Chemical Education in Asia Pacific


S. Z. Haider

Department of Chemistry, Dhaka University, Dhaka - 1000, Bangladesh

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Of late, the chemical education has assumed a new dimension in view of the unique approach to the study of the material world and the universe as a whole. Thus we now have to study cosmological chemistry, biological chemistry, environmental chemistry, superconductor chemistry and many other frontiers have advanced chemistry and chemical education to an extremely dynamic endeavours of human knowledge in this age of exploration of space as well as micromolecular state of the material world in vitro and in vivo.

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Bangladesh came into being as an independent country in 1971. It was a part of Pakistan from 1947 to 1971 and before 1947 it was one of the most fertile land of the Indian sub-continent. The country occupies an area of about 145000 square kilometers mostly consisting of alluvial deltaic flood plains washed by the three major rivers of the region - the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna and innumerable tributaries and distributaries. The lush green environment has scanty of mineral resources but has large reserve of natural gas. The climate is temperate but humid during the rainy season. The Tropic of Cancer divides the country almost into two halves.

Obviously the climatic conditions of the region having a large varieties of plant kingdom provided the ancient culture for the practice of herbal medicines. But the knowledge of the use of plants was confined to a particular class of elite actually handed down from father to son and the practice was pursued as a family tradition. The practice of ancient chemistry in Bangladesh has been elaborately documented in the monumental work of P.C. Ray (1861-1944) "A History of Hindu Chemistry". Perhaps there was no formal education system in chemistry for common people but the methods of chemistry were used from time immemorial in this region. Svante Arrhenius (1850-1927) in his book "Chemistry in Modern Life" mentioned about the use of metallic and especially mercurial drugs as discussed by P. C. Ray. Preparation of herbal medicines side by side the technology of casting of metals and alloys (copper, gold, silver, iron, bronze, brass) existed. These practices were followed as family tradition.

Before the advent of Islam, Bangladesh can be justly proud of as a region of Buddhist culture. Evidences of the remains of numerous Buddhist colleges (monasteries) have been discovered. However, one is not certain about the courses of studies followed in these colleges. One of the famous university was Nalanda University in the eastern part of the Indian sub-continent. There are reasons to believe that the knowledge about the technical aspects of chemistry was fairly advanced as may be discerned from the relics of terra-cotta, ceramic works, metal artifacts and coins.

There seems to be lull in the activities based on chemical knowledge during the period from 800-1300 A. C. when the Brahmanic philosophy gained ground in this region but the old pattern of Ayurvedic system of medicine continued. The introduction of Islam in Bangladesh began in the 12th century through the humanitarian services to the majority of oppressed population. The Sufies (mystics or saints) established collegiate bodies for the dissemination of the knowledge for the welfare of mankind. But the alchemical belief of transmutation of base metals into gold persisted as in the Middle Eastern countries. In addition, the hunt for Elixir or the potion for eternal rejuvenation involved much of practical applications of chemistry such as laboratory processes of calcination, solution, distillation, sublimation, crystallisation etc. Bangladesh region during the Muslim rule was a rich country which attracted the European communities such as Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British. Originally they came to Bangladesh as traders for procurement of sugar, saltpeter, paper, textiles, dyes, washing soda, common salt, perfumes, tanned leather, ceramics and above all the famed muslin cloth of Dhaka. Obviously the state of the art of chemistry was in vogue although no formal education in chemistry existed but the practice as intellectual property and propriety continued to thrive in an admirable fashion.

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In the cauldron of historical melding process the British came out successful in the long struggle for supremacy among the Europeans themselves and among the local rulers of Bangladesh. Ultimately the British occupied Bangladesh in 1757 and controlled the political and economic power. It was in 1835 that after a good deal of debates in the British Parliament, Lord Macaulay, the President of the General Committee of Education in India recommended the European education through the medium of English. It was indeed a momentous decision and had far-reaching effects on the educational pattern of Bangladesh. In the same year in 1835 the Calcutta Medical College was founded. Subsequently most of the academic and professional institutions were established mostly in and around Calcutta. The people of Bangladesh could not derive much benefit out of these institutions. It is reported that the British under the East India Company established the first school in Dhaka in July 1835 for teaching English literature and Science. This was later named as Dhaka Collegiate School. When a new building was built a college named as Dhaka College was also housed in the first floor of the building. Upto the end of the First War of Independence (1857-58) from the British rule under the agency of the British East India Company, there was not much progress in the educational, economic and social reforms in the region of Bangladesh which actually served as the hinterland of the India's capital Calcutta upto 1911 and later on as the Head Quarter of Bengal upto 1947. The British also suppressed with cruelty the rebellions movement against forced cultivation of indigo in this region to extract the colouring matter for supplying the dye to the Calico textile industries in Britain. After the suppression of the War of Independence in 1858, the rule of the East India Company was abolished and the British Government assumed direct rule under the Crown. The India Council Act was passed in 1861 and gradually new schemes of scientific and technological education were introduced. However, the region of Bangladesh remained deprived of the educational, economic, social and commercial activities since the focus and the thrust area of the developmental programmes were directed around Calcutta. Upto the beginning of the 20th century there were only 11 Colleges in Bangladesh. Chemistry was taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most of these Colleges offered B. Sc. degree with chemistry as one of the combination of subjects mostly comprising Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry. The Biological sciences were started at a latter stage. It may be noted that the majority of the population of Bangladesh during the period upto 1947 could not derive much benefit out of the facilities of scientific, medical and engineering education mainly for socio-economic and political reasons.

