When Bangladesh celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Independence, the question of quality education for our students and future leaders and citizens of this nation still lingers very much in the air. It is reflected in public concern that changing employment demands are not being met, students’ preparation for higher education is less than satisfactory, and general problem-solving abilities remain low and poor. Regardless, Bangladesh has made significant strides in upgrading education access at higher secondary and university levels. From 485 thousand in 2009 to 741 thousand in 2018, the number of students enrolled in general higher secondary has climbed up. According to the Institute of International Education’s 2020 Open Doors report, 8,838 Bangladeshi students studied in the United States in the 2019/2020 academic year, making Bangladesh the 17th most popular country sending students to the United States. Yet, higher education in Bangladesh is at crossroads, often failing to meet growing demand for quality educated and skilled workforces in the economy. It confronts the shortage of infrastructure, lack of qualified and trained teachers, insufficient government regulation, shortage of facilities, and sufficient research work by the academics.
Higher secondary education is provided by intermediate colleges, degree colleges or by intermediate sections of degree colleges or master’s colleges and culminates to the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC). Within the general curriculum, pupils can choose from the humanities group, business group and the science group. A total of 1,61,807 students achieved GPA 5.0, the maximum grade point average, in Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and equivalent examinations in 2020. This year’s GPA 5 rate has increased to 11.83 percent, up from 3.54 percent last year. However, the government could not hold the HSC and equivalent exams due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The number of students may project optimism and a bright future, but the quality of these passing students to face the modern world is still doubtful and irresolute.
University/ Tertiary level
Higher education in the public sector is still a legacy of the British colonial education system. According to the University Grant Commission (UGC), there are total of 53 public universities, 103 private universities and 3 International university branches in Bangladesh. Even with such volume, university seats are scarce in Bangladesh, especially at quality institutions. For example, medical colleges and public universities have less than 65,000 seats against the 1.61 lakh students who have obtained GPA 5.0 this year. One of the highly prominent features of higher education in Bangladesh is the nominal cost for the public university students. Yet, quality assurance is still not up to the desired level.
Quantity over Quality?
On days when board exam results are published, our country is inundated with numbers of students with GPA-5. Like global temperature, the percentage of GPA-5 obtaining students is increasing rapidly every year. This escalation shoots the question in the mind of academicians and experts whether we are producing quality students or a bulk of clueless graduates. The same are higher secondary, university-level education is currently at a critical juncture. On the one hand, there is demand from employers for professionals to serve the growing industrial and service sectors. On the other hand, institutions are not able to produce adequate numbers of employable graduates to meet specific demands of the job market, while large numbers of graduates remain without a job. The poor position in the global QS ranking of the top-tier national universities such as University of Dhaka (DU) and Bangladesh University of engineering and technology (BUET) also puts a big question mark on the quality provided by the universities.
Learning Environment at Pre-University and University Education
The learning environment for students is still exam-centric and face-to-face. Learner’s opportunities to grow and solve the problems by themselves are minimal in colleges. The higher influence of guidebooks and coaching centers hinders their critical thinking ability and problem-solving skills.
Computers and multimedia facilities are almost unavailable for rural students. Multimedia-based classrooms are as rare as hen’s teeth. Teachers are accustomed to teaching in usual, bookish knowledge without any attempt to make the education appealing and interesting.
In public universities, the scenario slightly improves. The classes are communicative and exhaustive. The influence of notes and guidebooks is not as high as in colleges. However, recently, faculties of public universities engage themselves in teaching in multiple private universities.
The current method of teaching the basic subjects, particularly teaching science at all levels, has been outdated and proven ineffective because of the lack of broader aspects of the discipline. Appropriate teaching methods can boost the growth of quality education. It needs to be supported with required infrastructure and facilities as well. The existing inadequacy needs immediate upgradation.
Loopholes in Pre-University and University Education
The most vital role in the field of education is played by the teachers. However, the teacher-student ratio in the classroom is 1:30 which makes the teaching experience more hectic and tiresome. The quality teacher assurance is still unchecked due to political influence, unlawful recruitment and lower wage and advantages.
Infrastructural development in colleges and universities are not always up to the mark. Physical structures of education institutions in many rural and urban slum areas are in dilapidated conditions. Most education institutions rely on mobile network-based Internet services which are slow and expensive.
The availability and maintenance of equipment in labs are poor and nonexistent in some cases.
It’s no doubt that education stakeholders are implementing initiatives and projects keeping the digital world in mind and for the betterment of the students. Yet, compared to the other fast-paced countries, they couldn’t ensure a quality education in pre-University and University level.
Future Prospect: How Can We Improve?
There is always room for improvement and the education sector is an example of that. Due to pioneering initiatives by the government, considerable expansion in higher secondary education has been achieved; but much more needs to be done to make this stage of education more market relevant.
- Assessment for teachers
- Eliminate note memorization practices by limiting usage of exam guidebooks.
- Raise teachers’ pay to meet South Asian and global standards.
- Prioritize technical, mathematical, and scientific education.
- Link national curriculum to global standards
- Introduce ICT courses in all post-graduate colleges and universities of Bangladesh.
- Assign education experts for director posts at the Ministry of Education.
Prioritizing education as a critical tool for ensuring inclusive and sustainable development, the Government of Bangladesh has been focusing on the expansion of education with greater success than on quality and learning outcomes, besides some of the private organizations are also working in pre university education sector for example, Khan Academy, Amaar School, Biddyanondo. There is no denying the fact that the initiatives from the government for higher education and research is not at all adequate and UGC fails to provide funds according to the need of respective universities. To establish a global standard education system, Bangladesh must undertake an up-to-date and inclusive education policy.
Faria Jahin Auntara
Depertment Of Law at University of Dhaka