Bangladesh is an emerging economy of the world. High capacity garments industry and integrated primary textile industry is playing the leading role in building the growing economy. In fact, Bangladesh has become somewhat like a hub for the world apparel industry and according to reliable research reports Bangladesh will be the first choice for apparel sourcing of more parts of the world in the upcoming years. Now, for this big production and supply of apparel a huge amount of manpower is engaged in the apparel industry and in the backward textile linkage industry. Education and training of this manpower in a sense is the modification and modernization of the end product. Quality education in textile and garments industry hence, is the need of time for Bangladesh. This article is all about textile and apparel education and scopes of improvement for Bangladesh in this regard.
Textile education demands integrated learning environment of theoretical and practical knowledge
Textile is an applied technology of mechanical engineering and by definition it is the technology concerned with the manufacture of textiles that is yarns and fabrics. Whereas apparel or garments is a completely different technology. Though in our country apparel manufacturing technology has been integrated into textile technology and all the fundamentals of textile process and garments process is taught under one name, textile technology/textile engineering. Dyeing, printing and finishing (wet process technology) are subject matters of textile chemistry which is also included in the curriculum of textile engineering. Thus, a textile engineer is supposed to know all the textile processes starting from spinning, weaving/knitting, dyeing, printing, and finishing, to the garmenting process.
Textile education in Bangladesh is formulated towards producing basic products in huge quantity
With the emergence of fashion trends in the recent past, even fashion designing now is a major course in textile engineering. So, logically textile engineering curriculum in Bangladesh is a digest of all the applied technologies that are practiced in the several textile and apparel industries of the country.
Textile engineering in the international context
Bachelor degree in textiles started in Bangladesh with the emergence of College of Textile Engineering and Technology (CTET) in 1978 under the affiliation of University of Dhaka and a curriculum was set according to the demand of the market. And as it was the early days when the textile and garments sector started booming here, only lower-end, cheap and inferior technology oriented items were produced then. As a result the curriculum for textile engineering was designed with the fundamental courses of textile and garmenting process helpful to produce those basic items. In this year, still our garment industry is more or less confined in producing basic items like shirts, T-shirts, polo-shirts, trousers, tank-tops, basic baby items and all. Though some organizations have gone and started going beyond the customary trend, producing a bit high-end items like suits, jackets etc. But Bangladesh is still familiar for producing low end basic consumer clothing. And that is what textile engineering is still meant to be here in Bangladesh.
But internationally textile engineering is not only confined to what we see. Developed countries are more concerned in sourcing basic items from countries like Bangladesh and what they mean by textile engineering has a broader sense. Hence, Universities there, have textile engineering courses designed accordingly.
North Carolina State University, which is one of the best hundred Universities in the world, offers courses on Textile Engineering concentrating on subject matters which are sometimes beyond our general imagination. What they think of a Textile Engineer is someone who-
• Develops a nano-composite material for deep space exploration.
• Integrates a worldwide distribution program, eliminating a company’s reliance on regional stockpiles
• Develops new biocompatible materials for artificial organs, blood vessels, tendons, or ligaments
• Designs a product that grants more independence to those with disabilities to make a difference.
This clearly distinguishes the objective of textile engineering in our country and in the developed countries. Where a Textile Engineering student in Bangladesh is learning how to produce basic lifestyle products, a Textile Engineering student in America is learning how to make life easier. They are working with solutions that can be provided with textiles to the common and major problems of the world.
Another University at the United States namely, Philadelphia University is providing textile engineering course concentrating on Mechanics of Textiles, Advanced Textile Composites, Biomaterials Technology, Advanced Nonwoven Structures, Product Development and Product Evaluation.
So this is easy to understand the difference in standard of education. But what I think is that, it is quite normal when the market demand is in concern. The developed countries are more concerned to source their clothing from populous countries like Bangladesh where labor is cheap and what they are concentrating is on technical and smart textiles. That’s the primary reason between the huge difference between textile engineering curriculum of our country and the developed countries.
If Europe is in concern, we can see more or less the same scenario. Most of the universities and colleges that are offering degrees on textiles are majorly on textile management, apparel merchandising and fashion designing apart from textile processes. They are producing manpower that will be able to source their required clothing according to consumer demand and are capable of maintaining effective clothing offices.