It was perhaps purely for the administrative reasons that during the Viceroyalty of Lord Curzon a political partition of the Province of Bengal was brought about in 1905. But again for the reasons of the exigencies this partition was annulled in 1911 and the Capital of India was shifted to New Delhi. The majority of the population of Bangladesh region were adversely affected and remained backward in the educational and socio-economic activities.

In 1912 the Nathan Committee of the British Government produced a detailed report about the establishment of a residential teaching university at Dhaka on the pattern of Oxford and Cambridge universities in England. After a good deal of debates and obstructions from various quarters, the Indian Legislative Council in 1920 passed the Dhaka University Act XVIII which received the assent of the Governor General on the 23rd March 1920 for the establishment of a unitary teaching and residential university at Dhaka which started functioning on the 1st of July 1921.

In accordance with the recommendations of the Sadler Commission, students were required to be accommodated in halls (dormitories) and the teaching and curricula were entrusted to teachers of the respective Departments. The planning of curricula administration to be vested on Academic Council. The relevant departments to constitute the Faculties as Arts, Science, Law, Medicine, Agriculture etc. Almost all the universities in Bangladesh now follow the same academic and administrative infrastructures.

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Chemistry was introduced as a major course of science for 3 years Honours level and 2 years for ordinary graduation after the pre-university level of education. The M. Sc. course is of one year duration for B. Sc. (Honours) graduates and for 2 years duration for B.Sc. (Pass) graduation who are required to pass M. Sc. (Preliminary) examination before taking up the final course. In the beginning the 2 years Honours course in chemistry was also continued for some time at some colleges under the Calcutta University curriculum which was abolished soon after the establishment of Pakistan in 1947. Bangladesh was then the Eastern wing of Pakistan. In addition to the specialised courses of chemistry for university degrees, chemistry is also followed as an essential requirement for degrees in medicine, engineering and agriculture and as subsidiary or minor subject for many other science major courses.

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4.1. Chemical Education in Dhaka University

From the Year 1921 upto 1956 Dhaka University was the only university in Bangladesh. In 1956, a second university was started at Rajshahi, more or less on the same institutional requirements as those of Dhaka University. Subsequently other universities established latter also followed similar course system for chemical education. The major course contents comprised topics on physical, organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry. However, in the beginning, courses in Applied or Industrial Chemistry was given as specialised subject along with chemistry which is nowadays being continued to a lesser extent in the Department of Chemistry in view of the establishment of separate department of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Technology in some universities. Biochemistry and Soil Science were previously offered as specialised courses of Chemistry at Dhaka University. A separate Department of Soil Science was started in Dhaka University in 1949 and Biochemistry was established in 1957 having respective detailed specialised courses for both B.Sc.(Honours) and M.Sc. levels. Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry were also established at the only Agricultural University in Bangladesh situated at Mymensingh. Chemistry courses are compulsory for the graduation in different branches of agriculture, engineering and medicine.

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4.2. University Administration

In view of the fact that universities in Bangladesh can not provide residential accommodation in their halls of residence, a large majority of students are classified as "attached" since, as per rule, students have to be officially attached to one of the several halls of residence under the administration of a provost who is assisted by a number of senior and junior "house tutors". The positions of Provosts and House Tutors are appointed from amongst the teachers of the university belonging to some departments. The Vice-Chancellor is the administrative head appointed by the Government of Bangladesh from amongst a panel of 3 nominees of the Senate. However, in some universities the Vice-Chancellors are directly appointed by the Government of Bangladesh as is used to be before the promulgation of the 1973 University Ordinance introducing the democratic systems of University administration through election and the tenure periods of the departmental chairmanship. The approximate numbers of male and female students of various universities in the departments imparting education in Chemical Sciences (chemistry, applied chemistry, chemical technology, chemical engineering, biochemistry, soil science and pharmacy) and of the only Agricultural University are indicated in Table 1.

