50 years of Bangladesh: The state of higher education

We must realize the importance of research and education, without which Vision 2041 will remain incomplete

As Bangladesh celebrates 50 years of independence and liberation, we look back at what once was termed as an economic basket case, a test case of development, and now what has become an economic miracle. Over the last five decades, poverty has been reduced from 70% to 21%, GDP per capita has risen from a little under $100to $2227. Literacy rate has improved to 74%, and Bangladesh now ranks as a self-sufficient nation in food, whose production has tripled to meet the growing demands of a growing population.

Even in population control, Bangladesh’s fertility rate has dropped below India’s today, from over seven children per woman in 1971, to 2.1 children in 2021. Bangladesh’s achievements have proven the pundits wrong, time and again. We have much to be proud of in our nation’s 50 year old history.

However, as with all successes, there are always some failures. Same goes for Bangladesh as well. As previously mentioned, Bangladesh has shown remarkable achievements in the education sector. It has even achieved gender parity in primary education, where more girls are enrolled than boys today.

Almost everywhere, it seems. Universities are the place where the greatest minds gather together for greater learning, for an environment where they can unleash their creativity. Yet, with the increasing politicization of our universities, we have destroyed any chance of such an atmosphere.

Instead of a free environment, we have gone the opposite direction, an atmosphere of fear, which was only emboldened by the gruesome murder of Abrar Fahad at one of the nation’s top universities. Such an environment creates scores of Boro Bhais and turns what should have been a vibrant environment into a toxic one.

And it doesn’t stop there. We have created a political culture for our teachers as well, where they are hired and promoted not for their academic value, but for the virtue of aligning with the correct political lines. Such a system exists nowhere else in the world, not even our neighbours.