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More practical steps are prerequisite closing the industry-academia gap

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem, Vice-Chancellor, BUTEX discussed the current status of textile education and progresses happening to close the gap between industry and academy

When it comes to textile engineering education, there is a gap between what industry desires and what universities offer. To close this gap, more and more practical steps are crucial to ensure collaboration between academic textile engineering programs and industry.

Recently, Team Textile Today has taken an interview with Prof. Md. Abul Kashem (MA Kashem) Vice-Chancellor, Bangladesh University of Textiles (BUTEX). He discussed the current status of textile education as well as some continuous and imminent progress happening to close the gap between industry and academy.

Figure 1: Prof. Md. Abul Kashem (MA Kashem) Vice-Chancellor, BUTEX.

MA Kashem, a renowned Bangladeshi educationist, is a Professor in the Department of Apparel Engineering and the third Vice-Chancellor of the University. Prior to his appointment, he was the Chairman of the Bangladesh Technical Education Board. He was a student of the first batch of the then College of Textile Technology (present BUTEX) affiliated to Dhaka University. From this college, he obtained a BSc degree in Textile Technology in 1981. He received his PGD in Clothing Technology from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom in 1986 and an MSc in Textile Science and Engineering in 1986. Since 2019, he has been serving as VC of BUTEX.

Here is the Illuminating part for the readers.

Textile Today: Kindly share us BUTEX’s recent updates.

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: This historic university started its journey as BUTEX in 2011. Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina has upgraded this legendary educational institute as a university. Which enables higher R&D in the textile and jute sector in the country. Creating efficient and capable textile engineers for the textile industry – who are enabling to cater the textile industry’s various challenges like process/product development, diversification, technical issues, etc.

Having said that, the main catalyst for transformation was highly capable teachers and it needs considerable time. Back then we had only a handful number of teachers. BUTEX took the initiative and created new teaching posts. We also sent our teachers abroad for higher degrees like Ph.D. The university has been providing adequate funding for research. In addition, we are progressively increasing the amount that will bolster the research capability of both teachers and students.

As for the academic perspective, from this year BUTEX will offer a regular Master’s degree program, as well as, a Ph.D. program. This will be a jewel in the crown of BUTEX.

Also, note that very recently BUTEX inaugurated a 15 storied academic building. Where we will be able to provide higher R&D and lab facilities for more sophisticated textile studies. Which will enable BUTEX students to cater to more sophisticated challenges of the textile industry.

On a bird’s eye view, as a torchbearer university in Bangladesh – in making textile graduates – BUTEX is doing an excellent job.

With the adaption of industry 4.0, the textile industry is moving forward at a breakneck speed and daily adapting to new technology and techniques to keep up with the pace. We still feel a gap and lack our students in exposure to the industry.

Although our fourth-year students go to factories for 2 months of internships – but this is not enough to grasp the vast development taking place in the textile industry. Similarly, the textile and apparel (T&A) industry can be benefited from our Ph.D. holder teachers in terms of solving technical challenges that happen during production. So, we need to increase correspondence between BUTEX and the industry.

Textile Today: Are there any practical steps taken to increase connectivity between BUTEX and the industry?

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: The progress is not satisfactory at all. Our doors are always open for industry engagement. For instance, BUTEX provides a testing service. Compared to private firms’ lab testing fees are next to nothing. Our textile factories should come here and avail the service more.

Figure 2: Tareq Amin, CEO; Sanjoy Saha, Sr. Manager (Industry Engagement & Sub-Editor), Textile Today with Prof. Md. Abul Kashem.

Besides, for executive efficiency development, we have a center called Executive Development Center (EDC) – where we are providing a free 10-month long training program for mid-level management.

From an academic perspective, in our council, planning and development council and in various academic committees – we have members from organizations like BGMEA, BTMA, BKMEA, etc. to increase their participation with BUTEX.

As I said above, we have strengthened our research capability, and one aspect of that is BUTEX is encouraging its faculty members to conduct their research in collaboration with the industry. Thus our teachers will gain firsthand experience in solving day-to-day industry problems and students will gain that experience from them.

Textile Today: As you rightly highlighted regarding research, kindly share with us in which sector should we prioritize while conducting any research?

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: At the moment, the industry is mainly focusing on export-oriented products and sectors. But there is a huge opportunity in the primary textile sector in terms of high-end fiber development for making value-added apparel. Similarly, in all types of raw material and material development research is the need of the hour.

In BUTEX’s perspective, we are highly focusing on research on textile raw material – also in fabrics development and other sectors. Also, we are procuring textile raw material-related equipment.

Textile Today: As for fiber research, we know that Bangladesh is dependent on imported cotton. Whereas, jute is the homegrown fiber and BUTEX used to have two departments i.e. cotton and jute. Over the years jute study and research have been neglected. So, what is BUTEX’s viewpoint regarding jute?

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: Yes, this is a pathetic reality that over the years – along with the jute sector’s decline, jute study and research has been ignored too. Students have lost interest in jute study. To revive from this, we have taken a new initiative to open a separate department for jute. At the moment, we are finalizing the curriculum and syllabus. We are going to do an awareness-building seminar where jute experts will be present. We hope that this initiative will create fresh and capable graduates for the sector.

Textile Today: Bangladesh’s textile and apparel industry is now 40 years old and it is quite mature. And you have stressed the need for product diversification, innovation in the textile sector as the way forward. Kindly elaborate your opinion regarding the future paradigm shift of our textile industry.

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: As an academician, I see that the future paradigm shift lies in developing in the textile sector. For instance, we are importing almost all the textile dyes and chemicals. The same goes for textile machinery design and maintenance. This capability development will be a game-changer in our textile industry.

To bridge the gap – BUTEX opened two new departments. One is Dyes & Chemical Engineering Department. The graduates will play a critical role in making dyes and chemicals in near future. On the machinery side, we have opened a new department called Machinery Design & Maintenance Department.

Textile Today: As you have depicted the prominence of education in the T&A industry. How do you see Bangladesh’s overall textile education?

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: Yes, textile education is the artery of the Bangladesh T&A industry. The Bangladesh govt. is also gave prioritized the textile education and took various initiatives. Under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute – the Dept. of Textiles is operating 8 textile engineering colleges. Where these colleges are providing B.Sc. in Textile Engineering certificate programs.

BUTEX is providing academic affiliation to these colleges. As well, we are also looking after the examination and certification of these 8 textile engineering colleges.

On top of it, to produce quality diploma engineers the Dept. of Textiles have textile institutes. Besides, to create skilled manpower in the textile industry – the govt. opened textile vocational institutes.

Meaning, the infrastructure is there and the textile education sector is getting more and more focus to cater to the increasing progress. Also, there are almost 20 private universities who have textile departments.

Textile Today: Kindly share us the quality of these textile vocational institutes.

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: Quality is a continuous process, especially in the education sector. Not only in BUTEX, we continuously suggest and guide the Dept. of Textiles regarding the building of quality of teachers in the 8 affiliated textile colleges. As, it is apparent that these institutes do not have up to the mark faculty – needed to cater to the top-notch textile sector. And I want to re-emphasize the Dept. of Textiles – also in private universities – on having quality teachers this is a must everywhere.

Textile Today: Kindly share us the impact of COVID-19 in education.

Prof. Md. Abul Kashem: It has greatly hampered our education, no doubt about that. Although, through the online classes we have tried to cover the theoretical part. And now covering the practical part when the pandemic lockdown was relaxed a bit. However, we need at least around 2 years to recover from session jams.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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