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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN BANGLADESHI HIGHER EDUCATION

Mohammad Shamsuddoha
Department of Marketing Studies and International Marketing
University of Chittagong, Bangladesh

Tasnuba Nasir
Faculty of Business Administration,
University of Science and Technology Chittagong (USTC), Bangladesh

Abstract
This paper attempts to discuss the sustainable development of Bangladeshi higher
education. There are many ways in which universities can be involved in sustainable
development. Approaches can vary from functioning simply in an environmental friendly way to
signing declarations and focusing the mission and management on the quest for sustainability.
There is no doubt, however, that the challenge of sustainable development for universities goes
beyond just economizing energy and changing operations. It is recognized that both the content
and form of education must change so that sustainable development becomes the only
alternative for future generations. However, the researcher tried to explore the role, coverage,
way, importance, present status and other relevant issues under the sustainable development.
Keyword: Sustainability, Higher education, Bangladesh

Introduction:
Sustainability is today one of the most widely used words in the scientific field as a
whole and in the environmental sciences in particular, but the analysis of the evolution of such a
concept is a difficult exercise. This is because the records of the systematic use of such an
expression, whose reference in the current vocabulary and political discourse is nowadays so
popular, are scattered around. Until the late 1970s, the ``word'' sustainability was only
occasionally employed, in most cases to refer to ways through which forest resources should be
used. It has, in other words, strong connections with the forestry sector from where, some
believe, it originated. Other than that, the expression ``sustainability'' has been traditionally used
as synonymous with words such as ``long-term'', ``durable'', ``sound'' or ``systematic’’, among
others. Indeed, out of the context of the English language, sustainable development is very often
referred to as ``durable development'' in French, while word-by-word translations are found in
the German (nachhaltige Entwicklung), Spanish (desarrolo sustenible) and Portuguese
(desenvolvimento sustentavel) languages (Filho, W.L., 2000). It is always important for higher
education that it have sustainability in all respect. However, to maintain sustainability education
institutions have to do lot of works to maintain it for a long run.

Objectives of the study:


Sustainability in higher education in Bangladesh is significantly improving by following
Western (mainly USA & UK) and developed Asian countries like Japan, China, Malaysia, India
etc. Here the main objectives are shown as below: -
1. To review the sustainability issues in the higher education of Bangladesh
2. To find the way of achieving sustainability in higher education
3. To give some recommendations over sustainability in higher education

Methodology of the study:


The study was based on primary and secondary data. In addition, review all the websites
of respected institutions for updated information. In the other hand, the researcher also reviewed
several foreign research works. There is not plethora works in Bangladesh in this regard
specifically. Some sort of research work has been done by environment science department in
various academic institutions and several donor agencies such as DFID, USAID, AUSAID,
DANIDA etc. has done several works in the field of fisheries, marine science, forestry and other
arena like micro biology, anthropology etc.

Literature review:
Developing countries like Bangladesh is also concerned about the major environmental,
societal and durability problems. There is a growing tendency of people from rural areas to
migrate to urban areas and as such it creates enormous pressure on land, housing, education,
sanitation and other social overheads. To face all the challenges sustainable education can play a
vital role in Bangladesh. Research also supports the concept of connecting education and
sustainable development. Until the late 70s, the word sustainability was occasionally used and in
most of the cases it indicates the way of using forest resources. Some believe that it originated
from the forestry sector and consequently it has strong connection with the sector. Traditionally,
the term Sustainability has been used as synonymous with the words like “long term”,
“durable”, or “systematic” (Filho, W.L., 2000). Sustainable development is one of the important
challenges of the 21st century. The concept of sustainability has different meanings in different
culture and countries. Sometimes it is really difficult to use the proper word to express the
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notion of sustainability. Sustainable development can be defined as the combination of social
development, economic development, and environmental protection which are mutually used to
benefit present and future generations (World Commission on Environment and development,
1987). In order to define, implement and evaluate the strategies related to sustainability various
initiatives were developed and all of those include education as a critical component.

