Genuine emphasis on science, technology still missing
IT GOES without saying that, as mentioned in an opinion piece published in New Age on Sunday (‘Degradation of science and technology in Bangladesh’ by Aung Kyaw Thein), ‘the best young brains choos[e] to study engineering, medical science, physics and other science’ in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, however, it also goes without saying that most of these ‘brilliant young brains seek better lives abroad’ because the opportunities available in Bangladesh, in most cases, neither do justice to the potential that they have nor grant them the honour and dignity that they deserve. A major reason for such a sorry state of affairs could be traced to the apparent disinclination of the policymakers to facilitating scientific and technological advancement.
Indeed, successive governments since independence, elected or unelected, civilian or military, have hardly ever hesitated to profess their commitments to education in general and scientific and technological education in particular. The incumbent Awami League-Jatiya Party government has been no exception. ‘In order to ensure human resources development, the highest budgetary allocation will be given to education, science and information technology sectors,’ so promised the ruling Awami League in its manifesto prior to the December 2008 general elections. However, over the years, allocation for education and technology as percentage of the national budget has gradually declined. In fact, education, which has traditionally received highest allocation in the national budget, has been overtaken by interest payment in the budget for 2012-13. Moreover, the quality of allocation and expenditure for education and technology has always been questioned by economists and experts, as most of the allocation is spent on overhead expenditure and infrastructural cost while very little is kept aside for research and development.
Meanwhile, at the tertiary level of education, research in science and technology has been neither up to the mark nor adequately encouraged. Little wonder then that the universities in Bangladesh continue downslide in the regional and global rankings, which, it is pertinent to add, put strong emphasis on research and publication. Last but not least, the employment market and the business environment cannot be said to be geared towards scientific and technological innovation, which ultimately make no justice to people with degrees in science and technology.
Overall, as Aung Kyaw Thein indicates in his opinion piece, the whole system in Bangladesh appears to be ‘obstructing scientific and technological advancement’. Such a situation cannot be allowed to continue. While high population at this point in time appears to be a major barrier to development, it can be turned into a potent vehicle for economic growth. To make the transformation, the thrust needs to be put on education in general and scientific and technological education in particular. Suffice it to say, the push has to come from the policymakers.
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