Experts have suggested focusing on practical and technical education to improve its quality, saying that if higher education is not made research-oriented and realistic, it will only exacerbate the unemployment problem.
"If we want to become a developed country by 2041, we need a large number of people skilled in technical matters. In order to meet that need, importance should be given to technical education," said Md Nazrul Islam Khan, former education secretary and curator of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, at a seminar on Friday.
The seminar titled "Education: A Realistic Strategy to Achieve the Goals of 2041" was organised by the Bangladesh Awami League's sub-committee on education and human resources at its central office in Bangabandhu Avenue on the occasion of the International Day of Education.
Md Nazrul Islam Khan, who presented the keynote address at the programme, spoke about the transition from general education to technical education, the adoption of employment-oriented strategies in education, changes in teacher selection methods, hands-on learning and emphasis on research in universities.
He said, "The ratio of our general education to technical education is 85:15. On the other hand, in developed countries like Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, the ratio of general and technical education is 40:60. We have to adopt their strategy," said Md Nazrul Islam Khan.
At the event, Dhaka University Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr ASM Maksud Kamal said, "We are holding very old subjects in our universities. This is increasing the pressure on the education system."
"The identity of a country is built through its education system, especially through higher education. Today, there are 38,000 students at the National University of Singapore, of which 8,500 are foreign students," he said.
"The Ministry of Education has announced the development of a curriculum. Higher education also needs such an academic framework. If innovation in higher education does not come, it will be difficult for us to achieve the changes we aim to make by 2041," he added.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni said, "The government is giving importance to the system which will enable students to study happily. Emphasis is being laid on self-employment in the new education curriculum."
She said, "Many teachers have come into this profession accidently. Many of them may have come here as they did not get any opportunity in any other profession. We want the teaching profession to be the goal of life of anyone who would come into the teaching profession."
"We are working on the pre-qualification issues in this regard. We are training teachers," she added.
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said, "It is very unfortunate that we cannot find a Bangladeshi university among the top 500 universities in the world. Research is necessary for a good position in the rankings. It is necessary to increase the allocation in this sector for the research to be done in the university."
He said the present government has increased the allocation for education, but we need more investment to improve the quality of education.
Obaidul Quader said, "I have noticed in various places that teachers are recruited on account of influential people's pressure, instead of considering the candidates' merit and qualification. These are setting very bad examples."
"If we want to increase the quality of education, we have to increase the quality of teaching. Qualified teachers must be recruited."
He said the teachers who are in charge of the educational institutions obey the influential student leaders' word diligently. This lack of personality sadly undermines the dignity of our teaching.
The Awami League general secretary said political rooms and gono-rooms (where a large number of students stay together) should be closed to improve the quality of education.
He further said the student leaders talk about national politics today, but no student organisation arranges a seminar on the problems of education. If this continues, student politics will lose its attraction. If student politics is not attractive to ordinary students, then it is worthless.
Dr Abdul Khaleque, chairman of Awami League's sub-committee on education and human resource development, presided over the programme, while Shamsunnahar Chapa, member secretary of the sub-committee, moderated it.