Education trade and investment in BIMSTEC
Investment in building human capital has a positive impact on the economy of Bangladesh which needs regional cooperation. To develop a perfect model in the educational arena we can use Public-Private-Foreign (PPF) collaboration. For example, in Bangladesh one can try to establish a branch of Asian Institute of Technology or University of Delhi.
For life science or medical education, one can try to set up a branch of Mahidol University, Thailand or Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB). Bangladesh can try to have a branch of Business School of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with business schools having QS world university rankings which ranked 18.
Regional cooperation will give better market access and improvement in standardisation at a regional level so that it will work as a catalyst in attaining competitive advantage and long run sustainability.
The Thai Journal Indexing or Indian Citation Index (ICI) is an element of a supportive arrangement which can be extended under a single umbrella of BIMSTEC Journal Index which may give better access in regional as well as international cooperation. Definitely it will give bigger options for continuity and improvement in the education sector including teaching-learning, research and extension, consultancy, etc. Soft skills, inter and intra networking in personnel and social networking are also required to be included in business education. Business pedagogy as a whole needs to be outcome-based-driven interaction promoting openness of discourse, challenging the status quo and building high-performing networks. To have a win-win situation, regional cooperation is very important for which the platform of BIMSTEC can be used especially for the field of higher education.
Curriculum for better learning, flipped classroom model, graphic novels, comparison between Google classroom and Moodle for Course Objectives and Outcomes may be arranged. The benefit lies in differentiating instructions, such as those using graphic novels which can also build critical reading skills. Teacher and student exchanges among different member countries will give better social, psychological, cordial and ethical friendship and value.
BIMSTEC University Network can create BIMSTEC Quality Assurance Standard which will help to control overall quality. Framework for Quality Assurance Standard requires a setup as per the guidelines of other BIMSTEC members as well. This will have a better impact on curbing terrorism and also decline of religion extremism. The leaders of BIMSTEC member countries should activate this regional cooperation association without delay, and include higher education qualifications framework as a matter of regional cooperation. There will be no dead weight loss rather there will be Pareto optimality which will activate social welfare tangency in the Grand Utility Possibility Curve.
Sheikh Hasina's recent visit to India in the first week of October signaled another positive step in building a cordial relationship between India and Bangladesh. As reported in the Economic Times of India - 'The seven pacts and three projects that were signed and finalised during the visit illustrate the transformation of the relationship between the two countries. India and Bangladesh is a model of good neighbourliness. The agreement to supply gas to Tripura, and the use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports to serve the north-east states testify to the goodwill between the two countries. The agreement for a skill development centre in Bangladesh to train youth is another example of mutually beneficial efforts.' It was correctly pointed out that it is important to address specific issues like Teesta and to respond to Dhaka's call for help on the Rohingya issue. Lack of joint river management and control of floods are vital issues to be discussed.
BIMSTEC member countries agreed to establish BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement (BFTAFA) in order to stimulate trade and investment in the parties, and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in BIMSTEC at a higher level. The seven-country forum aimed to achieve its own free trade area by 2017 which has still not been taken off the ground.
So far issues pertaining to trade barriers, economic structure, geography, regional development, lack of coordination among financial sector regulators, distinctiveness of BIMSTEC member countries have been addressed only bilaterally but not in a transnational manner, which have not benefitted the countries. For India, north eastern states may find it beneficial for bilateral relationship with Bangladesh but for regional development and gateway to ASEAN countries, much need to still be done.
All efforts must be taken to activate BIMSTEC like in the case of ASEAN countries especially in the education sector just the way trade, investment, transportation are being focused. Any sort of trade and foreign direct investment is highly correlated with current affairs and depending on the scenario it may be positive or negative.
The writer is a Professor, Dhaka School of Economics, University of Dhaka