Quality is termed as “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kinds; the degree of excellence of something” as per Oxford English Dictionary. Accordingly, quality of higher education should mean the standard form of education system where students will be able to achieve the skills as well as values to meet the needs of themselves, the industry and the country and build an equitable knowledge-based society. Bangladesh is a rapid growing country with an aim of becoming middle income country (MIC) by the year 2021 and subsequently stepping its footprint into the club of developed countries. To achieve that target, there is no alternative to assurance of quality education along with utilizing the technology for positive change. Quality assurance, especially, in higher education, is very crucial so that the graduates, after completion of their graduation from any of the universities/institutes of Bangladesh, can get recognition elsewhere in the world and they can prove their achieved skills and values in real sense. It will add immense value to our human resources both at home and abroad, which in turn, will have positive impact in the development of our national economy and standard of living of its citizen as well. The international community is also very much concerned regarding enhancement and assurance of quality education at all levels. Even, the United Nations (UN), in its sustainable development goals (SDGs), has put emphasis on quality education and lifelong learning. The sustainable development goal number four of the UN is, to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
In many cases, the required number of human resources with required skills, especially at the managerial and technical stage, are not being developed by the existing education system. This creates the opportunity for the graduates of neighboring countries like India, Sri Lanka etc. to avail those positions though a good number of educated youths of our beloved Bangladesh remain unemployed each year. The traditional education system lacks the assurance of quality of education as well as developing necessary skills of the graduates.
As per Education Index of UNDP (2013), Bangladesh was ranked 142nd out of 187 countries around the world, whereas, countries like: Ghana, Cambodia, Congo, Zambia are well ahead of Bangladesh. According to the 2017 Social Progress Index of Social Progress Imperative, Bangladesh has a lower score: 17.78, regarding access to advanced education, whereas, some LDCs and developing countries rating scores are shown in the following table:
A well-functioned quality assurance system can help Bangladesh in building a knowledge society with higher level of human values and skills. There has been debate regarding the evaluation of education quality in our country. Recently, it has become buzzword and the Education Ministry along with University Grants Commission of Bangladesh has been taking various initiatives to address the same. Initiating the sub-project on “Establishing Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC)” in each public and private universities of Bangladesh is one of the effective initiatives taken by the education ministry through the Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) of Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) where the UGC-Bangladesh has been playing the role of implementing agency.
Earlier this year, the national parliament of Bangladesh passed the ‘Bangladesh Accreditation Council Bill, 2017’ to establish an accreditation council with the responsibilities of ensuring quality education in both public and private institutions in the country. As per the bill, the government (Ministry of Education) will formulate a framework of standards for the higher education in consultation with the University Grants Commission and the Accreditation Council of Bangladesh. There will also be a provision that bars the universities from granting degrees without the council’s approval. So, to ensure the standard quality of higher education at each institution, it is significant to provide room for necessary preparation and arrangement for the HEIs to comply with framework to be formulated in order to ensure and monitor quality education. With the help of IQAC, both the public and private universities of the country have got their SWOT analysis through self-assessed and external peer reviewed reports and ground for further improvement towards ensuring and maintaining quality education and practices at every level of the institutions. The tenure of IQACs, under HEQEP, is scheduled to be ended on 30th June, 2018. But, the major challenge of implementing and monitoring the improvement plan of each entity, remains in uncertainty as they lack a standard mechanism for monitoring the implementation of improvement plan to be practiced by any institution. So, to continue the culture of quality education practices in higher education institutions of the country and get ready to comply with the framework in getting accreditation from National Accreditation Council (in near future), IQAC sub-project should be continued further in both the public and private HEIs. If we fail to prepare the HEIs of the country to be eligible to fulfill the criteria, necessary for getting national accreditation, our higher education sector will face the toughest situation to contribute for the sustainable development of the country through producing skilled human resources.
It is high time, Bangladesh would take necessary initiatives to enhance investment in ensuring quality education at all level. The National Accreditation Council (to be set up in Bangladesh) may like to take the responsibility to formulate information/data bank, required criteria to be fulfilled, evaluation mechanism, ranking mechanism, monitoring mechanism related to quality practices etc. Each and every higher education institutions, both public and private, should take necessary steps to permanently set up a dedicated section to look after the quality perspective and accreditation related activities of the institution which also needs to have necessary access to develop a data bank within the institution so that required information and data are readily available for evaluation during the accreditation process by both national and international accreditation authorities/agencies.
Writer: Mohammad Monir Hossan, Assistant Director (Research) at Daffodil International University