Role of Bangabandhu in expanding higher education and Bangladesh today

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Role of Bangabandhu in expanding higher education and Bangladesh today

Hafiz T.A. Khan
Professor of Public Health & Statistics, College of Nursing, Midwifery and Healthcare, University of West London, Boston Manor Road, Brentford TW8 9GB, UK

Abstract. The study attempts to evaluate the role of Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Founding Father of Bangladesh, in his initial plan on higher education and to produce adequate human resources to rebuild the country since independence. Secondary sources of information are used to evaluate his role in higher education expansion in Bangladesh. It has been revealed that the economic growth and development seen in Bangladesh today was largely impacted by his education plan.

Keywords: Bangabandhu, Bangladesh, Higher Education, Human Resources.

JEL: A14, A21, I20, I25

How to cite: Khan,  H.  (2021).  Role  of  Bangabandhu  in  expanding  higher  education  and  Bangladesh  today. Journal  of
Economic Development, Environment and People, 10(1), 6-10. doi:

1.  Introduction

The  founding  Father  of  the  Nation,  Bangabandhu  Sheikh  Mujibur  Rahman,  realised  the  importance  of education  and  human  resource  development  from  the  very  beginning  of  the  independent  state  of Bangladesh.  As  a  consequence,  education  was  identified  as  one  of  the  top  priorities  for  all  sectors  in providing an important basis for nation building. In 2020, Bangladesh celebrated its 49th victory day and it is now time to remember our great leader as we appreciate the huge impact his education policy has had on the overall development of the country.

The paper reviews literature systematically and briefly outlines his higher education policy and its impact on our country’s society and the economy as a whole. Available secondary sources of information are used to analyse selected research hypotheses.  The following points are highlighted:

1.1 Development of a higher education policy
1.2 Growth of higher education
1.3 Opportunities of higher education and human resource development
1.4 The need for quality education
1.5  The  role  of  Bangladeshi  expatriates  for  improving  the  quality  of  education  and  overall  nation building

1.1. Development of a higher education policy

In  1971,  after  a  nine-month  war  of  liberation,  Bangladesh  became  independent  and  the  Father  of  the Nation quickly took a firm decision in order to build the country. It was a big challenge as there were very limited  resources  but,  despite  this,  reconstruction  of  the  infrastructure,  recruiting  skilled  people  for working  in  public  administration,  fixing  the economy  and  health  and,  above  all,  education  received  the highest  importance  in  his  initial  state  planning.  It  was  his  plan  to  eradicate  illiteracy  and  poverty  from Bangladesh  by  building  a  productive  nation  through  the  means  of  proper  education  and  training.  He created a national education policy on 26 July 1971 and gave responsibility for devising the plans to Dr. Muhammed Qudrat-i-Khuda. After two years of intensive work, an education and training policy report was published  on  30th   May  1974  that  provided  guidelines  on  how  to  build  a  nation  and  develop  its  skilled human resources. Action was also taken to reform the higher education sector and through a government order (University Act 1973 which is also known as the Ordinance of `73). There were six public universities at  that  time  in  Bangladesh.  Four  general  and  two  specialised  type.  The  1973  Act  does  not  apply  to  all universities. It is applicable to only four general universities namely Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar  University  a  Chittagong  University.  Under  this  Act,  universities  were  given  autonomy  to govern and developing creative teaching and learning, and for gearing up innovative academic research activities. In order to directly support the higher education sector, a University Grants Commission (UGC) was established on 16th  December 1972 under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Government of the  People’s  Republic  of  Bangladesh.  The  UGC  evaluated  the  demands  of  multipurpose  education  that would be required for the development of the country and to approve the curriculum so that money was well utilised. Over the last five decades, the UGC has performed tremendous work in higher education, not only with financing but also with horizontal and vertical expansion of the higher education sector as well as monitoring the governance of public and private universities. The Commission has also played an important role in providing appropriate training for academic staff through scholarships and arranging regular teacher training workshops. Due to all these efforts, we now see a gradual improvement in classroom teaching, in ICT and internet use, in facilities for blended learning, and in research publications. In 2010, in order to meet  the  demands  of  the  modern  world,  the  government  proposed  renaming  the  UGC  as  the  Higher Education Commission of Bangladesh making it similar to other countries. Directly after independence, the Father of the Nation provided access to higher education for all people in our society by the means of low tuition fees that enabled a huge number of students to have opportunities in higher education that has continued to this day. As an example, the enrolment into tertiary education increased from 11.77% in 1999 to 47.72% in 20091. This is projected to increase as the population increases and has helped many to get jobs within the country and to go abroad. Those living outside Bangladesh play an important role in nation building by also co-operating and investing in the country.

