It doesn’t matter from what perspective one tries to see the importance of higher education, one thing is certain that its importance can never be undermined. But it is very disappointing that, in Bangladesh, the so called “Higher Education” is in no way up to the standard one expects it to be. This is the result of decades of ignorance and unplanned decisions. So it can’t be solved overnight. It will take a huge amount of positive thinking, planning and executions of these plans to see some real improvements.
The first step to improve the quality of higher education in Bangladesh is to know its present state, and that can never be done just by asking a few teachers about it or reading a few articles on newspapers and magazines. By all means it is a much more complex job and deserves delicate and careful handling. Until one can find out the root cause, any proposal for remedy seems useless.
The prime factors on which the quality of education in general depends are the quality of teachers, the quality of students and the quality of the teaching courses. The other factors are the academic environment and teaching aides (including library, communication facilities etc). But that being said, access to higher education is the most important piece of the puzzle. Because of limited number of seats in public universities, and high tuition fees charged by the private universities, access to university education is rather limited in Bangladesh.
Degree colleges that account for the lion’s share of enrolment at the higher level of education in Bangladesh, suffer from inadequate infra-structural facilities (libraries, laboratories etc.), and lack of qualified teachers. The poor pass percentage and high incidence of unemployment amongst the graduates indicate to low levels of internal and external efficiency respectively. So degree colleges are nowadays almost considered as a joke a by some people. They have become the last resort for the people who don’t have access to public and private universities for financial or other reasons. But the less than satisfying standards of these institutions are largely responsible for the disappointing educational quality of our country.
Private universities with inadequate full time faculty members depend heavily on part-time teachers drawn primarily from public universities and these incidents adversely affect the quality of education in those universities. With a few notable exceptions, most private universities impart education of uncertain quality, and high tuition fees charged by such institutions make them accessible only to the affluent sections in the society. Nowadays the number of private universities in Bangladesh has increased drastically. And the number is increasing with every single year. But out of these numerous new universities, the number of universities that can provide their students with quality education is very few. So, most of these universities are actually lowering the education standards of Bangladesh.
Public universities, primarily dependent on limited government funding shrinking in real terms are unable to generate additional resources by raising tuition fees due to political constraints. The universities are hardly in a position to improve their quality of education through greater investment in libraries and laboratories. Many democratic provisions of the University Acts not only infringe upon the limited teaching time of the faculty members by engaging them in active politics, but also fail to ensure accountability of the teachers, that contribute to lengthening of session jams and quite often accentuated by the unscheduled closures of universities due to violent inter and intra-party clashes of student fronts of major political parties.
Moreover, as it happens quite often, ‘voters’, not ‘teachers’ are recruited and that adversely affects the quality of university education. As there hardly exists any linkage between public universities on the one hand, and employers and the job market on the other, many university graduates, produced at a considerable cost to the society, have to remain unemployed for an agonizing period of time before they are able to find employment, often in areas outside their fields of study. So, the government should make some major changes in the education policy. It is true that they have taken some steps to cope with the difficulties, but it is not going to be enough.
Some major things are still being ignored in this education policy, which will obviously lead the nation towards another race, where its citizens will run after certificates for employment rather than knowledge. We cannot ignore the need for employment, but we also cannot ignore the race for the material side of education or the polluted system of education in Bangladesh, where education has become inhuman and the pride of the elite. In this system, both public and private institutions have become vehicles for those with money and power. And those who enjoy a better education can get a better higher education as well.
The poor cannot even think of getting education at a private university, due to the cycle of education and prosperity, and in public universities, most poor people cannot keep up in the race for education. The government should be urged that instead of introducing a generalized national education policy; it should highly consider a liberal system that would extensively accommodate each and every individual citizen from their respective positions. A system in which, education would be an effective medium of progress and development for our civilization and society.