The Financial Express

Global scene of women in science education and Bangladesh

| Updated: October 21, 2017 06:17:19

Global scene of women in science education and Bangladesh

The UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 has been released which says that the women of Bangladesh have achieved equality in science education but they are lagging behind in engineering and research. At agricultural and medical science post-graduate and research levels women's participation has increased worldwide but Bangladesh lags behind. This picture in Ph D and in higher level research between men and women also proves discriminatory. Their participation decreases drastically in these fields. According to this report, at present 72 per cent researchers are men and 28 per cent are women in the world but in Bangladesh only 17 per cent women are found in this field. They get married after graduation or post-graduation education and get engaged in looking after children, families and other familial affairs. So, it becomes difficult for them to conduct research. Their participation in agriculture is 31.1 per cent and 33.3 per cent in medicine globally whereas this percentage is still below 30 per cent in Bangladesh. This report gets published every five years and presents a picture of the trends in global research and development, based on a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data.
Women tend to have more limited access to funding than men and to be less represented in prestigious universities and among senior faculty, whether on faculty boards or at the higher levels of decision-making in universities. The regions with the highest shares of women researchers are Southeast Europe (49%), the Caribbean, Central Asia and Latin America (44%). Sub-Saharan Africa counts 30% women and South Asia 17%. Southeast Asia presents a contrasting picture, with women representing 52% of researchers in the Philippines and Thailand, for instance, but only 14% in Japan and 18% in the Republic of Korea. While, globally, women have achieved parity at Master's level, their share diminishes at Ph D level to 43% of all doctoral graduates. The gap continues to widen after this, as women only represent 28.4% of the world's researchers. Gross domestic expenditure on research and development increased globally by 31 per cent between the period of 2007 and 2013 rising from $ 1,132 billion in 2007 to $ 1,478 billion in 2013. Five regions represent 77% of the global investment in research and development: 28% for USA, 20% for China, 19% for the European Union and 10% for Japan. The other 67% of the global population just represent 23% of global investment in research and development. The investment in research also translates into an increase in the number of scientists, estimated at 7.8 million worldwide, which is up by more than 20% since 2007.
The trends and developments in science, technology and innovation policy and governance between 2009 and mid-2015 described here provide essential baseline information on the concerns and priorities of countries that should orient the implementation and drive the assessment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the coming years. The world can learn from the report that despite the economic crisis that hit industrialised countries in 2008, gross domestic expenditure on research and development increased globally by 31% between 2007 and 2013. This increase was more rapid than that of global gross domestic product during the same period (20%). Research investment by countries such as Brazil, India and Turkey is increasing rapidly. Some 72% of the world's researchers can still be found in the European Union, China, Russia, the United States and Japan.
To alleviate global poverty the study, research and development of science is a must and women's active inclusion and participation in science is crucial. Encouraging women to take part in science would allow any country to maximise its valuable human assets, empower its women, and improve its economic prospects. We cannot lag behind in this respect if we really want to alleviate poverty. It is still rare to find women working in scientific fields in many countries. Female researchers, those that continue to actively practice science after obtaining higher education degrees, remain under-represented. Bangladeshi women have already proved their worth and potentiality in various fields such as administration, armed forces, police, doctors. It tells us that they have every potential to shine in scientific fields if we can give a genuine drive.
Why Bangladeshi students particularly girls in rural areas don't study science is not unknown to us. They get promoted to higher classes with the poor conceptual ideas as they don't get proper guidance in science subjects. They develop a fear to study science subjects. Those who study science experience limited or no access to laboratory facilities in the schools.  
To address these issues, some TV channels can introduce science programmes where the basic and tough chapters can be discussed. The rural students can follow these programmes and the programmes must be developed according to their level. The newspapers can publish at least one page a week focusing on the basic concepts of different issues of science to be contributed by trained teachers and educationists.
A student brigade can be formed by the ministry of education where the brilliant students of colleges and universities will be included. The brigade will work during the longer vacations. These students of the brigade will visit a cluster of schools in rural areas for weeks together to discuss, conduct sessions on basic facts of science where the students of rural schools and colleges will participate to have clear conception about science subjects. The District Education Officers along with Upazila Secondary Education Officers can coordinate the affairs locally. Science education must be made easier, interesting and popular. Only then, more girls will study science who will grow up with special affinity with science education.  
The writer works in BRAC Education Program as a specialist and writes regularly on various national and international issues. Email: [email protected]

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