- Focus should on quality of diploma engineers, not quantity
- There is a big shortage of teachers, modern lab facilities, and infrastructure at govt polytechnic institutes
- Diploma engineers must develop practical skills alongside gaining theoretical knowledge
- There are 52 public polytechnic institutes in the country
Experts and leading figures of the Institution of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh (IDEB), have strongly criticised the education ministry's move to reduce the four-year diploma engineering course to three years.
They say the move is illogical and suicidal.
The country should focus on the quality of diploma engineers, not quantity, to face the fourth industrial revolution and other future challenges, they say.
The education ministry's Technical and Madrasah Education Division on 24 May formed a committee to reduce the years needed to complete a diploma engineering course.
Experts say many countries, including the United States and Bangladesh, provide diploma engineering certificates after 14 years of schooling, and cutting it to 13 will cause professional learning losses.
Furthermore, they say there is a big shortage of teachers, modern lab facilities, and infrastructure at government polytechnic institutes in Bangladesh. It is tough to produce quality diploma engineers with a lack of these facilities.
Professor Dr Md Hadiuzzaman of the civil engineering department at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology told The Business Standard (TBS), the country needs skilled manpower to cope with the changing world.
He said diploma engineers play a vital role in field-level mechanisms.
It is high time the country produced more skilled diploma engineers, he said.
Diploma engineers must develop practical skills alongside gaining theoretical knowledge, he said.
He also said the country would not get skilled engineers if the course duration was shortened to three years.
It would be a suicidal step, he said.
"We need lots of diploma engineers, but they must be qualified. We must focus on their quality, not quantity," he added.
The professor also said developed countries emphasise mid-level (diploma) engineers as these professionals do most of the tasks.
He said Bangladesh was facing a shortage of such quality engineers.
The government should make a long-term plan in this regard, he added.
There are 52 public polytechnic institutes in the country. They have 900 permanent teachers and 130,000 students. The teacher to student ratio is 1:144.
The All India Council for Technical Education, a technical education regulatory body in India, says the teacher to student ratio should be 1:20. This ratio is even better in Singapore.
In Bangladesh, as many as 220 private polytechnic institutes run academic activities in rented buildings with no appropriate laboratory facilities.
In 2017, the technical education board asked 184 institutes to move to permanent campuses and the same directive was previously issued in 2013.
But the institutes have not yet complied.
Md Shamsur Rahman, general secretary of the IDEB, told The Business Standard, polytechnic institutes are trying to produce quality diploma engineers despite a severe crisis of teachers and other facilities.
He said their curricula need to be revamped in light of present global challenges.
The four-year course combines knowledge of traditional and modern technology, he said.
He also said diploma engineers always try to perform better in the workplace.
It will be tough to produce quality engineers if the ministry decides to shorten the syllabus and make it a three-year programme, he said.
"Our diploma engineers gain little knowledge during their academic life as there is a lack of collaboration between institutes and the industry. Furthermore, they cannot get sufficient practical knowledge in the absence of modern laboratories," he explained.
He said the education ministry is busy increasing the number of engineers instead of ensuring their quality.
"We appeal to the government to take necessary steps to modernise the diploma engineering curriculum to meet the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. Instead of reducing the course duration by a year, I propose adding six more months of practical work to it so that graduates can connect with industry," he added.
Requesting anonymity, the principal of a government polytechnic institute said it would be impossible to produce skilled diploma engineers if the government cut the course duration to three years.
"It may be possible if there is no crisis of properly trained teachers and modern lab facilities, but that will take time. It is not the right time to reduce the course duration," he added.
Diploma engineering course duration history
In British and Pakistan times, the diploma engineering course duration was three years, which continued till 2000.
With the rising demand for engineers in the country, the Bangladesh Technical Education Board, with support from the United Nations Development Programme, conducted a tracer study and recommended increasing the course duration to four years.
The Centre for Occupational Research and Education, Bangladesh, also conducted a study on this and recommended the same.
In 1998, then prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced an extension of the course duration to four years.
Finally, the extension came into effect in the 2000-01 academic session.
Diploma engineering admission in different countries
In Bangladesh, a student passing the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in four years, taking the total years of schooling to 14.
In India, a student passing the SSC exams can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in four years in some states, and three in others, taking the total schooling year to 13 or 14, depending on the state.
In Sri Lanka, a student with 11 years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in three years, taking the total schooling years to 14.
In China, a student with 12 years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in three years, taking the total years of schooling to 15.
In Japan, a student with nine years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in five years, taking the total of schooling years to 14.
In Singapore, a student with 10 years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in three years, taking the total schooling years to 13, but most students add one more year of experience as interns.
In the US, a student with 12 years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in two years, taking the total of schooling to 14 years.
In European countries, a student with 12 years of schooling can start a diploma engineering course and complete it in two years, taking the total of schooling years to 14.