The Financial Express

Global Knowledge Index 2020: Revisiting pre-university education in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh has secured 35.90 points and ranked 112th among the 138 countries in the Global Knowledge Index 2020 (GKI). According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, Switzerland secured the top position with a score of 73.60 points followed by the United States (71.10) and Finland (70.80), while Chad ranked the lowest. The average GKI is 46.70 across the world. Among the South Asian countries, India has secured the 75th position with a score of 44.40 and is followed by Sri Lanka (87th, 42.10), Bhutan (94th, 36.20), Nepal (110th, 36.20), Pakistan (111th, 35.90), and Bangladesh (112th, 35.90).

Since 2017, the UNDP began to calculate the Global Knowledge Index (GKI) to offer a measure for tracking the knowledge performance across the countries. Considering 133 variables, the GKI mainly includes seven areas, namely pre-university education, technical and vocational education and training, higher education, research, development and innovation, information and communications technology, economy, and the general supporting environment. The primary objective of the GKI is to inform policymakers on opportunities and risks across multiple disciplines in order to help adopt policies for supporting and promoting knowledge. UNDP believes that the GKI indicates the preparedness of human resources for national development.

We now specifically focus on Bangladesh. We ranked best in the technical and vocational education and training sector by securing the 69th position with a score of 49.00. The scores in other areas are 43.90 in pre-university education; 24.10 in higher education; 16.40 in research, development, and innovation; 43.10 in information and communications technology; 31.50 in the economy; and 46.40 in the general enabling environment. Compared to other neighbouring countries, we secured the lowest position in most cases.

Despite the successful progress history since independence, the GKI would be a warning indicator for our future development. The GKI 2020 is a poor performance that is not only hurting within the country but also damaging the reputation across the world. We believe that it is urgent to identify the main problems in these seven sectors and make policies to address them accordingly.

As the GKI is a multidimensional concept of knowledge, the formal education sector cannot ignore its contribution to shaping economic and social structure with improved human capital. The formal school has a great role to enhance individuals' potentials by removing barriers and to utilize these potentials for a creative learning environment. Sir Ken Robinson, a British educationist, emphasised creativity in the education section and believed that it was similar to a farmer sowing seeds in the agricultural land. According to the UNDP, "Like a farmer sowing seeds, someone creates conditions for children to grow as creative and critical thinkers. Creativity cannot be taught 'directly', but educational practice can provide the means, opportunities and a fertile environment for the creative mind to flourish."

Creative thinking allows students to apply their imagination to generate ideas and questions. This also allows them to experiment with different alternative options and to evaluate and transform ideas as final output and process. Although everyone has creative ideas, children have it more because they are not yet rigid with any logical and convergent beliefs. The poor achievement in GKI 2020 implies a weak performance in creative thinking. Therefore, it is urgently needed to evaluate the education system. Martin Luther King Jr. says: "the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically." In doing so, the following recommendations could be considered to improve the level of pre-university education:

  1. LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: School should offer students an intentional play-based and joyful learning environment to make self-motivated and confident learners and to foster their health in all developmental domains. The ultimate objective is to prepare the next generation as lifelong learners who identify the problem of our society and offer alternative solutions in our contexts.
  2. QUALITY TEACHERS WITH ATTRACTIVE REMUNERATION: On average, there are 15 students for every teacher in primary education and 13 students per teacher in secondary education across the OECD countries. In Bangladesh, it is 31 in primary education and 35 in secondary education (UNESCO, 2018). We need to recruit more qualified teachers and retain them with attractive remuneration to nurture and promote the creativity of our next generation.
  3. PROFESSIONAL TRAINING IN TEACHING INSTRUCTION: A teacher must be trained about the most recent developments in curriculum and instruction technology.
  4. EDUCATION REFORM AND ITS ADAPTION: Teachers must be informed about education policy. For example, the education ministry is planning for reform in secondary education. Before implementing it, teachers and other related staff must be sufficiently aware of its practical implementation.
  5. ALIGNMENT IN PRIMARY, SECONDARY, AND HIGHER EDUCATION: The education system should have proper alignment among primary, secondary, and tertiary provisions. These three sectors should work together to achieve the ultimate goal of education.
  6. PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOMEWORK AND ASSESSMENTS: When a student is assigned homework, some of their guardians in our country might help solve the problem. Our academic and family culture even allows us to hire home tutors for preparing a solution and submit it without an acknowledgment. This is a severe crime in the academic world. The most alarming consequence is that students fail to develop their ability of creative thinking and are not be able to identify the problems and alternative solutions. As a result, the ultimate objective of education can not be achieved.

We immediately need to take a more comprehensive initiative for a creative and knowledgeable next generation. This policy does not only improve the global knowledge index but also build human resources for national development.

Md Abdur Rahman Forhad, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET), Gazipur [email protected]


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