Table 1. Approximate number of students in the faculties providing education of chemical sciences in the universities of Bangladesh as in 1994.



Dhaka University



Rajshahi University



Chittagong University



Jahangirnagar University



Sylhet University



Khulna University(1)



National University









Islamic University






(1) Specialised courses in chemistry not introduced
    but as minor subjectinvolving 315 students.
(2) Bangladesh University of Engineering and 
    Technology (BUET). In addition to chemical
    engineering, B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. students
    there are also pure chemistry M.Phil and Ph.D.
    students. Besides chemistry undergraduate
    courses are compulsory for the other engineering
    students. There are about 204 male and 25 female
    students in the departments of Industrial Production
    and Metallurgical Engineering.
(3) Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) where
    soil science and agricultural chemistry departments
    exist with specialised courses in chemistry but 
    almost all other agricultural students are 
    required to take chemistry as undergraduate
    course. There are 7 faculties at BAU and the 
    total number of students is about 5000.
(4) There are 4 Bangladesh Institute of Technology
    where undergraduate courses in basic chemistry are given.

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4.3. University Colleges

Jagannath College, one of the oldest and a premier college has been declared to be upgraded to a full-fledged university in November 1995. There are about 1500 students in the under-graduate and graduate levels in chemistry. More than 17 colleges have been recognized as University Colleges in view of the fact that these are imparting education upto Honours and M.Sc. levels. However, such University Colleges where chemical education of Honours and M.Sc. level exist are 9. University colleges are being established to bring about uniformity in the educational system.

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The National University was established in 1991 and entrusted with the responsibility of affiliation of all the degree level colleges in Bangladesh. This university has relieved the universities of Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chittagong from the rigmarole of examinations, monitoring and inspection duties at college levels and reverted back to purely residential teaching institutions. However, the National University undertakes the responsibility of affiliation, monitoring and inspection of the colleges particularly arranging the examinations at the graduate level and also for M.Sc. degree. The National University follows the traditional system of examination on the basis of paperwise evaluation but has formulated courses in chemistry for the Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 annual examinations for Honours and subsidiary examinations in 2 years namely Part 1 and Part 2. The annual examinations also include laboratory experiments as those used to be practiced in the traditional system of evaluation. The National University affiliates a very large number of colleges about 700 mostly for Arts and Commerce but there are only 17 Colleges which provide Chemistry Honours and M.Sc. level of education and 215 Colleges have facilities for B.Sc. Pass courses. Out of about 182000 candidates who appeared for graduate degree examination in 1994 there were about 4000 only who appeared for science graduation and almost all of them offered chemistry as one of the combination of the required 3 different subjects.

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There are about 10 Private universities which impart education to the wards of well-to-do families. Business administration and commerce are the main subjects. Only one or two universities provide education in chemistry dealing with environmental sciences. University of Science and Technology, Chittagong at present acts as a feeder institution to a Private Medical College at Chittagong mainly in elementary biochemistry and pharmacy.

There are 12 Medical Colleges in Bangladesh including one dental college and all these institutions impart education in chemistry of a limited scope but on relevant topical interest. The total number of the medical students receiving the elementary chemical education shall be about 4780 male and 2034 female students.


The number of technical colleges offering diploma courses in various vocational and professional skilled jobs is around 40. Every year a large number of students appear for diploma certificate examination and some of them do take elementary chemical course and food technology processing as an optional subjects. In 1993 some 54 students appeared in chemistry and 13 students in Food Processing. The total number of candidates who appeared in all the categories in 1993 was over 16000. These polytechnic are controlled by the Director of Technical Education.

The Bangladesh Institute of Technology (BIT) which provide B.Sc. degree in Engineering has been mentioned before. There are 4 BIT and the total number of students in 1993 was about 3000. These are under the direct control of Ministry of Education. In addition to the Polytechnic Institutes with large number of students, there is one Institute of Graphic Arts, one Textile College, one Leather Technology College, one Glass and Ceramic Institution, three Agricultural Colleges, one Home Economics College, and one Technical Teachers Training College. All these institutions follow some elementary courses in chemistry relevant to the specific job requirements. The administrative and the academic control of the technical colleges and polytechnic institutes are under the control of Directorate of Technical Education which also exercises control over 51 Vocational Training Institutes.