From the preceding research it was exposed that education can increase agricultural
productivity, decrease population growth, increase awareness regarding environmental or
ecological issues which is essential for Bangladesh. On the other hand, there is a strong linkage
between sustainable development and higher education. In developed and developing countries
higher education is essential to create jobs and also business having fewer environmental
impacts (McKeown, R., 2001). Higher education may have several goals but the important
goals may be, to make people wiser, more knowledgeable, better informed, ethical and
responsible to the society (Weenen, H.V., 2000). Definitions of sustainable development
revealed that it is the combination of social and economic development along with
environmental protection to benefit not only the present but also the future generations and the
goal of higher education can help a lot in this regard. Therefore, in a developing country it can
be achieved only through sustainable education which encompasses the present issues along
with the probable future outcome. In Bangladesh the issues regarding sustainability are in the
introductory stage. There is a lack of proper knowledge about the technological advancement,
ecology and environmental issues and also their impact on society and human being. Albeit, in
Bangladesh various universities, colleges and institutions are offering various courses keeping in
mind the issues of sustainability. Various courses have been introduced to comply with social
and economic development and environmental issues which is essential to face the present
challenges and also to keep the benefit of the future generations intact. Bangladesh is an agro-
based country and the development of this country mostly depends on the development of the
agricultural sector. Proper education, knowledge and exp ertise are required to develop this
sector. To face the challenges of sustainability proper initiative is required and in this connection
some universities are offering Agro-MBA in Bangladesh. This could help a lot to move towards
the sustainability by combining economic, social and environmental development.

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Assessment of sustainability, studies at universities and colleges in Lithuania.
Figure 1. The university’s role
in society with regard to
sustainability (International
Journal of Sustainability in
Higher Education, Vol. 5 No. 3,
2004, pp. 255)

This figure denote that how


university, professionals,
society are involved in a one
frame.

All educational institutions have an important role in the further implementation of rules and
should aim at being linked to internationally or nationally recognized development strategies or
the equivalent; to have staff fully trained and competent in education for sustainable
development; and to provide all students with relevant opportunities and methods for learning
about sustainable development (Haga Declaration, 2000). Again, the World Commission on
Environment and Development define the term as “development that meets the needs of the
present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations” 1 (Segivia, V.M,
2002). Moreover, the concept of sustainability has different meanings in different culture and
countries. Sometimes it is really difficult to use the proper word to express the notion of
sustainability. Sustainable development in higher education requires implementation of new
ways of teaching and learning (Kliucininkas, L.,2001).

The notion of sustainability can be used in different context according the nature of the
discipline. Every teacher can include different sustainability content based on his/her education
and experience along with the understanding of social processes and social structure.
Consequently, the way of introducing sustainable curriculum depends, to some extent, on the
individual instructor (Kliucininkas, L., 2001). Environmental and ecological issues along with
other factors have a great impact on sustainability. Universities and other institutions are trying
to make a bridge between sustainability and other emerging issues. There has been a remarkable
increase, over the last few years, in attention to course in business curricula related to the topic
of ecology or environmental and social issues. Courses like environmental marketing, ethical
practices in business, green marketing, waste management, environmental management have
been included in graduate and undergraduate program in various universities. In this modern
society, higher education are no longer considered a medium for repairing the shortcomings of
education systems, but a necessary element of them, at the same time it is not only for some
particular or marginal target groups, but for all exists in the education system (Sirajul Islam,
1986). Education serves society in various ways, like by creating consciousness and awareness,
identifying new concepts and ideas, and discovering new tools and techniques. Education is also
the means for developing skills and generating ideas to make the desired changes in every
aspects of life which also lead towards sustainability. In short it can be noted that education is
the best hope and most effective means in the mission to achieve sustainable development
(Weenen, H.V., 2000). After reviewing all relevant literature, the researcher did not find
plethora works based on Bangladeshi higher education. However, exploring recent status and
way to develop their education into sustainability was the main aims of the researcher.

