The horizontal expansion of education in Bangladesh is quite mentionable. There was a race for success in this regard because of the target of achieving primary education goal in MDGs. So, quality in education was sidelined. This weakness at the foundational level of education lasts throughout the education life of the learner and so makes secondary and higher education less worthwhile.

Higher education has been made attractive since the British period. The intention was to create a servile social class through neglecting primary education for the mass people. This trend still exists in our education system. Nowadays a lot of boys and girls have been regularly completing higher education. And more are desperately fighting to enter into that arena, which costs them a good amount of money, time and energy. Just take the amount of money earned from selling all the admission forms by public universities only. It may exceed Tk.100 crore in total.

University authority brings out lame excuses for increasing the price of admission form every year. There is no reason to think that this price is set by calculating the cost of the admission test. For a bulk amount of, say, 3 lakh candidates, we have to keep in mind that only 1 taka increase per admission form brings 3 lakh taka more for any university. Is the income out of this amount used as per UGC instructions or for educational benefits of students? If so, why is there increase of charges upon students in the name of various 'developments' in their departments?

Truth is majority students applying for admission in public universities fail to have the chance of studying there. Those students who fail to get admitted accept it as their lack of talent and do not raise any question for fear of shame. It is similar to the lottery business. Lottery traders' source of income is those people who fail to win anything. This is a game of complete winners and complete losers-a zero-sum game. In lottery it is the fate which is blamed. Yet, in fact, there is no fate but a hard math behind the business. In the admission test, it is the lack of talent which is blamed by the university authority and those who fail. In both cases, the organizers of the event make a profit which is eye-popping. There is no easier way of making so much money in this modern world in such a short period of time. So who will want to give up this bizarre process of admission?

Whenever the issue of a student's expenses at the public university is raised, the expenses at private universities are pointed out for comparison. This type of reasoning is ridiculous because one type is made for disseminating and creating knowledge, whereas the other type is for selling education as a commodity. In one type, students pay for a symbol of their active participation, in the other they pay to buy the education service at market value. One type is for developing human resources for the nation, the other for making profit. So, the comparison of expenses between the two universities is meaningless and intentional, to push a sense of inferiority into students of public universities.

Presence of private universities in the market works as an incentive for public universities for gradual privatization of its services. The price of education service from public universities is often put forward as very cheap compared to that of private universities. This is the first step for raising the prices next. When those belonging to public universities are inclined to place their prices, not services, in competition with the private ones, this becomes a losing game. Luxuries from working at private universities and hospitals attract public teachers and doctors towards more privatization of the services they provide.

The UGC is leading in this altering of character of higher education. In a similar way, National Education Policy 2010 has also given emphasis on skill development of learners in order to be fit in the present market condition. This market condition is led by corporate and financial capital of modern imperialistic west, which we are inviting into our socioeconomic system. This global financial network is preventing any free development of our national industries and instead preparing our children to work as educated slaves. We are feeling proud of our higher education for rolling out these modern human products!

On the one hand, education in basic science and humanities is being ignored and business-oriented subjects are being given priority in public universities. On the other, newly established science and technology universities are opening more and more departments of humanities. In both cases, knowledge creation is a matter left outside their field. A young population is coming out with certificates of higher education in their hands but with knowledge of secondary education in their heads. In most of their hands, these certificates are no more than some paper destined for God knows where.

Reasonably, our National Education Policy 2010 asserts: "4-year Honours degree will be considered as the terminal degree and acceptable/required qualification for jobs in all sectors excepting teaching positions at higher education institutions." Yet, chakuriwalas hardly call for applications from young candidates with less than Masters. So students and their parents struggle for having Masters certificates in order to be able to compete in the job market for any work without even any remote connection with teaching and research. This rush for higher education certificates turns out to be a golden opportunity for business.

It is now urgent for the good health of higher education in Bangladesh to reject this World Bank-supported strategy paper made by the UGC and make something completely new for new knowledge and creativity. It is important to improve prestige of our public universities in the international arena by doing researches of real significance and to stop doing some laughable activities in the name of researches funded by WB, IMF and corporate bodies. The shape public universities are going to take under the US-led neoliberal ideology is something that if Dhaka University had in our early twentieth century history, it is hard to imagine what or how much we could have achieved in our glorious language movement, which led us to the liberation war and finally the long-dreamt freedom.

The University of Dhaka is changing and will change more in the direction contrary to what was imagined at the time of its birth. University and business are coming closer. 'Research and Innovation: Industry-Academia Collaboration' was the theme of the 102nd anniversary of Dhaka University; it reveals the destination of public universities. "Close relationships will be built up between universities and industrial institutions" is said in the 12th chapter on Information Technology Education in the National Education Policy. Dhaka University seems to be taking the leadership in this venture of altering the charcter of public universities.

Higher education should not be placed in the market for sale following the prescription of the World Bank. Education is for transcending humanity, not to transform humans into cogs in the wheels of the commodifying machine of the global trade. Don't let the corporate profit hunters make priceless education into a mere pricey good.

Alamgir Khan is Editor, Biggan O Sangskriti

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