The Financial Express

Exporting knowledge and technology

| Updated: October 22, 2017 12:18:14

Exporting knowledge and technology

The statement made by the education minister the other day on export of technology may be far too optimistic considering the ground realities. But the intention behind it was innocuous and unquestionably honest. The minister said, it is time we exported technology. It is true that for centuries we have been relying on others' technologies and with the aim of attaining a middle-income status by 2021 in mind, the mindset will have to be changed now. To do so, the biggest challenge is to equip ourselves with knowledge and technological skill of world standard, otherwise the journey towards a higher income status may be delayed. Teachers and students will surely have a leading role to play in this respect, but the pivotal role to create a congenial and conducive environment lies with the government. 
The government has to develop a peaceful, knowledge-based and technology-friendly environment that allows an uninterrupted flow of knowledge which will also work as an encouragement for research. Innovation is part of research and without innovation technology in the country cannot prosper. Sadly, political crisis reigns supreme in public universities and a situation like this hinders smooth progress of academic activities. The situation in all public universities is more or less the same. It is imperative that a peaceful environment were ensured for smooth academic activities. 
Apart from creating a congenial environment in the educational arena, another vital requirement is to prioritise research activities without which exportable knowledge and technology cannot develop. In fact, the state of research in our universities is far from being ideal. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), there are about 2,000 teachers in Dhaka University, and the number of research projects implemented so far is only 131. A number of new departments have been opened and new teachers appointed, but interest in research work is on the decline. The reason behind the  decline in the number of research projects is lack of fund, as Dean of the faculty of environmental sciences Prof. Maksud Kamal puts it. For example, he cited the instance of 2014-15 when out of the total allocation of Tk 3,730 million for Dhaka University, only Tk 31 million, which is less than 1.0 per cent of the budget, was allocated for research which by any standard is an insignificant amount. University budgets should be increased with raised allocation for research. Whereas research in higher institutions should be given priority, no major research projects can be undertaken due to inadequate allocation.    
Although the Dhaka University has 39 research centres, only a handful of them are doing some research work, and the rest of them are either sitting idle or finish their jobs by only organising a couple of seminars. Research allowances for universities are like petty pocket allowances as a result of which teachers lose their interest in undertaking research. Other commercial organisations that carry on research activities are more of job-oriented nature conforming to their requirement. Merit of a university is evaluated by the progress in expanding its field of education and the success achieved in research. In both cases the country is lagging continuously behind and the Dhaka University which was known as the Oxford of the East has lost its reputation. In QS World University ranking, its current position among 916 universities is 701.
The QS World University ranking released its report in September 2016, which conducted a survey on 916 universities of 81 countries out of more than 3,800 universities of the world. Top three places continue to be occupied by US universities and 19 Indian and seven  Pakistani universities found their place in the rankings. Bangladesh is ranked 109th in 2015-16 survey report. 
It is quite clear from the above statistics that Bangladesh is lagging behind by a long way in terms of academic environment and state of research in universities. Both these aspects of public universities should be looked into and improved, otherwise exporting knowledge and technology will remain as a wishful thinking. 
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