new friends and to get different perspectives on teaching’.
Institute of electrical and electronics engineering IEEE is an international club that runs their operation in different universities to engage students and bring betterment for the society through technology. Md Sajid Akbar Sium, the treasurer of IEEE in BRAC University, told New Age Youth that this platform gives them the ample space to practice their theories by applying those in real life situations. ‘Practical use of knowledge acquired from university is rare considering our context but IEEE offers a great deal of space as with the help of this institution, the students can afford to regularly pay tours to different technological industries and factories across Bangladesh. Furthermore, it offers introduction to robotics for those who are interested,’ he said. This platform, according to Akbar, equips students with organisational ability because most of the programmes are arranged by the students themselves. Therefore, it works as a bridge for the students with the society and likeminded people.
Study circles are an example of extra-curricular activities among students which help shaping young people’s intellectual and critical faculties. Bodhichitta is one such circle formed by a group of young students of Jahangirnagar University, who has a vision of critically engaging young people. Oliur Sun, a member of the circle, thinks intellectual engagement in the context of Bangladesh, is confined to academia and intellectual practice in public spheres is quite absent. Even if there are discussions and sessions on theories, they are more or less confined. Here comes Bodhichitta who is taking the theoretical debate outside of the academia and creating a space for the youth to nurture their critical thinking ability.
Cajon, a musical instrument, talks in the hands of Istiaque Ahmed Nahian, a final year student from the department of English of University of Dhaka and with that skill, he gets chance to perform in the department’s last alumni night. In his words, this has been a great success of his life. ‘I started contributing in different newspapers from my fresher year which helped me a lot to understanding my curriculum. Also, I was involved in a drama group of the department which bagged two championship trophies in drama performance from annual conferences of two other universities,’ he informed about his other involvements in such activities. While discussing his department’s extra-curricular activities Nahian asserted, ‘our department is not the most happening department of DU which created a lot of barriers and ice among the students. Our engagement in such activities helped us to break the ice and create a harmonious atmosphere throughout the department. So I would say extra-curricular activities bring students closer’.
Debating is generally considered as a smart option for those who want to pursue extra-curricular activity at the university level. Khandaker Jewel, who used to be a member of DU debating society said, ‘back in my university days in the late 1990s, debating used to be a brilliant form of extra-curricular activity and it enabled me with skills such as public speaking and addressing an issue from a number of perspectives’. Echoing his words, a former member of North South University debate club, Nasiruddin told New Age Youth, ‘my involvement in debate is from my school days and I continued the practice throughout my college and university days. Because of debating, my presentation ability as well as articulating my argument in a logical manner kept getting gradually sharper. As I am an entrepreneur, those experiences also helped me to advance my business in a number of ways’.
New Age Youth contacted Liton Nandi, central committee general secretary of Bangladesh Students’ Union, to elaborate on this matter. ‘DU campus is a fertile ground for extra-curricular activities with regular debate, art competition and cultural programmes. There is also cultural society, mime action, theatre club, photography club and other platforms. Also, previously, there were trends of different sports as such activities. These help to dispel cultural barriers as well as play pivotal role in shaping the youth’s minds’. He also mentions students’ union’s role in these activities, ‘when Dhaka University Central Students’ Union was active with hall committees, residential halls used to be the hub of extra-curricular activities and each hall had their distinctive identities and strength in certain activities. However, these days, such activities are mainly focused in Teacher Student Center of DU, contrary to halls centric’. Mentioning the budget for such activities, Nandi said, ‘I would say a very little thought is put behind allocating the funds by the budget governing bodies. Different clubs get more than what they need and others receive less that their required budget. And when authority does not allocate sufficient budget, clubs resort to outside corporate sponsors’, he ended with putting emphasise on increasing budget for such activities.
Drawing from the discussion, it can be said that extra-curricular activities are essential for shaping a young mind with experiences that educational curriculums do not necessarily offer. Such activities enable them with experiences tailored for functioning properly in modern economic sphere. Moreover, involvements in such activities ensure that students do not get frustrated with their lives and also help them to boost their confidence. So, in order to get a more robust experience of educational institutes and build a personality equipped with different skills that are not exclusive to text books, students should indulge themselves in different extra-curricular activities.
Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.
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