This is what textile education means in the developed countries; technical and smart textiles
Manchester University is a mentionable name in the field of textile technology and it has quite a success in continuous innovation in many applied areas of textile engineering. It is one of the oldest centers of textile education and no doubt they are the pioneer in advanced research work in the whole Europe.
Apart from Germany, all the European countries follow this trend when textile and apparel education is in concern. Germany whereas, is mainly concentrating on developing textile machineries. High Performance Textile Machinery education and research facility of Dresden University is unique in the world. It’s not hard to realize as one can see all the major machinery brands of textiles and garments are from Germany. Italy is no difference; textile machineries are their major subject matter whereas, France is concentrating on innovative clothing materials and fashion design. So normal as we know Paris is the global fashion hub. Students there are fascinated to fashion designing like nothing.
If we move to Japan, we can see Universities are mainly researching on nano-textiles, textile composites, fibre engineering etc. So they are also eyeing high-tech textile products like the Americans do. Shinshu University and Kyoto University are famous for their research works on textile fibres and nano-composit
South Korea is another place where textile education has gained pace in the recent past. Most of the Universities have research funds for consumer behavior research and some of them are also emphasizing on technical textiles. Textile education in South Korea is actually very rich I think as they are covering from fibre science to nano & technical textiles. They are investing billions on textile education of late and are in the way to be one of the best research giants in textiles very soon.
A simplified supply chain of textile and apparel industry. In detail it is really complex one.
China is the largest supplier of consumer textile products in the world and the industry has a long history. Of late China has started to move forward as they are not anymore confined in producing basic items like Bangladesh, but trying to switch to more value added products. Al though, their textile education structure is more or less similar to what is in our country.
India is another country where textile education is of great importance after IT. There are numerous institutes offering Textile Engineering courses. The Indian Institute of Technology is the pioneer in India and they are providing best quality textile education to the students. IIT has a great reputation in textile research and many of the IIT scholars are engaged in front line universities in research positions. They are also contributing heavily towards smart and technical textiles. Apart from IIT, most of the textile institutes in India are still hovering around the basics of textiles like Bangladesh.
Apart from textile engineering, international universities are also conducting courses on Apparel merchandising, fashion design in order to keep their outlets full of clothing according to the demand and choice of the consumers.
This is the trend going on in textile education around the world and it is highly correlated with the pattern of global clothing supply chain.
Textile engineering compared to other basic engineering
Textile engineering as we can see from above portrayal, is not like other basic engineering courses like Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical, Civil or Computer. The curriculum and subject matters are more or less the same in most of the Universities in the world, whereas textile engineering as said earlier is linked with the global supply chain. This is what makes textiles education an interesting issue to work with. Students have plenty of choice to choose from. Only basic textile products have a 500+ billion dollar market globally and it is only increasing. If we add the technical and smart textiles the value of the total textile global market would be a gigantic figure and different parts of the world are providing different education to the students to maintain this complex textile supply chain smoothly. You would not find this thing in other areas like food, construction or electronics market. Textile engineering is the most diversified subject in the world now and with the evolution of new technologies the field of textile education is spreading rapidly.
Though Bangladesh is a major producer of basic textile items; textile industry has started shaping towards sustainability and value added products slowly. In future it will not be too optimistic to think of technical textiles with Made in Bangladesh tag. For this, the industry will be in need of highly-technical manpower which is obsolete when present structure of our textile education is concerned. Integration of modern textile engineering curriculum and establishment of state of the art research facilities are must to make this happen. If it is done, Bangladesh will not only remain as the hub of global clothing market but also will be the hub of global textile education. This is a bit too advanced thought but there’s no harm in steady & systematic progress. Higher study facilities are a demand of time now. Skilled and capable manpower will lead the way to move from cheap garments producing country to a complete textile solution to the world. There’s no dearth of talent in Bangladeshi students and they only need the facilities to flourish. We are still newbie in research & innovation in textiles and we should advance fast to be ready to capture the value added market when the opportunity comes.