Gazi Mahabubul Alam Discusses a Study on Private HE in Bangladesh

Fast Moving Front Commentary, January 2011

Gazi Mahabubul Alam

Article: The impact of introducing a business marketing approach to education: A study on private HE in Bangladesh

Authors: Alam, GM;Khalifa, MTB
Journal: AFR J BUS MANAG, 3 (9): 463-474, SEP 2009
Addresses: Univ Malaya, Fac Educ, Kuala Lumpur 50603, Malaysia.
Univ Malaya, Fac Educ, Kuala Lumpur 50603, Malaysia.
Univ Malaya, Fac Business & Accountancy, Kuala Lumpur 50603, Malaysia.

Gazi Mahabubul Alam talks with and answers a few questions about this month's Fast Moving Fronts paper in the field of Economics & Business.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

There are three reasons that I believe are behind the high citations. They are:

1. Multi-disciplinary Approach: Earlier education was considered as an interdisciplinary subject with a connection to economics, sociology, and non-profit based finance. Fundamentally, schools of education delivered teacher education, curriculum, and instructional technology. School of economics worked for finance, planning, and policy aspects in education. On the other hand, schools of business and management studies looked after education management. These schools worked in an isolation, which lacked integration.

Education was earlier considered as public goods, the latter as private goods. Lately, it has become a "commodity" to some clusters of people in society. Thus marketing is also a major role and this has a wider impact in the eyes of economics, sociology, finance, philosophy, and education itself.

Since each school worked in isolation, there was little opportunity provided to have a multi-disciplinary understanding and impact. This resulted in fewer citations to a paper which only discussed the education sector.

With a mosaic background of business, economics, and education studies, I thought of providing a common podium of understanding for all the schools concerned. I wanted it to be a study with completeness from multi-disciplinary areas. Moreover, philosophy and genesis of education are also discussed. All these have provided a wider impact on knowledge for different fields to use this research as a reference.

2. Simple Terminology: The paper uses practical and pragmatic concepts rather than theoretical agenda from the fields of economics, business, management, sociology, and philosophy with simplistic use of terminology. It also provided logic based on arguments avoiding tautology.

"I sincerely hope that the governments will try their best to make better use of private money invested in education through the initiative of marketing activities."

3. A New Glimpse: There are many minor issues that scholars may usually ignore while investigating these kinds of issues. We were careful not to ignore any issue until we were completely satisfied that the issue had no major impact.

Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

It has discovered the disadvantages of education marketing and how to bridge the gap between the producer and the consumer of knowledge.

We primarily wanted to collect data directly from the educational institutions, but they turned our request down on grounds of financial confidentiality. But that did not stop us from venturing into this research. It was a great challenge to have data on such confidential and sensitive issues. It was very important for this research to understand the total investment made on marketing with a clear picture of different types of expenditures for different kinds and nature of marketing.

Since institutions declined to provide us with data, we undertook different methodological challenges to collect this data from different sources, like the national dailies which institutions used for marketing. Eventually, we discovered this approach to be more concrete than collecting data from institutions to avoid misrepresentation of facts.

The thrust of conducting this research was to ensure the right tools and right way of using them with coherence. This study also involved semi-structured interviews with different groups of people involved in education. Data were also collected through simple questionnaires and administered amongst the staff and students.

It has carefully synthesized the ideas and concepts from different areas of knowledge. Many of the arguments are made through different looks of postulates.

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

The significance of this paper lies in showing the difference of attitude to education between the past and the present. As I have stated earlier, the main aim of this paper was to make the scholars of different fields comprehend the deterioration of education from being a public product of the past to a commodity of the present times.

This article was not about marketing of institutions but about education itself. Marketing is not a parameter for quality judgment of any institution. Quality judgment would be based on other phenomena. This paper advocates shifting the marketing thrust from institutional marketing to education product marketing. It will bring change on quality education. It will also result in well-timed development that society needs for education I also wanted to highlight how education was valued through advertisements and institutional marketing.

Therefore we have appealed to the world governments to evaluate education though positive national policy planning instead of allowing it to be controlled by glamorous advertisements and the marketing people who want their educational institutions to make a profit in the so-called education industry. We thus made an effort to summarize each concept outlined from different fields of study in a crystal-clear way for every reader regardless of the field of expertise.

