While interacting with Safaa, a Palestinian student continuing her MA in University of Dhaka (DU), I got to know her long sigh regarding the overall education system in her University. To her, "here, teachers don't want us to be argumentative. They want students to reproduce the text, in other words, memorise whatever the authors say and vomit it in the exam hall. There is no mandatory research paper in Masters Level, outdoor projects, creative assignments?" By taking her statement into account, it is seen that the overall scenario of higher education in Bangladesh is not reached to the expected level due to maintaining old traditional approach in teaching braced by lack of research and motivation.
Why this education system is under question? How we are going through such incessant degradation of quality and standard of our higher education? Is there any other important thing than research in higher education?
Research is the process by which new knowledge is produced and old knowledge and values are questioned. It is the instrument in solving a problem that exists in a society. Undeniably the development of human civilisation is the development of research, or in other word, based on research. The solution device to any given problem is depended on how well it is researched and analysed. So the more problems a society faces the more researches it needs. This is the reason research is considered to be an investment in this global era. World Bank (WB) regularly publishes individual country investment data. Regrettably Bangladesh spends too negligible in the field of research and development (R&D) that the country is not included in the WB individual country data of R&D share of GDP.
Bangladesh is a developing country which is prone to uninterrupted natural and human made disasters necessitating huge budgets each year to maintain. So it needs extensive research to analyse the problems constantly. But, funding in research assumed to be a luxury by our bureaucrats and lawmakers who are involved in allocating the national budget. But research is not a merely simple government spending, rather this is investment expenditure, and fruitful investment helps reduce many other problems for which the government needs to allot resources recurrently.
In the industrially developed countries, research is primarily conducted by the universities, autonomous research institutions and organisations that are also dependent on the scholars graduated from the universities. Hence, government's focus on research is primarily based on the allocation to the universities and individual scholars who may be enrolled under any institution. In education, lack of research creates a vast gap between theoretical and practical understanding of any fact or problem. Later on, it crafts problem is the pedagogy of knowledge field. Moreover, it fails to reach the pick of knowledge whereas new knowledge is produced without which no nation can walk towards progress.
The efficacious experiences of East Asia proved that without enriching the research sector no country can stand strong in the current world. In our neighbouring India, Government has already taken huge projects in funding research to sponsor young researchers. Two different schemes, Junior Research Fellow (JRF) and Senior Research Fellow (SRF) are allocated under Government Research Fund (GRF) to the lakhs of eligible students per year. As a result, India is taking its position in almost every sector so dominantly in both micro and macro levels.
Comparing to India, in Bangladesh, there are a few opportunities which can motivate students to involve in research. We see simultaneously with national budget, public universities of Bangladesh are allocated government fund through University Grants Commission (UGC). On 27th of June this year, DU announced its budgets for 2015-16 fiscal of BDT 425.5 crore with BDT 4.5 crore allocations in the research sector which accounts for only 1.06 per cent and the education sector has got BDT 50.51 crore, or 11.93 per cent of the total budget. The situation in Jahangirnagar University, another major public university is more pathetic which allocated only BDT 56.6 lakh in research field which is only 0.48 per cent of its total BDT 119 crore budget. BDT 87.16 lakh will be spent on education which is less than one per cent of the total budget!
To compare the situation with that of America (since I dream my country to be in that stage in next century), I surveyed the top universities based on current fiscal year research spending. In the top, Johns Hopkins University has allocated $2,106,185 in R&D where this figure is $1,322,711 for University of Michigan, $1,169,779 for University of Wisconsin, $1,109,008 for University of Washington and $1,073,864 for University of California San Diego, all of which have allocated more than 10 per cent of their budget on R&D. In such diverging situation, is it possible to make our own Knowledge paradigm, or shall we eternally depend on them to understand ourselves?
In an ideal situation, the major source of earning for an academician is research and publications. For Bangladesh, low allocation in research in the public universities and affiliated institutions leads the scholars to go for private university teaching or some other income-orientated activities which ultimately de-motivate them to focus on improving the standard of delivering lecture and exam system.
Research, particularly in the university level, is essential for development. Research helps individual think critically which contributes in breaking the baseless social hierarchy by producing more authentic and applicable knowledge which is required for development. In this globalised reality, if we can ensure an educational environment based on research, not only will brain drain decline but also will foreign brain come and contribute to our socio-economic development.
Alauddin Mohammad is a faculty member, International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT). Email: [email protected]