According to a report published in the daily Ittefaq on June 11, Hon'ble Minister for Education Dr. Dipu Moni has said that Honours and Masters Courses would be phased out from colleges gradually. In this context, she explained that the colleges, which are equipped with adequate facilities and quality teachers, would continue Honours and Masters Courses. But these courses would be phased out from all other colleges keeping only degree pass courses. However, many short and diploma courses will be introduced. Purpose of those courses will be to develop work-oriented skilled manpower so that students can find jobs or be self-employed.
I sincerely appreciate the Hon’ble Minister for understanding the reality and taking necessary steps. This would be an unprecedented move in the history of education in Bangladesh if she is successful in bringing her thoughts to fruition. This move would ultimately (a) reduce unemployment rate in the country, (b) widen entrepreneurship through self-employment, (c) facilitate job opportunities in foreign countries and (d) strengthen and widen our economic sector. We hope that she will get necessary support and cooperation from all sections of the government, civil societies and educationists.In view of the existing challenges Bangladesh has been facing in the education sector, I wrote an article in this daily titled ‘Why work oriented and quality education necessary’ on 27 August 2017. In that article, I raised two major issues regarding our general education system- whether our educational institutions are (i) imparting quality education; and (ii) preparing students for suitable employment by work-oriented education. To overcome these two issues, I had also mentioned about the introduction of work-oriented and quality education systems.
In fact, a less educated person who contributes to his country’s economy is more desirable than an unemployed higher degree holder. My request to the concerned authority was to introduce an education system that would transform our students into skilled workforce with human quality to play an important role in our development. Obviously, that system would be framed according to the requirements, culture and infrastructure of Bangladesh, absolutely a Bangladeshi model, not a copy of any other country.
We know that our present government has done praiseworthy work in increasing the literacy rate in the last few years. Yes, literacy rate has been increased, but it has not empowered the students with the knowledge according to the degrees they obtained. On the other hand, with such general education, they are not finding any suitable job as per their expectation. As a result, many certificate holders are making the unemployment list longer.
In a country like Bangladesh, the purpose of education is to prepare students for employment. It might be for doing research work or jobs in any private or public establishments. Even some may become self-employed. It is obvious that the economy of a country runs well when the unemployment rate could be brought to a minimum level. If our education system can facilitate students to become workforces, playing an important role in our economic activities, implementing their knowledge and skills in appropriate objective ways, nothing can be greater than that. I strongly believe the initiatives to be taken by our education minister will pave the way for that destination.
There is no argument that the standard of education in our country is not at par with the developed countries. But we want to see our students get quality international standard education. Once our students have that standard of education, they will be able to find jobs not only in our country but in any country of the world. Therefore, our objective should not only be to increase the number of students or literacy rate, but to provide international standard education. Standard work-oriented education system may be implemented through necessary reforms of the present system.
Vested interest groups may create chaos and the authorities may face a number of problems at the initial stage of implementation. However, strong leadership and proper foundation can run the system in the right track. We have to be patient for the expected results.We have a population of about 160 million in a country of only 1,47,570 sq. km area. Therefore, we have to transform our people into workforce for the over-all development of the country. Truly speaking, an education system that increases unemployment is not desired by anyone. Rather, there should be demand for such an education system which will not keep the children remain unemployed after education. Our education minister has rightly thought of their demand. I humbly urge the guardians to support the government for implementation of the ideas that will ensure better prospects for their children.
I believe that our concerned authorities have been working on framing necessary policies and guidelines for introduction of many short and diploma courses, as well as discontinuation of existing Honours and Masters Degree courses in colleges. However, I would like to share a few ideas relevant to the issue in question. An estimation of the required number of manpower having general degrees and technical or specialised diploma/degrees needed for home and abroad should be done. College and university level seats have to be determined following that calculation. If the demand is met by Honours and Masters from the universities, it is better not to continue those courses at the college level. But in that case, both public and private universities, should maintain quality as determined by the authority. If the universities fail to meet the demand, then the remaining number of seats for those two courses can be allotted to some selected colleges. If a graduates with higher degrees can't apply their knowledge for any purpose, then that kind of education is of no use.
Technical courses (short or long) can be introduced in all colleges by bringing them under work and production-oriented education systems. Necessary syllabus and curriculum, teaching staff, equipment for practical training, etc. should be in view of the requirements at home and abroad, as Bangladesh sends migrant workforce overseas. Apart from working in the country, skilled people will also find employment abroad. Considering the constraints of our local job markets, self-employment might be an alternative to reduce unemployment as well as widen our economic activities. For self-employment, proper guidance and cooperation from the government is desirable.
There is no doubt that truth rarely tastes sweet, and people fear to face it. This might happen once there are initiatives taken. But, we must recognise the reality, if we wish to make our future a prosperous one. Our pledge should be to understand the practicalities of life and accordingly build our future. As education is the basic rights of every human being, the state should ensure it by providing the right education needed to make life better.
I am confident that our education minister can overcome all the hurdles to make this journey of our education sector a historic one. She will forever remain in the hearts of our future generation for this courageous move.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary