Shaquer Tazware Shafin
Cover design: Arpita Chakraborty
Bangladesh has passed nearly half a century after gaining its independence. In this short essence of time, it has obtained so much luring progress that has truly thrived the living standards of its citizens. Without the utmost endeavor of rank and file, it was hardly possible for the state to penetrate the pathway of so-called "development." A long way back, the notion of measuring development was restricted to commercial matters only. The primitive idea was nothing less than parochial thinking because multidimensional aspects that are inextricably linked to human life were missing in the circle. Later on, the concept ameliorated, and it turned into a change of human life in a positive manner through different factors like proper education, living standard, and life expectancy. Like other factors, education helped a lot in the voyage of development, mostly by constructing a sharp increase in the productivity as well as creativity of the general people, making precise decisions to move forward, and making the best use of technological benefits.
In general, educational institutions, especially tertiary ones, play a prominent role in the national growth of the country by contributing much through research or suggesting the right policies that can bring positive impacts on both the state and people. Bangladesh is no different than this process. In our motherland, when it comes to the education sector, a fundamental change has been made throughout the years after independence by diversified instructive programs taken by the government. Privately organized didactic initiatives also helped spread education in the country far and wide.
In most countries, it is evident that a significant portion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on education. The intention is simple - it is all about the enhancement of the students who will lead the country from the frontline in the near future. Generally, tertiary institutions get more financial resources from the government than primary and secondary ones.
Looking at numbers, Bangladesh spends nearly 2% of its GDP on the education sector; numerically, it is approximately $5.45Bn. On the other side, countries like India, China, and the United States, which allocate 3%, 4.1%, and 6.2% of their GDP on education, can spend more on diversified educational programs as the invested currency is very large in amount. The World Bank's forthcoming education strategy emphasizes several core ideas: invest early, invest smartly and invest in learning for all.
The drastic changes in a rising number of institutions in our state did not happen overnight; countless efforts are behind all this. We notice the horrible condition of our education scenario if we look back at the time before independence. During the era of all-Pakistan, the Eastside only had four public universities; no private universities were established back then.
Now there are approximately more than one hundred private and forty-five public universities providing tertiary education. The rising number of students has created a huge demand for university education as the country gradually grew economically with each passing year. So, the government-funded institutions could not supply a sufficient number of seats for the massive number of students. Consequently, this demand has led private investors to invest in this large sector and establish tertiary institutions that can appease the parents' mind who are willing to provide their children with higher education.
Even though we have increased the organizations in numbers, the question occurs every time in our mind, "Has the quality of education been up to the mark?". The answer is quite baffling because a good number of institutions are quite far from practicing and promoting knowledge.
For the most part, university education has a lot of positive influence on civil society. In short, the more youths procure the learnings of the broader societal canvas, the more they come forward to efface the prejudices. Education providers and graduates should not limit their display of knowledge inside the classroom only; rather, they need to engage with real-world circumstances using the theories and factors they learned inside the class so that the communities can experience a sound development.
The very common goal of higher education is to create and research on advanced knowledge through which a person seeking the enlightened sources of consciousness can get into the climax of culture. To another point, we look back on Rabindranath Tagore's quote, "Man's intellect has a natural pride in its own aristocracy, which is the pride of its culture. Culture only acknowledges the excellence whose criticism is in its inner perfection, not in any external success."
As Bangladesh is moving hastily towards becoming a developed nation, more and more specialists who can put their contribution economically, politically, culturally, and socially are needed numerously in different parts of the service sectors. Without them, it will be of utmost difficulty to pull the country out of the vicious circle of poverty and assuage the rising economic as well as non-economic inequality that exists, possibly on a large scale in society.
On the other page, it can be articulated that education, as well as discipline-based training, can be an impeccable way of creating a quality workforce. It is very obvious that the effectiveness and productivity of the workforce who achieved the capabilities through training will be far better than those who did not. Consequently, the country will be better off financially.
Now let's have a close look at how the scenarios of our didactic institutions as the prosperity of our nation thoroughly depends on it. In most cases, the realistic conditions of these organizations are not so soothing at all. Even in the 1980s, a good number of foreign students came to Bangladeshi institutions, especially the University of Dhaka, to get the prestigious degree of their personal choice. But the number is close to zero now. If the authorities could ensure the quality of higher education, our country would have gained a significant foreign currency.
Numerous allegations of corruption, nepotism in recruiting teachers/office staff, the capitalistic mindset in some of the private universities, political influence in a negative approach, dearth of sufficient funds in research facilities are some of the reasons that the institutions are deteriorating bit by bit. In some cases, the teachers prioritize other multiple interests over educational practices, which creates a massive conflict of interest.