How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

As a citizen of an underprivileged nation like Bangladesh, I was always concerned about the state of education and its qualitative implications. On the top of it I always asked myself whether the cost of education that my country's children were paying was value for money. Many a time, I travelled through the length and breadth of Bangladesh by public transport to interact with the school children and college students to get in touch with real-life issues that touched the world of education. I discovered that the main stakeholders of education (the students) paid more for the institutions and less for their education.

"I think that this research is a humble beginning in many ways which may find an enriched interest in all researchers and people involved with education."

Therefore I was bent upon in getting this fact to this research table to see if there is a way to lessen the cost of education and make it affordable for the children of developing countries. At the end of the day, this research aimed at providing qualitative education with a pocket-friendly budget and allowing the educational institutions to be taken care of by the educational planners at the helm of affairs.

Yes, there was a great challenge which stood before me on this research track. The challenge was to get the reliable and confidential data from the financial departments dealing with the world of education. I was supposed to collect data not only from micro-level planning bodies dealing with the immediate stakeholders but also from macro-level financial policy planners.

My posting with the UN enabled me to collect data without any fear or favor. It also gave me the leverage to collect all the financial details at the micro and the macro level. I was assured by the UN that all the data were reliable even if they were confidential.

There was another setback which was behind my mind. It was to find out the right platform to raise these issues which were so disturbing for the world of education. I always craved for a qualitative education at an affordable price for our citizens. This research also aimed at creating world-class educational institutions without exploiting our immediate stakeholders of education (the students).

I am really grateful to the then Secretary General in the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh Mr. Ataur Rahman who permitted research in my homeland to start and continue in good spirits for a healthy cause in the discipline of education.

My previous employer was wonderful in many ways. But it limited my intellectual freedom. It gave me the academic freedom that I seldom needed. What I was yearning for in the heart of my hearts was the intellectual freedom. I had completed this research with a lot of ups and downs. I was not given a green signal for publication for nine months. The permission was given with lots of censorship. My intellectual freedom was taken away. This research could not see the light of the day.

Being a passionate academic, I changed my job and joined the faculty of education in University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was the place where I regained my intellectual freedom. The current Vice Chancellor Datuk Prof Dr. Ghauth Jasmon encouraged me to share my research findings in the academic arena and get them published in different Thomson Reuters-indexed journals. This was the time when my research took off on a new runway.

The final step of success came when the African Journal of Business Management accepted my research finding for publication. This was the most beneficial journal for this research because it was able to focus all the fields of my interest under one umbrella right from education to civil rights through economics, business, and management. I am indebted to reviewers, editors, editorial board, and the editorial assistant who have helped to share the success of this research beyond the borders of Bangladesh.

Where do you see your research leading in the future?

I think that this research is a humble beginning in many ways which may find an enriched interest in all researchers and people involved with education.

Firstly it may lead the policy makers to rethink their strategies on education to make it more affordable and qualitative.

Secondly it may be good food for thought for practitioners of educational policies to use the findings of this research in future planning.

Thirdly this study will look forward to the growth of a competitive and qualitative private sector in education which will bring healthy fruits to our society in developing countries.

This research may also invite responses from all involved in the field of education to see if the suggestions and recommendations of this research can be applied to other developing countries of the world. 

Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

Theoretically and ideally speaking, the state of education should shape the politics and sociology of a nation. But this research has discovered that it is the other way round where politics and sociology shape the quality of education.

The findings of this research will not be fruitful if the policy makers and the people at the top of the developing world do not take steps to implement the suggestions and recommendations of this study. There will be a permanent setback to education and its management in the developing countries if the governments are not able to bring metamorphic change at the grassroots with the help of this research finding.

Therefore I sincerely hope that the governments will try their best to make better use of private money invested in education through the initiative of marketing activities. This would balance advertisements of educational institutions, promotion of education and quality of education to help the main stakeholders of education in the right direction.End

Gazi Mahabubul Alam, Ph.D.
Professor in Education Management, Planning & Policy
Department of Educational Management, Planning & Policy
Faculty of Education
University of Malaya
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



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