1.2. Growth of higher education

As already mentioned, the higher education sector has developed both horizontally and vertically over the last 49 years. The current Sheikh Hasina Government has a plan to support higher education and to build at least one public university in every district of the country. This is a highly ambitious plan especially for a developing country like Bangladesh but is possible for a leader who has a clear plan for the future. Since Independence, the growth of every university has increased many times in terms of size and infrastructure and  successive  governments  have  increased  the  budgets  for  achieving  it.  In  order  to  make  education accessible to as many people as possible, the government gave permission for the establishment of private universities  in  areas  where  there  were  no  public  universities  at  all.  This  seems  to  be  a  good  plan  for investing  money  in  the  higher  education  sector  that  will  create  employment  opportunities  all  over  the country. Private universities play an important role in the country’s economy by providing education and services  but  with  their  introduction,  the  1990s  saw  a  policy  shift  towards  neoliberalism  in  the  higher education sector2. The country is gathering experience of running both public and private universities with the  main  objective  to  broaden  access  to  higher  education  in  order  to  meet  the  demand  of  secondary graduates. Currently, Bangladesh has 46 public and 107 private universities. Except 1973 Act, other public university is being run by its own Act, while private universities operate under the Private University Act 1992. Critics argue that “From the beginning, the private universities were alleged to do business rather than  ensure  the  standard  of  higher  education  for  students”  (Kabir,  p161)2.  The  UGC  has  been  strictly monitoring all activities of the private universities in the country.

1.3 Opportunities of higher education and human resource development

A substantial proportion of the population in Bangladesh are young with around 40% aged between 18 and
29 years. A significant cohort of this group are aged between 15 and 24 that will continue to grow in the coming  years,  and  they  will  need  access  to  adequate  education  and  training.  The  Government  of Bangladesh  is  aware  of  this  demographic  dividend  and  plans  to  establish  the  right  policies  to  maintain sustainable  economic  growth  to  the  benefit  of  the  country.  As  well  as  providing  every  educational opportunity via public and private institutions for the young population as per demand, the government has  also  created  job  opportunities.  Many  NGO  activities  started  in  Bangladesh  immediately  after independence in 1971 and during most of the 1970s, NGOs provided various services including education, health and sanitation and family planning3. There are many success stories around the activities of the NGO sector as it can offer huge employment opportunities for Bangladeshi graduates. International NGOs are always  on  the  lookout  for  skilled  individuals  compared  to  local  ones  and  many  people  have  taken advantage of opportunities outside the country either for higher education or employment. Bangladeshi students  studying  outside  the  country  are  successfully  completing  their  courses  and  representing  their country with pride. In recent years there has been a growth of remittance back into Bangladesh partly due to skilled Bangladeshi educated people living outside the country. However, most of our migrant workers are unskilled and get very low salaries and it is now time to think about this situation. Our policymakers must put an emphasis on learning English as an international language and to provide technical training at all  levels  of  the  higher  education  sector.  In  this  way  we  can  build  a  productive  nation  and  reduce unemployment problem in the country.