A. Sustainability in higher education in Bangladesh


Until 1995, the coverage of the environment in the higher education system was rather disjointed
and poorly developed. In 1996, the environmental science discipline was established at Khulna
University, and full session courses (fouryear undergraduate courses) started in 1997. It is the
first public institute of higher environmental education in Bangladesh. In addition, Sylhet
University (another public university) has been offering a four-year undergraduate course in
civil and environmental engineering since 1995. At the same time, some non-governmental
universities have opened EE courses. For example, environmental studies at North-South
University were started in 1995, and environmental science and management at Independent
University was started in 1996. Recently, Dhaka University and Jahangir Nagar University (both
are public universities) have opened undergraduate courses in EE. In the above EE department
in different universities, enrolment in the undergraduate courses is highly competitive because
the number of places is very small (only 25-35 students in each EE course at the respective
universities). Besides, it is very expensive to enroll in non-government universities and only
wealthy parents can send their son/daughter to such institutions. However, the facilities for
research and fieldwork are not up to the mark in all of these universities. With the above
exceptions, in all the general universities in Bangladesh (Dhaka University, Rajshahi University,
Chittagong University, Jahangir Nagar University, Khulna University, Sylhet University, Open
University and National University), ecology is taught only as a component of botany and
zoology courses, in the BSc Honors classes. At the post-graduate level, there is a compulsory
unit in ecology in post-graduate courses in botany. There is similar coverage also in the
Department of Zoology. Some courses in environmental management and/or earth science have
been offered in the Department of Geography/Geology at the MSc level of some universities.
Better environment related courses are offered at the MSc level (and sometimes in
undergraduate level also) in Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), Life Science School of
Khulna University and Civil Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering
and Technology (BUET) (Table II). Environmental engineering courses are taught both at the
postgraduate and the undergraduate level at BUET at Dhaka. In addition, Bangladesh institutes
of technology (BITs) offer environmental engineering units through undergraduate civil
engineering curricula. Polytechnic institutes in Bangladesh offer sanitary engineering units in
the final year of the three year civil engineering course. In addition, various other institutes like
Public Health Training Institute, National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine, Social
Welfare Institute and Health Education Bureau also offer short-term sanitary engineering
courses for practicing engineers, doctors, sanitarians and social workers (Salequzzaman Md.,
2001). Moreover, after 1990 every university in Bangladesh tried to introduce their own
program related with environmental/ecological/marine issues which directly involved with
sustainability. Not only that the entire business studies program is adding the feature of
sustainability to their maximum subjects.

Sustainability through different courses provided by the Universities in Bangladesh:


Universities in Bangladesh are offering various courses through varieties of departments
like, Marketing, Finance and Banking, Accounting and Information system, Management,
Marine Fisheries, Forestry, Sociology, Economics, and Anthropology etc. These courses were
introduced to provide students with a basic understanding of the concerned arena and also the
implications of those to the practical field, policy matters and ideas of various stakeholders.
Today’s business world is highly competitive and students should be equipped with more
systematic and sustainable knowledge and which they can acquire through higher education.
Courses can be distinguished in three categories in the light of Didac Ferrer-Balas et. al., (2004):
1. Courses that can be related to environmental topics, but in which some environmental-
humanis tic content might be introduced;
2. Courses that do not treat environmental topics directly, but which are somehow related;
3. Courses with a clear environmental content;
4. Establish the environmental relevant research activities and the units in which they take
place;
5. Promote interdisciplinary projects;
6. Promote environmental research externally and introduce it into scientific and technological
communication channels;
7. The existence course description does not necessarily imply that the environmental issues
are really treated;
8. Incorporate all the curriculums relating economical, social and environmental issues so that
it will helpful for the industrial and societal concern.