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This level covers the pre-university or predegree stage of education. In addition, the degree level colleges under the academic jurisdiction of the National University, many of these also provide higher secondary level of chemical education for science students as compulsory subject. This level of higher secondary education is under the academic jurisdiction of 5 Boards of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. Besides there are purely higher secondary colleges previously known as Intermediate Colleges which are not affiliated to the National University but are governed by the Directorate of Public Instruction and the examinations are held under the 5 Boards. There are more than 500 purely Intermediate colleges. The total number of students in the government and non-government colleges catering for the higher secondary and degree levels of education in 1993 was 912985 of which 637648 were males and 275337 were females in 1031 colleges. Considering that 30% of students take up chemistry as their combination the calculated number stands upto about 273895. The total number of student at the Higher Secondary level in non-government Intermediate colleges is 90202 male and 45740 female in 336 colleges in 1993. Both the private and government Higher Secondary Colleges are under the administrative control of the Directorate of Public Instruction of the Ministry of Education.

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8.1. Secondary Level Education

The number of Secondary Schools for boys and girls are more than 11392 as in 1993. There must has been some increase in the number of the so-called high schools for boys and girls because during the period of the present Government special measures have been taken particularly for the expansion of school education for the girls who are provided free schooling. The present syllabus for the secondary level do contain some aspects of the elements of chemistry for Secondary School Certificate examination. The Government of Bangladesh with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank has set up a National Committee for upgrading the syllabus and course contents of the Secondary and Higher Secondary levels of education including chemistry and to prescribe and produce standard books on modern lines taking into considerations contemporary developments in the field of education in chemistry.

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A very large number of books of various authors are available in Bangladesh for higher secondary level in chemistry and some books for the schools in general science including elements of chemistry. All these books follow the same old patterns of classical chemistry which was in vogue since a few decades ago. Most of the books for the higher secondary level are in Bengali and do not represent the modern developments of modern conceptual approach of the text and are devoid of practical significance of chemistry. Isolated attempts of some authors to produce books on the basis of Nuffield recommendations or Chemical Bond Approach did not meet with success since the contents were not prescribed by the Text Book Board. The teachers and students continued to follow the subject matters of chemistry in the form of mostly classical descriptive nature in details. Most of the books are in the shape of a voluminous collection of matters with numerous repetitions. There are also note books which deal with questions and answers in physical, organic and inorganic chemistry both for the degree level and for the Higher Secondary students who are inclined to learn the subject by committing to memory. Keeping in view that the curricula of general colleges, secondary levels and even primary school are outdated, the Government of Bangladesh under the General Education Project and the National Curriculum and Text Book Board, constituted a Committee named as National Committee for the Secondary and Higher Secondary Education in 1995. Accordingly the Curriculum Committee for chemistry has formulated the new curriculum for the Higher Secondary level and the work on the Secondary Curriculum level is in progress. There are expertise members in the Committee from other counties where exercises on curriculum development have proved to be successful. The Committee has also been entrusted with the task of producing text books in chemistry dealing with the modern aspects of chemical education which are significant and compatible to the international standard and the need of the country.

Thus the Committee for upgrading the chemical education at the Secondary and Higher Secondary levels for chemical education have consulted and derived benefits out of the syllabuses followed in India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, London, Philippines and the `O` and `A` levels of syllabuses of the Cambridge University.

It is to be mentioned that the `O` and `A` levels of chemistry education is being followed in some specialised private institution which has adopted exclusively English language as the medium of instructions. Such schools are only few and far between and located in large cities especially Dhaka and Chittagong. These schools are privately run and meant for the wards of rich families.

There are 10 Cadet Colleges in Bangladesh with an enrolment of more than 3000 i.e. 300 students per college. The Cadet College network is now able to widen its intake opportunities to a larger section of the society. The end-product of Cadet Colleges are of higher secondary level which have better facilities and system of discipline and education. These colleges enrol students possessing higher IQ rating and mostly come from the rich families although some students are selected on the basis of merit.

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The Government of Bangladesh in accordance with the statement of the National Development Plan realised the need for a high qualitative standard of education backed by dynamic R & D system to promote technical capability for socio-economic development to ensure a meaningful commitment and accountability to people's welfare. Chemistry being one of the most important instrument in the development plans providing a basic foundation for process development and industrialisation was considered for upgradation on priority basis along with other fields of science with emphasis on the modern principles and applications. The exercises on upgradation have been recommended by the Education Commissions set up from time to time. In 1995 the National Curriculum and Text Book Committee has decided to introduce new books for school and college levels. The deteriorating standard of education particularly in the schools and colleges and also the pre-university level has warranted the setting up of a special National Committee for modernisation of the course contents and the techniques of implementing the education in chemistry particularly the practical applications of the subject.

