"Here, people respect one another"
Interview16 December 2015, 16:28 6375
The professor and dean at the University of Montclair, New Jersey, Margaret Reed Mukherji has traveled to Baku as part of Fulbright programme and has given lectures at the Caucasus University for four weeks. Margaret has a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Cornell University, Master's Degree from University of Michigan and a PhD from the Rutgers University. Before leaving Azerbaijan, professor shared her opinions about our country and education system to our newspaper.
- Why did you decide to visit Azerbaijan?
- I have visited several countries as part of international programmes. I started my preparation to come to Azerbaijan two years ago. I was gathering information about the history of Azerbaijan over the internet after applying for Fulbright. I was glad to finally visit Baku. I chose to visit Caucasus University. It was because it is a new university. I also had heard about how advanced the university was. You can see it by just looking at their website. They are trying to give their students the high level education and thus encouraging their students. I thought that in order to prepare highly educated students, you have to have world class professors. That's why I chose this university.
- Have you met the university teaching staff?
- I love teaching and most of all, I like to help train other teachers. It is certainly important to teach the students, but teachers play a key role in teaching. Therefore it is even more important to properly train teachers. After visiting the country, I witnessed the enthusiasm in teacher to both teach and learn.
- Did you have any prior knowledge of Azerbaijan?
- When I told my friends about visiting Azerbaijan, they look it up on the map. They didn't know anything about the country. But I would tell them that I am in touch with professors from there and they are very hospitable and it is going to be a really good experience for me. The first thing I looked up about Azerbaijan was its weather and climate. I brought warm clothes with me, but later one of teachers told me to bring clothes for windy weather because Baku is very windy."
- What are important aspects of teaching?
- In my opinion, teacher - student relations are very important and they have to work together. Because this relation is a very important factor for students to learn and be attentive at classes. I attended a few classes in Caucasus University and observed that teachers and students are working together. I mean, the lessons are not taught as a lecture, the teacher asks questions and the students answer.
- Have you compared Azerbaijan's education system to that of the USA?
- We had a debate about Azerbaijani and American education system in two groups. There are some similarities between the two. But in terms of learning a foreign language, American students do not only have to learn a foreign language. They have to study other subjects as well. It is very impressing that, in this university first two years are spent on only English alone so that students intensively learn English. During every passing week, I witnessed their progress. I saw the way teachers and students interacted in the hallways and it is very good to see that students and professors interact with each other even outside classes. I am certain that the people who chose to study in Caucasus University will be useful experts, professors, engineers and entrepreneurs and will be an asset to their country.
- You took part in the 1st International English Language Forum help by Caucasus University...
- Yes, that was a wonderful day and I was very pleased that they also gave me an opportunity to speak at the presentation. The most important point of the event was that the teachers had come together to discuss and learn. I hope I will be able to come to similar conferences in the future and I think it would be somewhat helpful to the participants of the event. Based on my observations, the education is improving and I hope it will keep improving in the future.
- Did you have a chance to explore the city?
- There are a lot of places worth visiting in Azerbaijan. But I've only been to Baku which is an ancient city. What I was most curious about here was the carpet weaving. I am very curious about how carpets are woven and how their designs and embroidery are changed. I intend to spend more time on learning about Azerbaijani carpets and how to make them. In general, the carpets here are very beautiful. We have been to some interesting places in Baku. We visited a very interesting place - the Ateshgah temple, they have natural gas there that does never go out. It was quite interesting and they say this gas has been burning for four thousand years. Later we visited the Museum of Ethnography. There were old house appliances and other equipments displayed there. The Art Museum was displaying various pieces of art, old and modern handicrafts, etc. Our last visit was to a mosque. There are a lot of places to visit in Baku. I have read about the history of Azerbaijan and I know that it is a great tragedy that Azerbaijani lands are occupied by Armenians. I think the peacefulness of this country not only solve the conflict with Armenia, but it will also play a big role in the resolving of many issues in the world. We often hear about different tragedies and crises happening all over the world, but Azerbaijan is stable.
- What will you tell your friends about Azerbaijan when you return back home?
- I will tell my friends about both old and modern Azerbaijan. There are a lot of positive things I have to say about your country. I will tell them about old and new carpets. I think carpet-weaving is a very important part of your history. At the same time, I will inform them about the high level of education taught at the Caucasus University. I will talk about the great time I had while I was here and tell my family and friend how hospitable and friendly you are. I will assure them that they can safely visit Azerbaijan.
- What else did you observe about Azerbaijan?
- Family is very important here. I witnessed very close relations between the family members. I would really want the family relations in the USA to be as strong as it is in Azerbaijan. Sometimes it is impossible in the USA, because children are separated from the parents, for example my son lives in a different city. Because of this I don't see his children very often. I think the family values are a lot stronger in Azerbaijan. I often see the grandmothers holding the hands of their grandchildren and taking them to kindergarten. Sometimes even grandfather took their grandchildren to school. I see that grandparents, grandchildren often use the transport together. I think this is an indicator of close relations and it is important. It is very touching to see one member of a family caring about the other. I was a guest at professor Sevil's house. What I witnessed there was that the family members were very close.
- With what impressions are you leaving our country?
- In addition to strong family ties, having a friendly attitude towards foreigners and hospitality is very important in Azerbaijan. Here, people show respect to one another, as well as, foreigners. While I was walking around the campus, people I didn't know would approach me and offer to help me carry my things. This evokes positive emotions in me. I leave Azerbaijan with pleasant thoughts. I want to thank everyone and the staff of Caucasus University.