1.4 The need for quality education

It is broadly well-known that the higher education sector has played an important role in producing a large number of graduates over the last five decades. However, those graduates face tremendous challenges when they start new jobs that might not have any connection with their learning. This means that in spite of   having   a   university   education,   it   does   not   help   them   contribute   effectively   in   the  workplace environment. This may lead some to think that it was a complete waste of their time and resources and as many do not find jobs that match their education, they quickly become unemployed. These are challenging issues that need urgent attention and reform as soon as possible. For example, the academic curriculum should be designed as per the requirements of the changing nature of the current job market and we need to  prepare  graduates  so  that  they  are able  to  handle  challenges in  the workplace.  Universities  need to participate in global rankings such as the QS and The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking lists. Employers generally  prefer  graduates  from  ranking  universities  when  they  are  hiring  employees  and  we  cannot completely ignore this aspect living as we do in a global community. Universities need to work closely with industry   and   multi-national   companies   and   launch   apprenticeship   programmes.   In   practice,   such programmes would enable our talented graduates to quickly develop their skills to fit the needs of their particular  workplace  environment. Policymakers  should  therefore think  seriously  about  how  to  produce more skilled people from the higher education sector all over the country. This would help to quickly solve our unemployment rate and generate a skilled workforce for the nation. It is also time now to think about the quality of education rather than the quantity of graduates.

1.5  The  Role  of  Bangladeshi  expatriates  for  improving  the  quality  of  education  and  overall  nation building

A huge number of expatriates that received their initial education inside Bangladesh now live outside the country and many of them work in the higher education sectors in developed countries. These people can be in regular contact with the Bangladesh Embassies and play an important role in the capacity building of the country and would be happy to contribute without any consultancy fee or other benefit. Some of them would be happy to take a visiting professorship position and reconnect with Bangladesh that could help to build  a  bridge  between  Bangladeshi  academic  staff  and  expatriates.  Such  activity  would  enable  young graduates to get scholarships and provide opportunities to enter further education as well as to publish joint articles. Universities themselves could build partnerships with foreign universities and conduct joint projects. This would all help in building relationships with experts, in improving the academic environment and quality of education, and above all establish partnerships and linkages with foreign universities. The development  of  joint  academic  programmes  between  Universities  in  Bangladesh  and  those  in  other countries would benefit our graduates a great deal in their careers and enable them to earn decent salaries that are comparable to other countries. We have many examples around us such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka and even China.  All our investment should be put into graduates, so that we can give back to society in many ways.

2. Conclusion

The benefits provided by higher education are enormous and multifaceted in the development of our country. The Father of the Nation laid the foundations of it at the very start of independence and during his short life he gave people a dream for Bangladesh and a plan to build the nation with pride and dignity. He also faced the cancer of corruption in society and mentioned it clearly without hesitation but unfortunately, today it is seen that some of the university graduates are involved with huge corruption when they should be genuinely contributing to society. The overall development of the country could perhaps have been more visible to people if by any means corruption could have been avoided at every level. It is not too late to eliminate corruption in the society by remembering the sacrifice of  our  30  lacs  martyrs  in  1971  and,  of  course,  our  beloved  Father  of  the  Nation  “Bangabandhu  Sheikh  Mujibur Rahman”. Finally, let’s work together and try to build a better Bangladesh.

3. Acknowledgements

The   paper   is   prepared   for   an   invited   lecture   on   “Bangabandhu   and   Bangladesh”,   Organized   by Entrepreneurial Economists Club, on 26 December 2020, Dhaka School of Economics, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Professor  Khan  is  also  an  Associate  Professorial  Fellow,  The  Oxford  Institute  of  Population Ageing, University of Oxford, UK

[1]   S. Ahmed, M. McGillivray. Higher education enrolment in Bangladesh: does the wage premium matter? Applied
Economics, 51 (60): 6497–6516, 2019.
[2]   A.H. Kabir. Neoliberalism, Policy Reforms and Higher Education in Bangladesh, Policy Futures in Education, 11 (2):
154- 166, 2013.
[3]   S. Zohir. NGO Sector in Bangladesh An Overview, Economic and Political Weekly, September 4: 4109-4113, 2004.

« Last Edit: April 12, 2021, 08:57:03 AM by roman »
Md. Rokanuzzaman Roman
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