It is presumed that the Committee shall meet the requirements of the modern time and take a visionary approach for chemical education in Bangladesh at the moment when the next century is just knocking at the doorsteps. In the old syllabuses there are contents which are outdated in the global context. However, the idea of the acquisition of knowledge is not merely a means to an end. Therefore, the emphasis on the ethical and social values and the idea pertaining to self-employment have been emphasised. A useful blending of modern conceptual approach and practical implication and applications with the spirit of service and welfare to the nation has been taken into consideration. The development of the capability and practical skills is of prime importance which can be properly implemented only by competent trained teachers. Therefore the training programme for teachers in the methodology of teaching chemistry has to be properly implemented.

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10.1. The Reeves Committee

Prior to the establishment of the National Committee for the Development of Curriculum and Text Book in 1995, the syllabuses of the General Science for secondary level (High School Leaving Certificate) under the auspices of the National Education and Text Book Board with the advisory services of Mr. John E. Reeves of the British Government developed an updated conceptual approach to the study of chemistry as a part of an integrated science course along with physics courses. After an exercise of about 5 years (1985-1989) the text on science contained updated conceptual approach and description of simple equipment with illustrations. The modern concepts of atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, chemical bonds, chemical forces, reactions, periodic nature of elements were included in the syllabus with modern touch of the subject matter. Production of some industrial chemicals, generation of electricity by chemical reactions, conductors, non-conductors, electrochemical analysis and practical electroplating were also introduced. The use of carbon compounds and some elementary aspects of organic chemistry such as hydrocarbons, alcohol, acids, aldehydes, ketones were included. Elementary treatments of petroleum industry, soap manufacture, sugar and plastics were familiarised. Rudimentary ideas about biogas and other forms of energy were briefly mentioned. A chapter on silica and the building materials such as bricks, cement, concrete and glass was also included. Every chapter was followed by a summary asking the students to look back as to what he has learnt. The students were also given the elementary knowledge of the properties, structures and compositions of common substances to show the dependence on atomic arrangements. Interesting and thought-provoking questions are appended to each chapter. As mentioned before, the courses in chemistry was integrated with those of physics, the total marks were 100.

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10.2. Upgradation of Marks for S.S.C Level Chemistry

However, the recently constituted National Committee has revised the marking and 100 marks have been allotted to chemistry curriculum (for both theory and practical) at the Secondary School Examination.

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Of late, the matter of conducting experiments during chemical education whether at schools, colleges or universities in Bangladesh has received a set-back because of the prohibitive costs of imported equipment, instrumental materials and chemicals in general. However, attempts have been made, mostly by young meritorious students and some dedicated teachers with the support of the Government of Bangladesh to hold science exhibitions and fairs on a wide scale in order to devise equipment and apparatuses of a varied nature based on local materials.

The methods and techniques of chemical education in advanced countries are based on abundant supply of instructional materials such as varieties of text books, reference books, journals and audio-visual aids and modern equipment and also plenty of chemicals of every category. In Bangladesh it is not possible to afford such a course system. But efforts are being made with limited resources to bring about improvement in chemical education suitable to local conditions. Chemistry must be taught as a useful tool for the study of local environment insofar as its practical as well as the cultural and intellectual values are concerned. Chemistry is one of man's major intellectual and technological achievements beginning from the dawn of civilisation and therefore the education in chemistry should be directed not only for the sense of order it provides of our environment but also for its fruits. Chemistry therefore, should be taught in terms of experience in enquiry and for the realisation of its practical utility through laboratory experiments, field trips, factory visits and orientation in research laboratories.

In Bangladesh the paucity of laboratory equipment could be made up through fabrication of equipment making use of local materials, wastes and natural products and experiments so designed as to deal with some aspects of local requirements and solve problems.

At the elementary level experiments involving refining of raw sugar, the use of dyes from flowers for acid-base indicators, the collection and testing of marsh gas, the preparation of plaster of paris, the treatment of water pollution using water hyacinth, preparation of alum from factory waste, the use of vegetables such as carrot in osmosis experiments, column chromatography using chalk powder and separation of components from tree leaves extracts and other such experiments have been developed. For college level, filter papers have been used to identify cis-trans mixed isomers of some inorganic metal complexes which are placed in the middle of the paper and eluted with solutions. The isomers are distinguished by formation of coloured rings around the sample on the paper.

