In the developing world, government funding for academic research and development has always been miniscule. In fact, the top students in core academic subjects in the natural sciences have a tendency to go for their higher education and subsequent employment in the developed economies. After all, in countries like Bangladesh where the demand for limited resources is high, education that does not impart skills needed in the workplace hardly bears fruition.
But this lack of appropriate academic research has created a massive hole in the knowledge economy. Many university teachers do not have proper publications in their relevant fields, and possess little up-to-date knowledge on what is going on in the rest of the world. Although public universities – by virtue of having access to the best and brightest talent across the spectrum – do employ teachers who are renowned in their fields of study, the lesser-known private universities suffer are forced to fill in the gaps by bringing in non-resident Bangladeshis with North American degrees.
However, it is these private institutions that have proved to be an enormous driver of the knowledge ecosystem in Bangladesh. Producing huge numbers of graduates each year, these universities are grooming young graduates in a market-centric approach. They are providing skills to their students that can be marketed for success in the corporate world and beyond.
One important issue postulated by education experts in the country is the absence of appropriate practical experiences. A business major for instance needs to learn how businesses function not just in the classroom but also in the world outside. As such, for future success and marketability they must have hands-on experiences at companies, startups, smaller and medium-sized business ventures such as restaurants, departmental stores, fashion outlets and similar enterprises. Although three-month long internships are a prerequisite for many Bachelors and Masters programs, students abroad have more exposure to the world outside.
This gap in practice has largely taken place due to the absence of proper university and industry alliance. While leading business schools like the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka do have strong, constructive relationships with the corporate world, it is not on par with the global standards. Research funding, scholarships and academic endeavor must be sponsored by the corporations working locally; and universities in turn must reciprocate such efforts by creating a space for these companies to take a leading role in producing high quality professionals who can contribute towards the future development of the country. In the long run, initiatives like these will create win-win situations for all parties.
It is widely recognised that inadequacy of talent is not something which characterises Bangladesh. After all, even with decades of political rancor, generations of mass immigration of educated change-makers, bureaucratic inefficiency and poverty, we have moved forward and invalidated all pessimistic forecasts. What is currently needed both from the government and the private sector development experts is a comprehensive education system that places adequate emphasis on both academic research and marketability, and in the process, a strong alliance between academics and real-life corporations to facilitate the growth of the nation as a whole.
Nakibul Hoq is the Lead Manager, Content & Analytics for GradInsights, the career intelligence service of GradConnect. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org