Having attended APRSAF many times, Mr. F. R. Sarker, General Secretary, Bangladesh Astronomical Society, is one of the core members of the APRSAF Space Education and Awareness Working Group. He talks about space education activities in Bangladesh and also the benefits of APRSAF.
Q: Do you work for the Bangladesh Astronomical Society (BAS)?
A: I am the general secretary of BAS and have been working for it since its inception. We are trying to popularize astronomy baseline among the younger generation. In fact, in Bangladesh, there is no school teaching astronomy or encouraging space education, so we provide an opportunity to students to increase their awareness of space. For example, I have been a coordinator of the World Space Week Association (WSWA) in Bangladesh, and the World Space Week has been regularly celebrated since 2003. It is a two-day program that has many events like a Space Art Contest, Water Rocket Contest, and Space Debate. Students are strongly encouraged to attend these events.
Q: Is APRSAF of help to your activities?
A: Of course, APRSAF is very helpful. We organized an APRSAF Space Education Seminar from January 17–19, 2011, at Dhaka and Enayetpur in Bangladesh. It was a fantastic event. At Enayetpur, about 4,500 students attended the seminar; JAXA distributed 3,000 water rocket kits and the students were very happy to work with them.
Q: The seminar was a very big milestone, wasn't it?
A: Yes, it was inaugurated by our science minister, so it was published in most of our daily newspapers and broadcast over television channels. And it was very widely publicized. Now the government is considering including astronomy and space science in the curriculum at the secondary educational level. We are trying to persuade the government to include the subjects in the curriculum so that help the students of Bangladesh get formal education in astronomy and space science.
Q: What does space education mean to the Bangladeshi people?
Mr. Sarker during his presentation at SEA WG
A: By and large, people do not know about space technologies and their applications. So we are trying to improve their understanding of these subjects. Bangladesh is a small country with a very large population. We will therefore need to use tele-education, telemedicine, etc. We shall have to promote space education among the public.
Q: So space education is a good trigger to promote a wider field of education, for example, technology, mathematics, and science.
A: Yes, we are trying to boost that type of education. During the celebration of World Space Week-2011, UNOOSA and UNESCO participated with BAS in a Capacity-Building Workshop for Astronomy at Enayetpur, which informally included astronomy and space science. In Bangladesh, there is no agency or organization for imparting space education. Although there is the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization (SPARRSO), which is basically a Remote Sensing Organization, it has no education program. So we are trying to establish a separate space agency like the Bangladesh Space Agency. We have submitted an application to the science and technology minister for the establishment of such a space agency.
Q: Having attended the APRSAF meeting over a long time, what does APRSAF mean to you or your organization?
A: I have been regularly participating in APRSAF sessions since 2006. My impression is that APRSAF is doing a great job for the popularization of astronomy and space science. We have benefitted immensely from the activities of APRSAF and from the discussions at the APRSAF meetings. We can have excellent views from other member countries. From the APRSAF Secretariat, we can get lots of ideas. We try to bring back those ideas to our country. In fact, APRSAF is very important, particularly for spreading space awareness among our students, and plays a unique role. Our government officials also agree that APRSAF has a vital role to play in creating space awareness in Bangladesh. If we can establish the Bangladesh Space Agency, we will have good cooperation with APRSAF.
Q: You said that you had support from UNESCO for the World Space Week and also that you organized a Space Education Seminar with APRSAF. Hearing that, I think you maintain very good relations with international organizations through your activities.
A: Yes, I have attended UNCOPUOS in Vienna three times on behalf of the World Space Week Association as Bangladesh is not a Member of UNOOSA. I have also attended the inaugural ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA-2009) at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. On these occasions, I met a lot of people from all over the world. I want to work for my country by giving an opportunity; maybe I can solicit help from APRSAF officials.