Research is something that clearly sets apart primary and secondary schooling from the tertiary level. If the sense of wisdom is despised somehow or another, knowledge cannot be distributed among the generals. And the sense of wisdom can only be generated by research and further scrutiny. Even a person who has a bird's eye view about these sorts of things will not think twice to agree on this conception.
The current conditions of our universities are very poor if we measure the quality of institutions by research proficiency. The situation can be compared to an impasse of primitive ages. There are a lot of reasons behind this downfall. The below statistics about allocating resources in 2019 says it all.
Source: UGC Report 2019
This chart neatly depicts the current spending of some of the renowned public and private universities of our country. Among all universities, Brac University provides the highest amount of money in facilitating research work. Whereas among the aforementioned public universities, the highest amount spent is BDT 7 crore by Bangladesh Agricultural University. In another scenario, 31 private and 22 public universities have spent a good portion of money on this sector, but the most surprising fact is, not a single journal paper had been published from these institutions in 2018! If we look at some world-famous universities like Stanford University (over $1.1bn), University of British Columbia (over $650m), University of Melbourne (over $813m), etc., we can see that they spend millions of Dollars (USD) on research and development.
On the basis of our institutions, it is to be kept in mind that spending crores after crores on research projects are not the only thing to care about, rather focusing on enhancing the quality should be given more priority. Publishing journal papers have to be made mandatory in every academic year because journals express the presentation and discussion about a certain research topic.
There is no substitution for promoting research facilities in tertiary institutions. If we analyze profoundly, we infer that low funding, lack of mentality, insufficient facilities, infrastructure scarcities, an unsecured career in researche are to blame for the inadequate works in this field. In some of the actions, the recruitment of university teachers is questionable. Instead of taking the capable and brilliant ones, few recruiters are giving a chance to someone who is not even able to fulfill a student's rudimentary needs. Without some exceptions, the teachers who enter the institutions as faculty members in this way lack the necessary abilities and skills to engage in research work. So, collective efforts are needed to stand against this process where it takes place.
Apart from this paradigm, we inspect a different crisis regarding the unemployment issues of recently graduated students who are newcomers in the job market. In different statistics, it is shown that the graduates of Bangladeshi universities remain unemployed for a long time compared to most of the graduates of other developing and developed countries. But why is that? To answer this question, let's have a look at a comparison of the unemployment rate among graduates (these numbers fluctuate very often)-
Source: The Internet
In this diagram, the rate which represents unemployed Bangladeshi graduates is much higher than the other aforementioned countries; India is just behind. One of the core reasons for this educated unemployment is the failure to satisfy the demand of the corporates or any other recruiters. In other cases, if we inspect the managerial posts of some big industrial companies we will see that much of the positions are filled by Indians and Sri Lankans. But it is not a good sign for the economy that we have to rely on foreigners to get our work done. The candidates of our state lack the necessary skills and abilities that are required in the era of the fourth industrial revolution.
Our tertiary institutions hardly ever provide any employability skill by which a candidate can prove his brilliance without any uncertainty. Our universities have to construct several compulsory courses that will cover the occupation-related essentials. They have to make sure that these special courses are being updated after a particular time span because the specifications of the job-market can possibly shift towards a change at any time.
In consequence, the course curricula have to be designed by the requirements of the job-sector, not by focusing on personal choices. On the contrary, the university students also have to be conscious enough to learn the fundamentals. A positive framework is that different career expositions are now happening in most of the universities; students are now aware of their career much more than the before.
Another trend is seen nowadays - an inclination towards the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) jobs. BCS is an examination for which graduates of any discipline can sit. If anyone goes to by the University of Dhaka's central library very early in the morning, they will observe a very long queue of students waiting for the library doors to open. The larger proportion of these students hardly goes to study for their respective academic course; they are mostly seen with BCS preparation books. There is no doubt that the country needs the best of its talents to run the administration and its departmental segments. But it becomes a serious concern when a major portion of students from every field, be it engineering, business, social science, or even pure science, leave their respected areas to join the civil service as BCS cadres.
Student's hank after BCS stands for a number of reasons. For instance, the job security that the government provides allures a candidate because plenty of private sectors are often unable to provide this facility. On the other hand, one competes to be the admin of any government service as he/she can make a good combination of power with a sufficient amount of money.
This reliance on BCS can affect the private sector much heavily. Why would a student with a computer science degree join the administrative department as a magistrate? Why is a medical student desperate to join as a superintendent of police? Most of the hard work of their past years go in vain which we can think of as a service or system loss. The government needs to focus on these issues before the crises beleaguer them tightly.
Didactic institutions can put their contribution in thousands of ways to build a civilized nation. The significance of these institutions is perceived in every single aspect of human life. We have more than one hundred higher-educational institutions operating in our country. If utilized properly, thousands of opportunities can be created through excellence. And these opportunities can lead our people towards the dynamics of national development.
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