The late Professor Muzaffar Ahmad was one of the leading economists of Bangladesh. He had a significant contribution in Bangladesh's economic and educational development. As the pioneer of different civil society organisations and as a researcher in the areas of development debates, he devoted much of his work in the area of education and human development. Professor Ahmad spent the best part of his professional life in teaching economics at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka, as well as researching and writing on various aspects of education. The book "Essays on Education in Bangladesh" by Muzaffer Ahmad comprises the papers and articles which he wrote at different times for different types of audiences, either presented in seminars/symposiums or published in journals/magazines. A total of eight articles are included in the book. These capture socio-economic and politico-economic aspects of education sector in Bangladesh with historical flashback on successes or failures.
In the first article 'Equity, Excellence and Efficiency in Higher Education: Certain Conceptual Issues', Professor Ahmad discusses the conceptual dimensions of desired outcome of the education system in general and higher education system in particular. This article clearly depicts the interrelationship and interconnectedness of different tiers of education. The issues of equity, excellence and efficiency are of great importance for higher education to play its due role in national development through appropriate development of human potential.
In the paper 'Recent Developments in the Education Sector of Bangladesh', the author delves deeper into an analysis of some of the determinants of the changes and regression in the education outcome of Bangladesh. In this paper, Dr Ahmad presents almost exhaustive information on trends of achievements and failures of education outcome in Bangladesh. The available evidence on trends in the education system presented here hints that in recent years there has been some improvement in the allocative priorities given to primary education which are reflected through improved female participation at all levels, both as students and teachers. However, there is also a widespread concern about the qualitative deterioration in the educational system of Bangladesh.
The third article 'Primary Education: Finance and Quality Issues' focuses on Primary Education which has emerged as the thrust area for sustainable human resource development. This article covers two vital issues related to (i) Financing of Primary education, and (ii) Quality Assurance in Primary Education. Professor Ahmad emphasises on taking effective measures to achieve both quantitative and qualitative goals of universal primary education in the near future.
In the paper 'Financing Education in Bangladesh', the author covers all important and possible aspects of educational financing. He discusses the value of education, development and education, issues of educational finance, emerging issues of funding education, governance and educational finance etc. As the resources available for education in Bangladesh are starkly inadequate, Muzaffer Ahmad suggests: "If the country has to meet the challenge of quantitative expansion and of bridging the quality gap additional resources has to be mobilised through cost efficiency, innovative use of existing resources, cost sharing through tax-induced donation and discipline in financial administration."
The fifth article 'Education, Empowerment and Governance' examines the state of education in South Asian countries in relation to the present-day governance situation in these countries. Professor Ahmad concludes this article by arguing, "Education in South Asia today is used to support the superstructure of governance and the governments failed to build it as an infrastructure for democratic governance".
In the paper 'Constitutional Obligation and Educational Development in Bangladesh', Professor Muzaffer Ahmad draws the attention of readers to "Article 17" of the directive principle of Bangladesh constitution which recognises the right to education for all and requires that the quality and content of education should be uniform. He also discuses some emerging policy issues and challenges which have been ignored over the years: investment and return, internal inefficiencies, external efficiency, governance of education system, equity, quality of education, and teacher education.
In the seventh article 'Education and Governance in Bangladesh', the author attempts to discuss the educational sector issues in the context of governance and revisit some of the issues and policies that have been raised and reviewed earlier. Dr. Ahmad draws our attention to the discerning picture of the inefficient and incapable teachers, management of teachers' training and textbook preparation. Dr. Muzaffer Ahmad argues for a people-centred educational strategy that can ensure enrichment and empowerment of its citizens.
The last article of the book 'The State of Science and Technology Policy in Bangladesh' depicts a pitiful picture of science and technology education and research in our country. The author observes that in Bangladesh science and technology policy is underdeveloped and is not a priority concern of the politico-bureaucratic administration. Professor Ahmad concludes this article with the statement: "Unless education is set with the bias for scientific enquiry our capacity to develop science and technology manpower and infrastructure will remain low." Finally, in this book, the late economist Dr. Muzaffer Ahmad attempts to portray the overall scenario of education sector in Bangladesh. As such, it can be one of the most useful pieces of policy analyses on education.
S.M. Rayhanul Islam is an independent researcher.