Higher Education in Bangladesh: Right or Product

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As ours is a developing country, we have been struggling with a good deal of problems. Here, ironically, not all the citizens are blessed with same standard of living. Most of them are hardly meeting both the ends. Food, clothing, shelter, education and medication are the five basic needs of human being. Education is such a basic need that has a different importance to different class of people. When we are still struggling with achieving mass literacy, the question of imposing VAT on the private universities for higher education should be beyond discussion.

The present era is based on the use of modern technology. With the use of modern equipments, the cost of living is also rising day by day. In this context, the cost of education has been matter of aristocracy nowadays. There is competition in everywhere. Moreover, there is a doubt of quality education also. As a result, the parents are in a dilemma what extent they will be successful to make their children educated. However, higher education has become a tough opportunity for the children of the middle class of the society. The increasing amount of cost has been a burden for the middle class family.

According to the constitution, each and every citizen is entitled to the right of education and the government must ensure the arrangements of education. In other words, the duty of the state is to provide quality education to everyone. In Bangladesh, our higher education is provided by a shared cooperation of public and private colleges and universities. There are around 160 private institutions providing higher education in the country. As usual the public universities are far cheaper than the public institutions. Again, the quality of the education provided by the private universities is very poor. Though there are a lot of differences between the level of quality of education, the tuition fees of the private institutions are increasing day by day. On the contrary, the tuition fees of the public colleges, universities are cheaper. But there is limitation of seat in those universities. As a result, the parents become bound to get their children admitted to the private universities.

Recently, the Finance Minister of the present awami league government, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, has announced a proposal of value-added tax (vat) on the private universities, medical and engineering colleges. From the very beginning of this proclamation from the Finance Minister, the flame of agitation has spread out all over the country. The students of different privates universities gathered together in the streets of the cities demanding their constitutional rights of education which will be any kind of VAT free. The agitated students had blocked the roads for hours. They were locked in a clash with the police also. This blockade of road has caused great sufferings for the people.

The imposition of VAT has been subjected to a good deal of criticisms. According to the educationists, the declaration of the imposition of VAT on the private universities and medical and engineering colleges will be an impediment on the way of higher education. Since, there has been a demand for increasing subsidy in the education sector to ease the financial burden of higher education. But it is very surprising that the government is taking a step which will hamper our higher education system. So, a question can arise whether education is a product or rights.

Product is meant to be bought by the consumer paying the VAT to the government but the government without any VAT, provides rights. Constitution says that receiving education is a right of the citizen of the country but the government’ decision implies that it is a product.

Primary education is important but higher education is more significant. The cost of higher education is already in an alarming rate. The imposition of VAT will make it more difficult and unbearable for the parents of the students. For that reason, the decision should be reconsidered.

Higher education is not privilege for a particular class. The imposition of VAT on the private colleges and universities is a discriminatory one as it is proposed only for the private universities, medical and engineering colleges. It will create disparity among the students of the society.

The government explained that the VAT would be applicable on the university authority. The students will be free from VAT. However, it is clear that the university authority will extract these increased expenses from the students in guise of the tuition fees. It will be almost impossible for most of the students. This is the reason; the students are protesting this decision of the government.

However, there is the positive result of this protest. The government has announced the withdrawal of the imposition of VAT on the private universities, medical and engineering colleges on the face of the mass protest. The protesters become happy hearing the declaration from the government. The rights of higher education have been restored.

It is education, which is the backbone of a nation. Unless and until this sector is given more importance, it is not possible for us to improve our standard of living. Human civilization is based on the dimensions of education received. We are not successful enough to provide our children with quality education. In this note, it will be unrighteous to impose more burden on them. Higher education is a right of every citizen and the state should be more serious to ensure this right for everyone.

According to the University Act it is stated that the state requires such private institutions which will operate on non-profit basis emphasizing on providing a quality higher education. But it is a shocking incident that we are experiencing the opposite scenario in Bangladesh. We need a public-private joint venture in developing the quality of education and to provide the students with education on the highest possible low cost. It is very essential to formulate any policy with a great consideration of the socioeconomic conditions of the country. Otherwise, peaceful state can turn into a violent one.