National University, the largest public university in Bangladesh, is going to switch from its traditional curriculum to a "demand-based" one, with the goal to build skilled manpower that will be a better fit for the job market.
The educational institution is also planning to introduce short courses and diplomas through its mainstream colleges to produce qualified human resources for all kinds of industries – including the ICT sector.
Providing more details, National University's Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Moshiur Rahman said, "We are currently running a 'College Education Development Programme' in collaboration with the University of Nottingham to build skilled graduates.
"We are going to expand this programme, and the curriculum will be reshuffled with the inclusion of ICT and other industry-related subjects. We are also working to introduce short courses and diplomas at our government colleges."
He added that the university is currently searching for courses that are suitable for the institution and for the country as well.
Data from a number of government and private organisations shows that the National University students have been finishing their studies with skills too poor to get a job.
In 2019, a World Bank study found that as much as 46% of National University students remain unemployed for at least the first three years after their graduation.
Another study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in April 2019 reveals that most of the students from both public and private universities are graduating with poor job related and other basic knowledge, disqualifying them from the country's job market.
This number is particularly high among the National University's graduates, the research says.
In a bid to tackle this problem, the National University recently formed a 15-member committee led by its VC to do feasibility studies for introducing short courses and diplomas. The committee held a virtual meeting on 1 April this year, participated by Education Minister Dipu Moni.
At the meeting, Dipu Moni said, "The ministry is planning to remove honours and masters courses from the colleges, and introduce short and diploma courses instead. We need an industry-based curriculum to introduce such courses.
"Our experts are working in this regard, and hopefully we will get to the new dimension soon."
Around 30 lakh students are studying at the National University's 2,258 colleges across Bangladesh.
Mollah Mahfuz Al Hossain, the university's registrar and also a member of the committee responsible for selecting the short and diploma courses, said, "We have held two meetings on the issue, and asked the deans from different faculties to conduct feasibility studies.
"After these deans conclude their research, we can provide more information about the number of courses that will be introduced."
National University Dean (Education, Training and Research) Professor Dr Md Anwar Hossain said, "We are working on revising the overall curricula to better cope with the current situation and tackle the job market's demand.
"The university will include some job related courses at each year's syllabus so that the students can become qualified and skilled enough to get a job after completing their graduation."
A curriculum of global standard challenging
The colleges under National University have been suffering for a multitude of severe issues such regarding infrastructure, facilities, academic atmosphere and an acute shortage of teachers. Officials pointed out that the students cannot be helped unless these problems are resolved.
On the issue, National University's Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Moshiur Rahman said, "We are going to reshuffle the curriculum. But we cannot create a curriculum of global standard now because the university is suffering from many basic problems.
"So, we have to take steps according to our strength," Prof Moshiur said.
The Teacher-Student Ratio (TSR) is 1:19 at public universities, 1:22 at private universities and 1:30 at institutions under the National University, University Grants Commission sources have said.
Commenting on the matter, Prof Emeritus at Brac University Dr Manzoor Ahmed said, "The TSR should be 1:15 for higher educational institutions. Ensuring quality education would not be possible if the ratio becomes greater than that.
"Some universities provide quality education, but for the rest of the educational facilities, students are becoming frustrated after getting their bachelor's and master's certificates, as they are failing to secure employment."