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Safeguarding science and technology in Bangladesh

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11th-Aug-2018       
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Dr. Arun Kumar Basak :
It is needless to say that science and technology are pivotal to the progress of a country and can improve the quality of human's life. Science is a systematic way, which involves keen observation and experimentation to derive knowledge and improve skills. Technology is the practical application of science for welfare of human beings.  Engineering implements the technologies and is concerned with the construction of structures, production of appliances and maintenance.  This is followed by an effective marketing policy to boost the economy of a country leading to prosperity.  
With the global connectivity through www, enhanced speed in accessing the treasure trove of information through the installation of 'submarine optical fibre' and improvement in the digital facilities through ICT centres, Bangladesh in the recent years has made a great stride in many areas as reflected in the performance index of global ranking. Apart from non-scientific culture-related fields, tremendous growth in the production of important food items is notable. The last decade has recorded an average growth rate of 11.2% in the annual production of rice, which as staple food is the main concern in populous Bangladesh. The fish production has gone up so much that the prices of fishes have gone down substantially over those existed five years ago. People's average life expectancy in Bangladesh is now 71.5 years compared to 68 years a decade earlier.
Research activities in genome technology gained momentum following the remarkable success in the development of fungus-resistant jute in 2010 by the Bangladesh team working under Late Dr Maqsudul Alam.  Biodegradable jute fibre is second only to cotton in making apparels, bags, carpets and other attractive items. Construction works for two 1200 MW nuclear power plants in Rooppur began on 30 November 2017 and is expected to supply us atmospherically cleanest form of 1200 MW electricity in the first phase by 2025. With the successful launching of geostationary communication satellite Bangabandhu-1 on 11 May 2018, Bangladesh now finds its pride position in space. Bangladesh now braves the construction of Padma Bridge from its own resources. Our living has also become much more comfortable.
In spite of aforesaid developments, it is generally agreed by academics, education researchers and other stakeholders that the quality of Higher Education in Bangladesh has declined steadily over more than four decades. During the partition of the British India in 1947, the standard of education and research in our country was at par with that of India. We can recall that in 1925 Satyendra Nath Bose presented the world with his groundbreaking invention of the Quantum Statistics which earned fame for Dhaka University. With the passage of time, India is improving in technological developments and trailing China closely. On the other hand, in spite of being the successors of Sir Jagadish Bose, teacher of Satyendra Nath Bose and Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray, the two great pioneers of scientific researches in the subcontinent, we are lagging far behind India.
Bangladesh received on 4 Feb 2016 a shocking experience of a cyber heist of US $ 101 million from Bangladesh Bank to other countries. Moreover, we are having a long-standing problem of 'question leakage' of various examinations, which concerns the future careers of students. These are harmful examples relating to the abuse of digital facilities made available to the common masses even through cell and smart phones in Bangladesh. There is yet another disappointing misuse of our digital facility to alarm us before it goes out of control. The young teachers and researchers in Bangladesh have been kept lured for the last five years to publish rubbish articles in the so-called 'online journals' with a payment of fees to get their easy promotions. The appointing administrations in most cases are ignorant about the magnitude of damage being caused to our education setup. I know some of our talented researchers have gotten spoiled this way only to become unproductive now and are influencing others to attain their personal gain. We now hear of with an utter disappointment the alleged adulteration of gold in the Bangladesh Bank vault.
These are culmination of 'immense greed' in educated people.  Excessive greed puts creative power in an abyss of despair. Greed is the 'Satan', referred to in religions. Excessive greed can be checked through effective teaching in religions, politics in philosophical terms and conventional education. However, none of these methods is working properly in our society.
Pleasure and satisfaction are subjective of mental condition and derivative of knowledge. Only money cannot buy these. Money and material property may be plundered by social disarray and natural calamity, but knowledge is non-perishable. Knowledge with free mind has immense power to decision-making and leads to creative works for deriving profound satisfaction.
Our children, in general, are no less meritorious than their counterparts in developed countries. Our poor social environment and education system make them generally inferior.
Our main problem is embedded in our mindset to measure dignity in terms of wealth in possession and to derive comfort out of laziness. Moreover, our values are switched off with the lack of accountability and quality assessment in our systems, academia in particular. As a consequence, job seekers for jobs and service-holders for promotions and money-making become crazy to welcome any method for easy achievements. On the other hand, parents and guardians, in general, are blind to the easy attainments of good grades in the examinations of their children. The chase for easy success triggers them to bribe the examiners and results in a business-bonanza of the question leakage. Improper education leads to "big dreams without having matching quality to earn". These hollow dreams with suspended values lead to a dangerous end, even heinous killings.
Only quality education with a focus on values and a proper appointment system can find us the 'Holy Grail' to safeguard our science and technology and to boost our economy.

(Dr. Arun Kumar Basak, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh).

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