Building a Better Higher Education System in Bangladesh
Engineers are called on by all sorts of people, to build all sorts of things, to solve all kinds of problems. However, engineers are not always the first people most governments think to call to help “build a better national system of higher education.” That is, unless that engineer is Quamrul Mazumder, Ph.D. and the government doing the asking is his native Bangladesh.
It is not at all unusual for the UM-Flint Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering to get a phone call from a Bangladeshi official asking for help on some issue related to higher education. Mazumder is considered a leading expert in higher education quality improvement, which has become an increasingly important priority in Bangladesh. Mazumder’s expertise is recognized at every level in his home country, where he is often sought out by national news media for his analysis of various aspects of higher education.
Bangladesh has vowed to develop a highly competitive world-class education system. Government officials believe the best way to accomplish this is by improving the quality of the education offered by the country’s 95 universities. Mazumder has been invited a number of times over the past several years to help achieve that goal. As a Fulbright Specialist in the area of engineering, his expertise is widely sought by engineering educators from many countries.
“They want their higher education to reach a world-class level, and seek my consultation to develop a strategic plan to move the country forward,” said Mazumder. “They want me to look at everything from the courses taught, to student satisfaction, to faculty training and development.”
Mazumder spent a month this past summer visiting universities throughout Bangladesh, highlighted by a keynote address to a gathering of over a thousand officials from all of the country’s universities.
His visits are part of a national higher education initiative funded by the World Bank to further develop the country’s workforce talent. There is a growing belief in Bangladesh that higher education will be the currency of the future world economy, and that only countries with highly educated, highly skilled talent will compete in the global marketplace.
Mazumder has proposed specific programs he wants to see implemented to move higher education in Bangladesh forward, including programs that would embrace a more student-centered approach and increase civic engagement components—a recipe those familiar with UM-Flint’s academic approach are sure to recognize.
By increasing accountability and emphasizing the social responsibilities of higher education institutions through more active and engaged participation every step of the way, Mazumder is confident that their lofty goals can be achieved. He sees a learning process in which:
· Feedback from students continuously improves curriculum.
· Increased engagement both inside and outside the classroom enhances student creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
· Pedagogical research opportunities for faculty improve teaching and learning for all.
In mid-October 2012, a delegation of high-ranking government officials from the People’s Republic of Bangladesh visited the U.S. to examine how universities maintain quality programs once established. Quamrul Mazumder was asked to assist this week-long exploration by hosting the group at the University of Michigan-Flint.
A day-long seminar on the operations of the academic and administrative sides of the university was presented to the delegation by Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Vahid Lotfi. Faculty and staff from various departments, including Chancellor Ruth J. Person, made presentations to the visitors about the workings of their department and how they maintain quality checks.
“We were very pleased to share with the delegation a very detailed look into how quality checks have been built into our programs,” said Lotfi. “We are proud that UM-Flint was selected to help Bangladesh establish a quality higher education program."
Professor Atful Hye Shibly, Ph.D. is a member of the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh. The commission oversees all of higher education in that country. It is composed of a chairperson and five members.
Currently, Bangladesh has 31 public, two “special,” two international, and 54 private universities. Shibly says his country needs more schools to accommodate the number of students who want a higher education. He also wants to see an expansion of existing programs, including those aimed at healthcare.
“Nursing and physical therapy programs are needs at more of our universities,” said Shibly. A recent report indicated there were nursing courses offered at only four public and seven private universities in Bangladesh.
Shibly says that over the past two decades there have been improvements, especially in private universities. He says more are needed. The goal of the University Grants Commission will be to formulate the higher education quality assurance program that will likely be composed of the best ideas from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
But according to UM-Flint’s Quamrul Mazumder, nothing short of a “cultural transformation” will be needed to overcome the negative aspects of his country’s traditional higher educational system. Moving from that old British system to a modern U.S. system will not happen overnight.
Mazumder said, "We are trying to find out what are the positives in both systems. The U.S. is strong in the areas of liberal arts, while on the international level, the strength is in science and mathematics. By exploring the strengths of both systems, Bangladesh can create the best higher education system in the world.”
No instituion of higher learning has all the answers. Things move too fast for any one institution to keep track of it all.
That said, the stakes are too high to waste students’ time, money, and futures doing things wrong rather than admitting you need help and asking for it. One area of higher ed where this is especially true is technology — particularly the dreaded “university website.”
University websites have a lot they need to accomplish for a lot of different audiences, typically without a lot of recources. Enter HighEdWeb, a group of higher ed professionals working in web, social media, marketing, design, and management.
In May, the University of Michigan-Flint will host the state’s first HighEdWeb Conference. So if you have ideas to spread, solutions to share, or questions to ask pertaining to the nexus of higher education and web technology, plan to attend!