A model of Solvay Process has been designed as an experiment in undergraduate class by generation of carbon dioxide passed through an ammoniacal solution of brine in a large capacity beaker through the stem of an inverted funnel by means of rubber tubing connected to the carbon dioxide generator. The crystals of sodium hydrogen carbonate are separated and analysed for purity and for conversion to sodium carbonate. Cheap tube furnaces of different capacities have been designed with a relay system for the control of temperature. A cryoscopic instrument using a thermistor as temperature measuring element instead of a Backman thermometer has been designed in order to determine the molecular weight of appropriate substance and also measure the dissociation constant, association, charge and charge transfer complexes. A simple magnetic balance consisting of a movable permanent magnet of about 5000 gauss has been constructed for the measurement of magnetic susceptibility. The balance beam of metallic copper is suspended from the top of a cylindrical brass casing with the help of phosphor bronze wire and the movement of the copper beam due to the torque applied to the hanging wire is dampened by a trough containing liquid paraffin. The sample tube is suspended in the middle of the pole pieces from the tip of the long arm of copper beam and the circular movement of the magnet imparts a dragging force which gives rise to a torque in the phosphors bronze wire to which a small mirror is affixed to measure the reflection of a scale. The scale readings gives the measure of magnetic susceptibility. A standard substances of known magnetic moment such as Mohr Salt etc. are used for calibration.

The organisation of IUPAC, UNESCO and TWAS have extended help and co-operation in holding Workshops and Training Programme on LPLC Instrument such as pH meter, conductivity meter, polarimeter and other equipment which have been fabricated by the trainees who are teachers of the colleges and universities with the readily available components, electronic parts and other materials. The assistance of UNESCO and personal help of some foreign expertise have been fruitful. Recently some universities in Bangladesh have received a good number of sophisticated scientific equipment for research under the Japanese Government grant-in-aid.

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It is to be mentioned that admission to schools, colleges and the universities are not entirely free from the string-pulling and abuse of control because of limited number of seats particularly in large cities. This exigency has given rise to the demands of donations particularly in good schools. The conditions in the college level is not better since the admission seekers first crowd the precincts of good government colleges. The admission system at the universities previously used to be done on the basis of admission test and previous academic records of the students by the department concerned. But since last decade the admission to the Departments of Chemistry, Applied Chemistry, Biochemistry, Soil Science, Pharmacy and all other Departments of all faculties are conducted centrally by the Deans of the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Biological Sciences for science subjects including chemistry after a written test. Marks of the secondary and higher secondary examinations and an oral test or interview are also taken into account. Out of a total number of about 12-15 thousand candidates only about 1000 are admitted in Dhaka University in departments catering for chemical sciences. In effect, the candidates are directed to take admission according to the options indicated in the form of application for admission. This method has created confusion since in most cases the candidates who have indicated first options for Chemistry or Applied Chemistry are forced to take admission in Departments such as Zoology or Mathematics with a probable opportunity to be transferred to the first option subject in case seats become available due to vacancy. This process leads to delay in starting the classes during the admission calendar month and is one of the causes of session jams in the universities of Bangladesh. Dhaka University, the premier institution has adopted academic calendar annually with the determination to eliminate session jams and it is hopefully expected that there will be no back-log in implementation of the courses and holding of examinations from 1996-97 session. The admission problem in other universities and colleges are of similar nature.

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Bangladesh Chemical Society is relatively a new organisation and came into being in 1973. The Society has achieved a truly national character by spreading the organisational activities to involve chemists as members of the society from the academic institutions, industrial establishments and research organisations. However, it has not yet achieved the Charter of the Government of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Chemical Society is a learned body, a non-governmental and non-political organisation of graduate professional chemists from all walks of life. One of the main objectives of the Society is to take part in the programmes of upgrading the quality of chemical education and research developments and promote industrial and technological output. Apart from being a learned body, the Society looks after the welfare, job-opportunity, job-security and safeguarding the professional positions of the chemists and chemical technologists. Quite recently the Bangladesh Chemical Society submitted representation to the Chairman of the National Curriculum and Text Book Board and the Secretary Ministry of Education with regard to the introduction of 100 marks in chemistry at the Secondary School level in place of 50 marks. The efforts met with success. Most of the members of the Society in the universities and colleges are involved in the framing, recasting and upgrading of the curricula of the universities and colleges as well as taking part in the curriculum development programmes of the University Grants Commission. The author himself acted as the Chairman of the UGC Curriculum Committee for framing an upgraded and modernised syllabuses in chemistry for the university levels containing the diverse fields which have recently assumed significance from the point of view of applications of chemistry.

