Our universities riddled with academic fraudsBy MAURICE N. AMUTAMBI | Thursday, January 26 2012 at 09:38
In the recent past, I have been terribly disappointed by lecturers who read their papers word for word to conference participants instead of talking about their papers and speaking to facts in those papers.
Whenever this has happened, I have simply walked out or turned to my laptop to do something meaningful with my time. Why read a paper to people who have copies?
These are the same lecturers who rely on lecture notes their students already have from previous classes taught by them.
I recall with nostalgia the days I sat in lectures as an undergraduate when good lecturers and professors came to class equipped only with the syllabus, without lecture notes and made us uncover issues in various courses, and not ‘‘cover’’ them as is the case nowadays.
We hated those who came to class with lecture notes to dictate to us. With time, their notes became yellow and dirty after many years of use.
I recall one of them reading to us about Milton Obote being the President of Uganda, at a time when Yoweri Museveni had just taken over. We laughed at him vociferously and he was embarrassed for not caring to update his yellow lecture notes.
This lot which was wedded to its lecture notes was boring and intellectually inept. It was also heavy with attitude but hollow and empty on facts and content.
They hated students who asked questions because this would force them to think outside their “yellow script”.
Yet these indolent intellectual frauds seem to be the ones that are being imitated by many modern-day lecturers at our universities.
The lecturers who came to class without lecture notes were engaging and inspiring. Many of us wanted to be like them. They probed issues beyond the textbooks and made us think broadly.
Their examinations were more intellectual and academically rigorous because they expected open-ended answers and not regurgitation of their notes point by point.
The notes-driven lecturers expected cramming and reproduction of their notes in exams. Their questions were specific – list at least 10 types of ... and discuss one of them. Wow unto you if you missed out one! You got a low grade.
I have visited many universities in Kenya and have been terribly disappointed to note that learning is very much lecturer-focussed with students doing little or nothing but writing notes. As soon as the lecturer arrives in class, students have notebooks and pens ready to start taking down the dictation.
At university, instructors and students are supposed to exchange and share knowledge. Learning is supposed to be a two-way process and not where one knows everything and the other almost nothing.
Today, the environment has become so bad that I hear students who ask questions are hated by colleagues for wasting time.
Let us face it. Going to class without lecture notes means that you are confident and know the subject matter. It means that you are well-prepared and have mastered content.
This is not easy because it needs a lot of preparation which many individuals are not willing to do today, especially with campus roving due to part-time teaching engagements.
To go to class with lecture notes means that you lack confidence in your level of knowledge. Like other scholars have asked in the past, what is the alternative to this terrible, profligate dictation and note-taking mania that some lecturers seem to prefer?
I would recommend use of PowerPoint slides through projectors where students are given outlines which the lecturer can address. The problem is that there are a significant number of lecturers who dislike information and communication technology, a group known at universities as BCG (before computer generation).
Unless all of us embrace change, there will still be yellow lecture notes at universities in 2030 being dictated to some helpless undergraduates.
Prof Amutabi teaches Social Sciences at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi. (Amutabi@yahoo.com)
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