Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Assessing Dimensions and Quality of Higher Education in Bangladesh

Prof Sarwar Uddin Ahmed

Almost all progress the civilisation has made over the many years is by virtue of education. The importance of quality education cannot be overstated; hence, throughout history, people have broadly emphasised its need in a civilised community.

The highest performing education systems are those that merge quality with equity. Achieving greater equity in education ensures that personal or social circumstances, for instance, gender, ethnic origin, or family background, do not become obstacles to attaining educational potential. Quality education acts as the bedrock of civilisation, provides the foundation for equity in society, and allows a vast majority of students with the opportunity of attaining high-level skills, regardless of their own personal and socio-economic circumstances.

Among various levels of education, higher education has the most pervasive and influential impact on the overall development of society. It empowers students with the necessary skills and competence for gaining crucial personal and social goals. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are an integral part of global knowledge societies. They are the creators and disseminators of knowledge which places them in high regard as knowledge organisations.

In Bangladesh, the term higher education translates to education at the tertiary level that is being provided in the universities consisting of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Despite accomplishing admirable recognition across various socio-economic indicators, the country still has numerous obstacles to overcome in the tertiary education sector. Currently, the quality of higher education is an important issue for the country as it requires highly skilled employees capable of adapting to the fluctuating realities of the labour market and solving complicated issues to ensure sustainable economic and social development.

On the one hand, employers are demanding high-skilled professionals for several positions to support the mounting industry and service sectors. In contrast, HEIs are struggling to produce employable graduates for the job market. Unemployment rates are increasing continuously among tertiary graduates, causing prolonged frustration of job losses for many.

Simultaneously, the collaborative research culture to promote innovation and competitiveness has significant growth potential in Bangladesh’s higher education scenario. This will enable the students to improve themselves by going through the process of attaining additional knowledge. It is essential that educational institutes follow a curriculum that is robust and does not utilise rote-learning methods. This will ensure that the students remain attracted towards continuing higher education.

It is evident that there is more room for improvement in the educational institution’s approach to equipping students with appropriate skill set that the current employers are demanding. The existing “employer-skillset mismatch” has caused further swelling levels of undergraduate and graduate unemployment. According to a recent study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), the undergraduate employment rate stood at 36.6%, while graduate unemployment stood at 34.3%.

The study also demonstrates that employability varies according to the type of university. This implies that education and its quality differ with each institution and does not remain constant. Hence, there is a pressing need to identify and address the challenges in this sector and angle higher education towards better quality.

With the economy advancing towards modernisation, the need for quality higher education has never been more profound. The problems will have to be tackled with strong institutional reform and robust policies such as introducing modern teaching methods using more problem-solving and critical thinking methods. Collaboration with the private sector should be increased to invest in facilities like ICT and merit-based scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to that, the HEIs can also partner up with foreign universities to facilitate knowledge transfers and introduce better teaching methods.

Well, it is heartening to see that the government has already taken various steps to lift the standard and quality of higher education in Bangladesh. One of them is by approving the establishment of foreign university study centres to improve education quality via innovative research, better academic performance, and healthy competition. Universal College Bangladesh (UCB), an exclusive partner of Monash College, Australia, has recently been approved by the Ministry of Education-approved to run programmes so that more competition can be inspired in the education sector. The arrival of foreign universities to set up study centres in the country can, I think, help upsurge the quality of education as there will be spillover effects and better opportunities for the students as well as trainers and teachers to equip themselves with world-class education practices.

It is this interconnected educational environment that allows students to study international education in their homeland while giving exposure to knowledge boost through curiosity, creativity, and critical reflections; thus, contributing to the progressive enhancement of tertiary education quality in the country.

In any industry, the quality of a product is vital for the survival of the business. Likewise, the quality of higher education is responsible to the society for their future-the graduates. Therefore, by bridging the gaps that lie within the higher education sector, we will be able to support the creation of a more knowledge-driven, skill-oriented, and equitable economy.


The writer is Dean of Academic Affairs, Universal College Bangladesh