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OP-ED: Espousing knowledge-based societies

  • Published at 06:50 pm September 22nd, 2021
innovation light bulb

Why are we failing to encourage innovation?

Two major policy-decisions announced recently will, if followed through properly, revolutionize education as we know it. After dithering and experimenting with disastrous consequences, from 2022, education will be in the formative subjects up to the Secondary School Certificate level. 

Specialization in different branches will happen after that, though the extra two years would have helped students be better prepared and a little more matured in choosing subjects of choice. That, added to a compulsory vocational subject, should prepare them better. It’s the selection of the vocational subjects that will hold the key.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution emphasizes on artificial intelligence, which on its own is madness. Handing human jobs over to robots is already in vogue, especially in the manufacturing sector. Nordic countries have experimented with teaching that make books almost redundant. Their target is to explain science by that which surrounds the students -- a sort of touch-and-feel experience. 

Plant size is understood better by being in nature than classrooms. The arts touch on softer but as-necessary skills, and will continue to depend on books. Vocational subjects have to be in sync with the requirements of manufacturers, IT business, and online innovation. Traditional vocations will have a place, but how many school leavers will find them attractive is a moot question.

Obaidul Quader, the roads and bridges minister, waded into both students and teachers by suggesting that both groups have gone astray. Education Day wasn’t visibly observed by any student or youth organization or by teaching institutions. Quader was as critical of teachers for giving in to the demands of students and their leaders, thereby compromising their status in ostensibly trying to protect their jobs. 

Students openly admit their involvement in taking “control” of university hostels, where more than allotted students live during their life on the campus. It hasn’t happened overnight, but the decline has been evident through the years. 

The Central Students’ Unions were formed to help create amicable environments of learning. Their absence for close to 20 years has hardly been felt. The past DUCSU committee did little during their term to try anything new about knowledge-based communities. The ones that will follow require their remit to have accountable measures of what they do or not achieve. 

Unfortunately, student wings have become so much of political wings that they are out of touch with reality. 

During the first term of the government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina exhorted students to spread across the country and help the stragglers back on track. Instead, courtesy of social media, we learn of unsavoury activities, ranging from molestation of women and girls, to helicopter fanfare weddings.

The section of students that reportedly demanded Tk50 lakh in return for releasing the trees cut down by a contractor that followed procedures is crass but not new. Vice-chancellors charged with creating enabling environments for education, research, and innovation have been accused of partisanship in appointing teachers and staff. The impact on quality of such teachers on the education process can be well-understood. 

University, college, and school teachers have not, as far as memory goes, sat together to chart a way forward that is seamless. Instead, colleges groan at the quality of schooling and universities moan at the quality of college education. No research worth its salt has emerged from universities, yet that is where some of the finest brains are or should be. 

They too, are more interested in hobnobbing with political bigwigs. Not that the powers that be are unamused.

There has been creative innovation from Buet, namely, the three-wheeled Mishuk that was fuel-friendly, but not strong enough a vehicle. The answer should have been re-designing rather than consigning it to the dump yards. 

Teachers need space to think of newer ways to communicate and teach, students need space for study. Instead, there are for whom certificates matter more than knowledge. The output among others are various government notices that are shocking in the mistakes they carry. 

Putting a number against the output of education may be important; putting a premium on the application of knowledge is paramount. 

The bulk of the new generation look for guidance to do something better. Leadership has failed them. The boatloads of migration-seekers, at grave costs, are an indication of the level of their frustration.     

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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