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This multidisciplinary subject has been incorporated in the syllabuses of all the universities at the graduate and post-graduate levels. However, the basic principle of local environment protection has been in vogue at the school levels since quite some time. Environmental science has assumed a greater significance since the problems of pollution of the environment have generated world-wide awareness. Text books for both the school level and the university courses include the environmental studies. The university education, both undergraduate and post-graduate levels on environment now exist in all the universities as compulsory courses. However, the present position in Bangladesh about environmental issue appear to be split up among different ministries and departments resulting in some conflicts of plans and programmes for the sake of co-ordination. Inspite of these obstacles the programme of environmental education has already gained great momentum as indicated in Table 2.

Table 2. Institutions involved in Environmental Education

Primary Schools Integrated elements of local environment
Secondary Schools Integrated curriculum
Higher Secondary level No specified curriculum
Undergraduate level No curriculum at college level
B.Sc. Honours level Both as major and minor subjects exist. Course contents varies from university to university.
Post-graduate levels Both compulsory and optional courses in Environmental Chemistry
Research Research in the field of environmental chemistry is very strong at the departments of chemistry and applied chemistry, chemical engineering and also at research institutions.

Bangladesh Environmental Society, although consists of members from all relevant discipline of science, social science, engineering and technology the President and many senior members have been elected from the chemistry departments of the universities of Bangladesh. Moreover, the National Committee of International Geosphere Biosphere Programmes of International Scientific Union under the auspices of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences consists of mostly persons who are involved in chemical education and research at the university levels.

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There are 10 Teachers Training Colleges at present and it has been planned to build a number of Science Education Development Centers by the Government. Primary Training Institutes have been expanded in view of the fact that Primary level of education has been made compulsory for all. There is also a National Academy for Primary Education which provides support to the Primary Training Institutes. The Government of Bangladesh has also introduced the examination system under Bangladesh Civil Service for recruitment of college teachers who are also trained at a Center of Excellence. The number of Primary and Secondary Training Institutes and the male and female trainees in 1993 were as in Table 3.

Table 3. Training Institutes and the number of trainees.


Teacher Training College Secondary Level Teachers TrainingInstitutes Primary Level
Nos. of Colleges Nos. of trainees Nos. of Institutes Nos. of trainees












An Institute for Advancement of Science and Technology Teaching (IASTT) conducts in-service science courses for teachers of universities, colleges, institutes of technology, polytechnics and other specialised institutions. IASTT was established in 1969 on the basis of experience gained during summer science courses of 4-6 weeks started with U.S. Aid in 1962. Upto date about 5000 teachers have been trained. Unfortunately IASTT has grossly inadequate physical facilities, staff strength and other logistics for appropriate training programmes.

The Technical Training College at Dhaka and the Vocational Teachers Training Institute at Bogra provide training to teachers in technical fields. The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has established an International Institute at Dhaka known as ICTVTR which provide training to students from various Islamic Countries.

With the co-operation of National Commission for UNESCO, programmes of workshops are held from time to time in order to impart training to chemistry teachers of the universities and college levels during summer recess under IASTT.

Institute of Chemists and Chemical Technologists (ICCT) has been established by the Bangladesh Chemical Society in 1990. The ICCT has been providing in-service training through the programmes of workshops, seminars and symposia and if arrangements could be made, for training in practical fields of chemistry.

Teachers training and periodical orientation within Bangladesh at the University level for chemical education suffers from inadequate initiative and lack of endeavours. The scholarships, fellowships and visit programmes to advanced countries are few and far between and do not serve the institutional needs except the demands for promotions, pay rise and strengthening of research activities of individuals. An Institute of Scientific Instrumentation under the University Grants Commission trains technicians for the science laboratories of the universities in Bangladesh to help maintain, repair and operate scientific equipment.

The Institute of Education and Research under the University of Dhaka. Provides training to teachers and awards both diploma and M.Ed. degrees. The Teachers Training Colleges awards B.Ed. degree to successful students.

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The multi-dimensional project which involves eradication of illiteracy has now been brought under Adult Literacy Programme. It does not involve chemistry education for obvious reasons. But the existing high illiteracy need special attention and a crash programme to upgrade the literacy at a speedy growth for fruitful participation in the developmental activities has to be organised.

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An institute under the name Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education (BIDE) existed possibly upto 1984 to conduct school broadcasting programmes and offer audio-visual technological assistance to the National Institute of Education Administration, Extension and Research (NIEAER), the Teachers Training Colleges, the Primary Training Institute and the National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE). The BIDE was a spill-over project and was completed in June 1986. It was further strengthened during 1987-88 and introduced successfully the Experimental Distance Education B.Ed. degree programme. The BIDE was therefore limited in scope and content. In October 1992, the Government of Bangladesh established the Open University after winding up of BIDE for distance education.