B. The way of achieving sustainability in Higher Education in Bangladesh


1. Effective and efficient education to the target groups: Tahir, F., (2001) discussed with the
advent of new technologies the world is changing in a rapid way moving towards the
sustainability. Education system is not free from this change. To comply with sustainability
changes are necessary to a great extent in the overall education system. It also includes the
changes in the curriculum, the way of teaching, course content etc. To act in accordance with
the changes it is important to offer specific teacher training programs to a good number of
teachers. At the same time, various technological facilities should also include to coup with
the modern teaching system and also to make the class more presentable and more
understandable.
2. Expanding the capacity for education in new dimensions : The new educational needs are
growing everyday to match the present and future requirements. Various institutions
including public and private are offering different courses considering the issues of
sustainability in educationa l sector and also to face the challenges of the changing world.
Moreover, various new branches have been introduced whichever, earlier, considered the
part of Botany or Zoology or General science. For example in the Chittagong University,
Bangladesh, a good number of new department have been introduced within the last couple
of years, like Micro-Biology, Bio-Chemistry, Genetics Engineering, International
Relationship, Anthropology etc. At the same time, different new modules have also been
included in different departments like, Green marketing, environmental marketing, E-
commerce etc. under commerce faculty to act accordance with the issues concerning
sustainability.
3. Multiple competencies: Higher education adds flexibility to the education system and helps
people to face new challenges in their careers.
4. Extending geographical access to education: In Bangladesh a good number of universities
are located in different parts of the country aims at covering the majority of the people.
Albeit a huge number of students are not getting the chance of having a degree from a
university. In Bangladesh lots of private universities are operating and offering graduate and
post graduate courses. But these private universities are located mostly in the urban areas
and more or less profit oriented. Even though these universities are also offering
competitive courses but it is not affordable to mass people.

C. Recommendations for sustainability in higher education in Bangladesh


More than a few approaches have been taken in order to introduce sustainability at different
universities; many of them are very well reported in the literature. According to the Rowe,
2002, success of teaching environmental literacy and social responsibility/civic engagement
depends on an equilibrated combination of different strategies to include sustainability
simultaneously by:
1. Developing unified and universal general education requirements;
2. Introducing sustainability concepts throughout the curriculum;
3. Offering increased numbers of interdepartmental minors in sustainability;
4. Recognizing the other sectors of the institution as an important part of the latent
curriculum;
5. Introducing updated issues within the concerned subjects;
6. Incorporating environmental, social and economical issues with the scientific and
technological education so that it will generate some new ideas to maintain
sustainability;
7. Taking Lessons from western or developed nations that how they implement the suitable
education in their universities to generate efficie nt HR;
Now a days, sustainability is one of the most widely used term not only in the scientific field
but also includes all the field of education.

Concluding Remarks
Bangladeshi Universit y have developed and implemented different strategy to carry out its
environmental and societal commitments through organized planning. Every plan has prioritized
the introduction of priority issues of society into education as the main focus. The development
factor of education is enormous compared to the direct environmental impact of university
activity. On the other hand, the inclusive nature of different strategy has mirror the importance
of the different and simultaneous approaches that necessarily need to be developed in order to
guarantee progress within the whole university. This strategy includes; initiating environmental
gauge into key decision- making process; working synergistically; designing environmental
research map; and building useful tools for decision making, particularly strategic planning
indicators. In that sense, university strategies have to be complemented with creative, high
impact and relevant programs that put sustainability in the main agenda of decision makers. This
strategy change must learn from all relevant experiences in various universities. There are three
critical dimensions that are relevant in the process of introducing sustainability in higher
education (Roorda, 2002) such as content oriented vs. process oriented; Quantitative vs.
qualitative; and Prescriptive vs. descriptive. It is noticed that Bangladeshi University are trying
hard to improve their course content, quantitative and prescriptive, while there seems to be some
consensus that the desirable dimensions. To conclude, we expect from the Universities are to be
consolidate the current work and extend it by the creation of new projects and programs mainly
targeted at education and research for the sake of sustainability.

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