Some observations and comments on
"Constructing Knowledge Societies: New challenges for
1. General observations :
The Report is quite exhaustive and has encompassed appropriate
issues relating to tertiary education in the developing and small
countries of the world. It has captured the multi-faceted aspects
of tertiary education such as changing global environment, contribution
of tertiary education, constraints and emerging issues in tertiary
education and the role to be played by the world Bank. Indubitably
it will spear head the efforts for formulation of effective policy
options for expansion and improvement of tertiary education in the
developing countries. However, without dwelling upon all the issues
addressed in the Report, I have focused on some specific areas which,
in my opinion, deserve careful consideration.
2. Specific observations :
a) In discussing the future Bank support, a number of strategic
and enabling frameworks have been highlighted in the Report. Factually
I have no disagreement with the kind of support earmarked for tertiary
education in the developing countries. However, I think, few more
specific points should be accorded cognizance in order to play more
effective role for pragmatic approaches to tertiary education in
the developing countries. There is no denying the fact that in the
process of expansion of tertiary education, universities of developing
countries indulge in indiscriminate expansion of faculties without
considering the priority dictated by the market forces. This leads
to ever widening gap between the demand for and supply of graduates
passing out from the universities. This situation has been perpetuating
over the years in the Asia and Pacific regions. It happens because
the universities of the region have hardly adequate information
as to the market demand for university graduates due to absence
of continuous survey or research on market phenomena. Such imbalance/
mismatch between demand and supply in the job market amply reflects
the extent of unemployment of the educated youth and creates unspeakable
frustration among them. In this backdrop, the world Bank may play
a supportive role in promoting tertiary education in the developing
countries as follows :
i. World Bank may finance the study/research on market situation
of the university graduates.
ii. World Bank may provide some guidelines to the universities
in conformity with the market demand and consequential impact
of globalization on the job market in the developing countries.
iii. World Bank may suggest to minimize cost and efforts by limiting
less important faculties and encouraging highly demanded ones
in the universities.
iv. World Bank may suggest for more effective role by the organizations
like University Grants Commission in the Asian region in reforming
tertiary education (both public and private) by accrediting more
power to such monitoring authority.
v. World Bank may arrange for more frequent tri partite dialogue
among the Bank, Ministry of Education and the University Grants
Commission (where exists) representing the universities.
vi. World Bank may support the authority in charge of tertiary
education (viz. UGC or HEFC) financially and in framing policy
based on the experiences of other countries.
b) In order to promote enabling framework the Report visualizes
some steps with regard to brain drain, collaborative academic programmes,
intellectual property rights and quality assurance. I appreciate
the measures suggested by the Report. However, I intend to supplement
the measures suggested by the Report as follows :
i) Although the donor agencies sometimes frame regulations to
ensure return of the professors and students after completion
of their study/research abroad, compliance of such rules in many
instances, is lacking. In many cases, students stay back and deprive
their universities and educational institutions of their skill
and expertise. The parent universities hardly can do anything
in this instances. The donor agencies in collaboration with the
countries where these scholars are absorbed should ensure return
of the professional immediately on completion of their study abroad.
Relaxation of rules in these instances perpetuates such practices
and nothing beneficial is achievable by simply propagating the
ii) As an alternative approach to avoid brain drain, "Sandwich"
or joint degree programmes have been suggested. I think this alternative
approach may, of course, serve the purpose for which it is intended.
However, apart from such "Sandwich" or joint degree
programmes or German Academic Programme (DAAD) a number of other
alternative programmes may be considered. In this context I would
like to mention some academic programmes which are being practised
in some of the Asian countries. AIT in Bangkok has started a two-step
Master's programme with Vietnam and post-graduate degree programme
with Sri Lanka (Colombo university) on cost-sharing basis. If
larger number of universities in Asia and pacific region can be
brought under the network of such programme, the loss due to brain
drain may be minimized in the future. Ranpakur Dissertation Programme
(JSPS) linking different universities of Asia and Pacific has
been serving useful purpose in this context for the last few decades.
iii) The Report has rightly focused on the issue of intellectual
property rights for on line programmes and courses and for access
to digital libraries and information. In order to avoid complication
arising out of diversified stream of thoughts as to property rights,
the World Bank may, of course, play a significant role in establishing
partnership among public companies, universities in advanced countries
and educational institutions in charge of tertiary education in
the developing countries. Besides, the World Bank can subsidize
the cost involved in the use of on line programmes, digital libraries
and digital information by the tertiary education institutions
in the developing countries. Alternatively the World Bank may
negotiate for "Charge-Holiday" for some period from
the date of its first use by the tertiary education institution
in the developing countries. These alternatives may help the developing
countries get conversant with the latest information, courses
and different on line programmes and reap benefits out of it.
iv) Finally, I intend to focus on the issue of Quality Assurance
in the tertiary education institutions in the developing countries.
This important issue has not been dealt with exhaustively in the
Report. Although mention has been made of Bank's financial and
technical support, it has not been clearly spelt out what type
of tertiary education to be comprehended in such programmes. Of
late, tertiary education is being imparted by Traditional Universities
as well as well Distance Education Universities. The latter type
of universities are growing fast in the Asia and Pacific region.
As such the quality assurance in the tertiary education institution
has become a concern. The issue of quality assurance of Distance
Education institutions has to be taken into cognizance along with
traditional tertiary education institutions. However, quality
assurance mechanism needed in these two types of tertiary education
institutions is not exactly the same. Divergent approaches need
to be earmarked for two types of universities in the developing
countries. The Report should throw some more light on the issues
particularly with regard to quality assurance in the distance
education system in the developing countries.
Professor Dr. ATM Zahurul Huq
University Grants Commission of Bangladesh