Chemistry education deals heavily on practical work and laboratory experiments and on this count, it is a challenging task to provide teaching of chemistry through distance education. However, there is a developing willingness throughout chemistry teaching to recognise the needs of the distance learning as compared to the laboratory experiments. In Bangladesh all institutions upto the secondary and higher secondary and even some colleges have no facilities and funds to provide campus laboratory practical experiments. In addition to the laboratory infrastructure, chemistry experiments require materials which are expendable and are not easily available in Bangladesh. The development of audio-visual cassettes in developing the experimental courses has proved valuable and fruitful in chemical education. In most cases the informal methodology to address the learner directly is appealing since experiments can be shown which, in some cases, can not be carried out in the laboratory. Moreover, microlevel chemical kits may be supplemented for home experiments. In addition, the development of video games and CD-ROM format provide the means to develop many of the traditional and modern laboratory skill outside the laboratory.

In order to introduce a dynamic approach in a complex socio-economic settings as prevalent in Bangladesh there are quite a large number of drop-outs from secondary and higher secondary institutions and some of these people might be in some jobs but want to complete their studies. The systems of distance learning through the programme of Bangladesh Open University (BOU) have been very helpful. BOU programmes are broadcast for 30 minutes every day. The programmes are also telecast for about 30 minutes by Bangladesh Television for 5 days a week.

Books have been prepared by DTP method for the distance learning and these books are despatched to students. These books have different approach as compared to the traditional books. The presentation of subject matters in the book makes the learner feel the presence of a hypothetical teacher and the books are divided into small units for better assimilation. BOU has 10 Regional Resource Centers and 80 Local Study Centers for counselling and assignment. In case of need Mobile Study Center is being used. The students are examined according to the feedback and cumulative tests at the end of a certain number of unit blocks. At present some 53000 students are enrolled at BOU for all courses offered. The number of students in chemistry is limited in view of the lack of trained manpower in the subject. BOU has now started the Secondary School Certificate programme mainly for drop-outs and private learners.

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In recent decades, there has been progressive migration of competent scientists, technologists and technicians from Bangladesh to more advanced countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and the Middle East. There are mainly two reasons for this exodus. Firstly the basic emoluments in Bangladesh is extremely low and secondly the opportunity and facilities for developmental work is scarcely available. Therefore competent research workers, teachers and management experts in the fields of chemical sciences have migrated to advanced countries for better salaries and for the facilities of work. Many bright students just leave the country for higher studies abroad and do not return since the opportunity for contributions in the field of their specialisation do not exist in Bangladesh. Many mediocre also find better job opportunities in the Middle Eastern countries as skilled workers. As a result the universities and colleges in Bangladesh have now started recruiting lower grade people as teachers. This phenomenon of brain drain has been detrimental to the maintenance of the standard of education for which the Government of Bangladesh is much concerned. It is for this reason that the National Curriculum Committee and Text Book Board has been constituted with foreign assistance for the upgradation of the standard of education. Unless training programmes are strengthened and implemented properly it will be hard task to achieve a breakthrough in this endeavour. It is also to be mentioned that the problem of session jam has also been responsible for a huge number of students at the school, college and university levels to go abroad especially neighbouring India in order to complete their education within the scheduled time frame which is not possible in Bangladesh mainly due to unfavourable profile prevailing in the educational institutions at present.

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The role of chemical education in the process of development of a nation and need to adopt useful guidelines and effective implementation of the programmes can not be overemphasised. The guidelines and the policy ultimately should aim at the improvement of the quality of life of the people and directed toward the welfare of common man. The principles for which chemical education be oriented to practical applications include issues which involve food, agriculture, public health, energy resources, land use, water resources, mineral exploitation, industrial infrastructures, technological advancement, the environmental protection, transfer of technology for assimilation with endogenous endeavours, information, communication and above all the advancement of ethical and social responsibility of the people as a whole and particularly of people involved in chemical education and research programmes.

The system of education followed in Bangladesh starting from the primary level to the university level correspond more or less with the pattern depicted in Fig. 1. A page from the proposed text book for Higher Secondary Level (Pre-university undergraduate) is being appended as an example of the standard followed for Chemical Education in Bangladesh through the medium of Bengali language (Appenedix A).

Fig. 1

Appendix A

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Bangladesh Chemical Education in Asia Pacific