Through nine month bloody war under the great leadership of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Bangladesh emerged as a new independent country on 16 December 1971. The great leader of all times Bangabandhu assumed office as the first Statesman of the independent Bangladesh in 12 January 1972. In the war ravaged country there were numerous challenges before the government.
Sheikh Mujib never learnt to compromise the challenges he faced throughout his life to combat injustice and inequalities. As a visionary statesman with his pragmatic initiatives he made an instance to restore peace and prosperity in a very short time. Not only that, he began working on sustainable prosperity with a hope to making Bangladesh “Sonar Bangla”.
Among many more initiatives to rebuild the war-torn Bangladesh his thoughts on education and research was undeniably a milestone to lead the country towards development. Our farsighted leader felt that only a quality nation is the best resource to change a country’s lot. He wished to change the fate of the millions of people and envisioned a society free from dishonesty, violence, oppression and corruption.
Bangabandhu’s philosophy on education is reflected on his different speeches. In one of his speeches before the general election in 1970 he not only termed education as the greatest investment but emphasized the eradication of illiteracy and compulsory free primary education. Not only that, his vision was to expand primary, secondary and tertiary education to a height along with establishing medical and technical colleges and universities.
He dreamed to ensure equal opportunities for the people of all strata. After Bangladesh into existence in 1971, he began reconstructing the country’s education with the vision he cherished into him. Obviously, his ideology was not confined to rhetoric, rather was reflected through serving the people in this land. He cherished his firmness and worked to convert the people of this country into human resources. According to him “no investment could be better than investment in education”. The visionary leader Bangabandhu easily realized that a strong base of education is a must to ensure the country’s inclusive development.
It is obvious that under two hundred years of British Empire people of this territory hardly had the access to receiving education, in some cases the affluent families found scopes to send their male children to schools. The education strategies and philosophy set by the British hardly corresponded to making people of this land human resources, rather it helped them make clerk as the helping hands of the colonial rulers.
Receiving education could not liberate people with their own spirit. Again around 25 years the Bengalis had to bear the intolerable oppressions by the Pakistani rulers. The people of this territory had many limitations to access to education. The education policy set by the Pakistan Education Commission made inequalities for the people of the east aiming to deprive the people of their education privileges.
Bangabandhu expressed his frustration towards the then education system Bangladesh inherited from Pakistan. It was evident that the inherited education failed to produce human resources. He put emphasis on the importance of quality education.
Not only that, as most of the people were illiterate and half of the children in the war-ravaged country were away from receiving education, immediately, Bangabandhu advised the educated people to serve the illiterate people in the villages. He took inclusive strategies to rebuild the education system and open education for all. To ensure the access of education to the people of all strata in the constitution of the country, receiving education was preserved as fundamental right for every citizen.
During his regime he undertook a comprehensive education scheme. Reviewing education system in the developed countries he took many initiatives towards the modernization of the country’s education system. As one of the initiatives, Bangabandhu formed an education commission with Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda as its head in July 1972. The commission was asked to recommend strategies for ensuring appropriate education system that would help to build the Sonar Bangla, Bangabandhu’s model for a prosperous country.
As per his directives, the commission collecting opinions from the elitist people in the form of questionnaire, and after careful sorting of those, prepared a report with recommendations to reconstruct the education system of the country and gave its report to the government on May 30 in 1974. Bangabandhu accepted the report of the Commission and all the relevant Acts were adopted in the parliament in connection to this.
In their 350 page report the commission made many observations. Amid the observations the mentionable are to emphasize teachers’ training, increase teachers’ salary, and introduce Bangla as a medium of instruction at all levels of education along with taking English as the second language to learn. On top of that, the commission emphasized on technical and vocational education and focused on fostering higher education at the universities through teaching and research. Their recommendation gives the priority to ensure equal opportunities and recognize education as an investment.
Though Bangabandhu got only three and half a year from his statesmanship to his brutal assignation on 15th August 1975, his extensive plans on all sectors to rebuild the nation will be regarded as a model of inclusive development throughout the ages.
It is evident that during Bangabandhu’s regime 36,165 schools were nationalized and teachers’ salary increased significantly. To emphasize girls’ education and to ensure emancipation of women girls’ education up to class eight was tuition- free. Besides, Bangabandhu put much emphasis on technical education to meet the requirement of technical manpower.
Bangabandhu took initiatives to modernize Madrasha education. He established Madrasha Board to create an Islamic based life. Undoubtedly, the establishment of the Madrasah Education Board by Bangabandhu was a milestone in the spread of Islamic education and values in Bangladesh along with to accelerate the blending of religious and secular education to produce quality manpower. On top of that, he opened scopes for Madrasha students to receive higher education and ensured government jobs and proper dignity for the Madrassa teachers and students.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamed of research-based higher education. He believed that free exercise of knowledge and research would help the universities produce a capable nation. To facilitate teachers and students for cultivating the culture of free thinking he gave autonomy of the then four public universities including Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, and Jahangirnagar University through promulgation of 1973 order and this time all the universities in the country enjoy the same privileges.
On top of that, he established a number of research institutes to make the nation intellectually advanced as he could realize that education and research can show people the right path of development. The institute of Bangladesh Studies under Rajshahi University is one of the research institutes founded by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Moreover, Bangabandhu established University Grants Commission through an ordinance to accelerate education and research along with allocation and monitoring of grants to the universities.
It is true that Bangabandhu could not implement his all initiatives on education completely due to his assassination by some anti-state miscreants. But the new episode of the development of the country’s education sector has been initiated under the prudent leadership of the honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is the worthy daughter of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The country has seen a tremendous success in regard to student enrollment at primary and secondary levels of education.
At present even the students of poor financial background can afford to access to the main stream of education as education is heavily subsidized by the government. The government has established more schools, colleges and universities. Not only that, over some years a great number of schools and colleges have been nationalized.
Apart from the ongoing scheme to establish public university at every district, a great number of science and technology universities have already been established amid the country to address the gap in technological education. Cherishing the dream of Bangabandhu at heart the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working relentlessly for the people of Bangladesh. Today Bangladesh has been a model of sustainable and inclusive development for the rest of the world.
Writer: Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University. He is also research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]
BDST: 1656 HRS, AUG 10, 2021