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Youth 2017: Thoughts of the new generation

  • Published at 02:44 am May 28th, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:28 pm May 28th, 2017
Youth 2017: Thoughts of the new generation

Young Bangladeshis optimistic about their future

Bangladeshis are known for their resilience and ability to overcome the worst calamities and crises. This spirit of optimism was aptly captured in a youth survey in which 84.37% of respondents have said they feel optimistic, to varying degrees, about achieving their personal goals in life, and 47% are very optimistic about it. 55% of respondents aged 18 – 22 have said they are very optimistic. The corresponding percentage for those aged 23 – 30 was 46% and for those aged 30 – 40 was 35%, which, not surprisingly, shows optimism declining with age. In terms of personal goals and ambitions, out of seven different categories, most respondents (about 37%) have said that having a good job is most important to them at the moment. When it comes to factors that get in the way of achieving personal goals, respondents (28%) have identified family’s financial inability as the major factor. This was fairly even across all age groups, occupations, and both genders. The next major factor, picked by 19% of respondents, is political instability. At the same time, most respondents have identified family as the most important institution for raising decent and ethical young people who are conscientious members of society.

Indian channels are harmful to our culture

There has long been a debate about whether we should preserve our cultural purity or allow other cultures to permeate our own, and Indian media is often cited as the most significant influence on our culture in these debates. While no single person or class of people should have the authority to decide this for a whole population, it is interesting to get a sense of what position the typical person takes on this debate. According to a recent youth survey by the Bangla Tribune, 65.5% of respondents have said they prefer watching local TV channels to foreign ones. When asked if they think Indian channels are harmful to our culture, 77.3% of respondents said yes. This particular finding is rather surprising, especially if you live in Dhaka. But the survey was conducted over all of Bangladesh and that may help to explain the results. Among the respondents, more men than women (79.6% v 74%) think that Indian channels are harmful. Also interesting is the finding that over 52% of respondents said they mostly watch the news on television, followed by TV series (22%), talk-shows (9.5%), live musical shows (8.8%) and others (7.3%).

 Mobile phones rule internet access

The ruling party’s dream of a Digital Bangladesh appears to be coming true, at least in terms of the number of people using the internet these days. A nationwide survey by Bangla Tribune has revealed that 83% of respondents use the internet and a whopping 76% use it on mobile phones. Only 11% use internet on desktops, eight percent on laptops and less than three percent on tablets. Compared to official statistics, however, the proportion of internet users in the survey looks skewed. According to the BRTC website, about 42% of the total population are active internet subscribers as of February 2017. But BRTC statistics also show that a majority of them – almost 94% or 63 million out of 67 million – use mobile internet. Among the participants in the survey, 80% have said that they have Facebook accounts. The 30-40 year old group appears to be the least tech-savvy with 26% saying they do not use internet, compared to 17% for all respondents. Women lag behind in internet use with 76% against 87% men. 74% of female respondents have said they use Facebook versus 84% of male respondents.

Most people are unaware of changes in textbooks

There has been quite a lot of hue and cry about the controversial changes in Bengali textbooks that were discovered after books were distributed to schools this year. The changes, which included the removal of 17 poems and stories, were demanded by the conservative Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam. It comes as a surprise that most of the respondents in a Bangla Tribune survey say they do not have sufficient knowledge, or are unaware of the changes or aren’t concerned about the matter. The survey asked its 2,400 respondents if they are aware that many non-Muslim writers were removed from the Bengali textbooks, despite being prominent writers in Bengali literature. 47% of respondents have said they do not know enough about the issue while 32% do not know anything about it and 13% aren’t concerned about it. What is more, 50% of student respondents don’t have any knowledge of the issue. But students aren’t the only ones who are left in the dark about this. According to news reports, the changes were made without any prior discussion with relevant people in government authorities.

Nationality most important element of identity

In 1971, during the War of Independence, hundreds of thousands who had fought in the war came from various socio-economic and religious backgrounds. They had but one common identity – they were Bangladeshi. Now, 46 years later, young Bangladeshis who have no memory of the war itself, identify nationality as the single most important factor in identity formation. A Bangla Tribune survey on Bangladeshi youth asked 2,400 respondents to choose the factor that most influences their identity from the following options: Nationality, language and/or culture, religion, family, profession, or other. The majority, 48.21%, has picked nationality. Religious identity was a distant second at 17%, followed by linguistic/cultural identity at 12%. Among different age groups, the 18-22-year group was most likely to choose nationality over other elements of identity (52%). Among different professions, homemakers were the highest, 20%, albeit marginally, to choose religious identity as the most important. When asked about what matters most in terms of raising young people to be good and successful citizens, an overwhelming majority of respondents, 62%, have said modern and higher education is most important. 12% think vocational or technical education is necessary while 11% think religious education is the key. A meagre eight percent say patriotism or awareness of our history is most important and only five percent think we need to strengthen indigenous cultural values.

