Bangladesh ambassador champions student exchanges with Japan

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Education is key to Bangladesh flourishing in the future, the country’s ambassador to Japan said as she called for Tokyo and Dhaka to strengthen student exchange programs.

“I intend . . . in the coming days to see if we could have good exchange programs between our universities and universities here,” Rabab Fatima said in an interview with The Japan Times.

Currently, exchange programs exist between the University of Dhaka and the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

However, to attract more Bangladeshi students to study in Japan, which at present is limited, student fairs should be held in Dhaka, Fatima said.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies has a Bangladesh department, “and we have actually been sponsoring exchange visits of students,” she said.

Last year, however, none of the students took part in the exchange program.

Among Bangladeshi people who have received higher education in Japan are information technology professionals, some of whom went on to work here.

Fatima said young people look up to them as examples of success, and it has encouraged them to study overseas.

“There are a very vibrant group of young professionals who have learned and acquired technology and knowledge here, and are now investing” back into Bangladesh, she said.

Japanese students could also learn from Bangladesh, said Fatima.

She said 40 years ago the country was written off as “a basket case” and that it would not survive beyond a few years.

“I can say that Bangladesh now produces, in that tiny small piece of land, enough to feed 160 million people,” she said.

Fatima said Japanese students could also learn from the progress of female workers in her country.

“I’m not only talking about my prime minister, who is a strong leader, (but also the) speaker of the parliament is a woman, the leader of the opposition is a woman, and there are many strong female ministers,” she said.

Bangladesh was the first country to send an all-female police contingent to the Haiti 2010 earthquake disaster, while about 80 percent of workers in the garment industry, one of the nation’s biggest export sectors, are women, she said.