Militancy biggest threat to nation’s progress

Until about a year ago, terrorism was more of an international problem than a domestic one. We were aware that certain elements of our society harboured extremist views, but we grossly underestimated the damage they could potentially do. Unfortunately, by now the dangers of homegrown militancy have been made painfully clear and it seems that our national priorities have had to be reshuffled as a result. This is reflected in Bangla Tribune’s recent survey of 2,400 people between 18 and 40 years of age, in which 45% of respondents have said they feel that militancy is the biggest national concern, followed by 25% who think employment and jobs are the biggest concerns. Compare this finding to the Institute of Informatics and Development’s (IID) 2015 youth survey where a majority of respondents picked political instability as the biggest problem faced by Bangladesh. In fact, militancy wasn’t even mentioned in the report as a likely concern. The good news is, despite the growing threat of militancy, 83.8% of respondents have said they believe Bangladesh is progressing and 67.8% of respondents think this progress can be seen in their own families and personal economic situations.

Days of cinema halls are numbered

Those idyllic days when most households did not have a television set – sometimes humorously called the “idiot box” – and everyone got all excited to watch a movie, any movie, on the big screen, are surely over. These days, out of the hundreds of movies released every year, only a few blockbusters have the power to summon large crowds to the cinema halls, while most movies are streamed online, watched on DVD, or on television. The Bangla Tribune youth survey results also reflect this trend as 48.17% of respondents have said they would rather use Facebook or watch television than go to cinema halls for entertainment. The growing and pervasive access to the internet has allowed for a whole new range of possibilities in terms of leisure and entertainment to occupy people’s time. As more and more in Bangladesh get connected to the internet, traditional forms of entertainment are on the decline, and even shopping is losing its appeal! Only about 8% of female respondents, and 4% of men, have picked shopping as their favourite free-time activity. The numbers are flipped for sports, with just over 8% of male respondents and 4.4% of females identifying it as their preferred activity. Some would find it rather worrisome that fewer and fewer people are spending time outdoors, getting engaged in sports and other physical activities. But before we blame the internet for this, we should consider the lack of playgrounds and safety and security as possible factors, especially in Dhaka city.

Rise in political, religious posts on Facebook

They say, “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” But such rules of etiquette are barely regarded anymore when it comes to social media, as shown by the rise in political and religious posts on Facebook. 37.5% of a total of 2,400 respondents in a nationwide Bangla Tribune survey say political posts from friends and sponsored content have increased on Facebook; 28% say they have also seen a spike in religious posts. And very few of them actually object to this. It turns out 25% of respondents like political posts and 32% like religious posts, and they even like to join in on the conversation. Many more also like these posts but refrain from engaging. Only 10% seriously dislike such posts. What’s noteworthy is that over 39% of respondents aged 18-22 have said they like religious posts and engage with them. That statistic drops to 29% when it comes to political posts, showing that young people are relatively more interested in religious issues. Also, it seems that religious posts appeal equally to both males and females as majority of males and females, slightly above 32% for both, have said they like religious posts and also engage with them.

Hefazat’s demand on Lady Justice deemed unnecessary

Hefazat-e-Islam’s demand for removing the sculpture of Lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises caused an uproar in media and other public forums. Against this backdrop the Bangla Tribune’s nationwide survey asked respondents if they supported Hefazat’s demand. Only 23% have supported Hefazat while 77% have vehemently opposed it or do not have any opinion on the matter. 33% of respondents have said that Hefazat’s demand is unnecessary and 43% do not have any opinion on the matter. Ever since the sculpture was installed at the apex court premises in December last year, Hefazat raised the demand to remove it. Created by Mrinal Haque, the sculpture represents a sari-clad woman holding a weighing scale which symbolises justice. With the government removing the sculpture, Hefazat’s increasing influence on Bangladesh’s politics is evident. Progressive activists, writers and politicians believe by fulfilling Hefazat’s demand the government is putting the country’s secular fabric  seriously under threat.