Case Study 1
Shahriar Ahmed Asif obtained a Masters degree in Zoology securing first class in 2015 from a college (located in Dhaka) under National University. He needed seven and a half years time to complete his graduation and post-graduation.Albeit he attended several government job recruitment tests, he didn’t get success. Besides, he did tuitions and tried more than two years to get a private job. Four months ago Asif finally joined a pharmaceutical company as a ‘Sales Representative’ with a salary of Tk. 15,500 per month. He has four more members in the family. His mother is a house wife while his younger sister and brother study respectively at a university and college. Six months ago his father retired from his job due to bad health. As the only bread earner of the family Asif has taken whole responsibility, but he is going through a tough time while managing all the family expenditures including father’s medication cost and study expense of his siblings. He finds that the competition in the job market is too tough and managing a good private job without any personal or family reference seems to be almost unattainable. Thus he is frustrated about his gloomy future.
Case Study 2
Md. Zahirul Islam Mitul failed in one subject in SSC examination in 2007. His father thought that he has no prospect and he will not be able to continue his study. The next year when Mitul passed in that subject, following a friend’s advice he took admission in Diploma in Computer Engineering at a private polytechnic institute in the capital. He even ignored his father’s consent as he has a fascination towards computer from his childhood. Four years later immediately after the completion of his engineering course he faced a few interviews and succeeded to get a job in a telecommunication company as a ‘Trainee Sub-assistant Engineer’. Due to his sound knowledge and practical skill he began resolving complicated computer related problems and received appreciation in his work place. Initially he was promoted as ‘Sub-assistant Engineer’. Now he is working as an ‘Assistant Engineer’ and earning a handsome amount of money every month. Mitul maintains his family smoothly and now his father feels proud of him.
These cases are nothing new in our country. There are hundreds of such examples where comparatively average students who have received technical and vocational education are doing well while comparatively talented students who have completed traditional education are struggling to get a job after completing their graduation and post graduation. According to UK based Economic Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) last report, 47% graduates of Bangladesh are jobless. On the contrary, a study conducted by Bangladesh Human Development Study Forum has revealed that 54% job aspirants who receive technical and vocational education get jobs in the industrial and service sector in Bangladesh, 15% go abroad with job opportunities and another 19% of them become self-reliant by involving in different trades. It means the youths who study in traditional subjects have less possibility to manage employment than the youths who develop their practical skill through technical and vocational education. But the unfortunate reality is that still a big portion of our students and guardians don’t consider technical and vocational education as a potential sector as they either see better future in traditional education or cannot think out of the stereotyped ideas prevalent in our society. Thus among 14,31,722 students who passed SSC examination in 2017 only about 100,000 students applied to take admission into technical educational institutes. And experts have opined after the result of this year’s SSC examination that there will be no dramatic change in this number this year as well.
Before forming National Education Policy 2010, both policymakers and educationists completely overlooked the importance of technical and vocational education. As a result the number of students in technical and vocational education was less than 1% in 2009. From that position Bangladesh made some significant progress in the last nine years. Therefore the number of students in the technical and vocational education has increased to 14% now. Government has set a target to amplify the number to 20% before 2020 and 30% before 2030 as it has found that there is no alternative of developing more technical graduates to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) declared by United Nations. That is why government introduced double shift class in 49 government polytechnic institutes, established 64 technical schools and colleges in 64 districts and developed software to rank the technical and vocational institutes. The Ministry of Education formed five separate task forces including Policy and Project Formulation Task Force, Industry and Institute Linkage Task Force, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Enrolment Task Force, Curriculum Development Task Force and Job Market Assessment and Employment Task Force to estimate the future of technical and vocational education.
Despite all these initiatives technical and vocational education in Bangladesh is still struggling for many reasons. Recently different new subjects and courses like Diploma in Agriculture, Textile, Marine Science, Medical Technology, Glass and Ceramics Design and Graphic Art have been introduced in some 38 technical training centres, 40 textile and vocational colleges, and 13 agriculture training institutes. Most of these new institutes with fresh subjects have lack of properly trained teachers who can truly prepare the students to face the professional challenges ahead of them. Though government established 64 new technical schools and colleges, but they introduced diploma courses there without taking necessary preparations. A total of 4200 private technical institutes and training centres have been established in Bangladesh. Besides, there are another 51 government polytechnic institutes and around 400 private polytechnic institutes where diploma courses are available. In case of vocational education Bangladesh has 2,400 private and 141 government institutes in SSC level while the number of private and government institutes in HSC level are respectively 1,700 and 68. Unfortunately only one technical education board has been failing to monitor and regulate all these institutions over the years. And there is no way to blame them as their resource remains unchanged. Many of the technical and vocational institutes are operating their courses with minimum number of teachers violating the standard student-teacher ratio. And there is lack of proper training facilities for the teachers of technical and vocational institutes as well.
Moreover books of technical and vocational education are not updated to cope with the advancement and modernization of technology. The number of students has multiplied in government polytechnic institutes but laboratory facilities have not reached a satisfactory level yet. Apart from a few reputed institutions most of the private polytechnic institutes don’t have adequate number of laboratories. Teachers of both government and private polytechnic institutes face scarcity of machineries and raw materials which disrupt students to get practical lesson that is mandatory in technical and vocational education. Low budgetary allocation in government polytechnic institutes and greedy attitude of the private polytechnic institutes are responsible for such a situation. When developed nations are investing huge amount of money for research and innovation and increasing the amount every year, Bangladesh is not feeling the necessity of spending much to improve its technical education. Teachers, polytechnic institutes and technical education board hardly have any communication with the entrepreneurs and employers to ensure job opportunities for their students and understand the future demands of the industrial sector.
If Bangladesh could use the potential of technical and vocational education by developing skilled human resource, it could easily bring a revolution in its economy. Currently the country has serious shortage of skilled manpower. For example, according to a report prepared by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), the RMG sector is short of 119,479 skilled workers, 48,130 semi-skilled and 8,577 unskilled labourers. This study also mentions that the domestic skill labourer demand in Bangladesh will be 72.41 million workers in 2020. Of which, the demand will be 2.91 million in agro-food sector, 4.42 million in construction and 5.98 million in RMG sector. Moreover, trained workers will be required in 100 special economic zones which are all ready to begin their operation. At present more than 25,000 foreign nationals are working in the RMG sector alone. Besides, there are more 60,000 foreign workers who are serving in other sectors and according to a study conducted by Pew Research Center together they are taking out more than Tk. 16,500 crore per annum from Bangladesh! And there is no specific statistic about the income of foreign nationals who work and reside in the country illegally. All these foreign workers are taking benefit of the scarcity of skilled local manpower. Bangladesh could easily save a big portion of this money if the country could develop skilled manpower providing technical and vocational education.
About one crore citizens of Bangladesh live and work in different countries of the world. Maximum of this huge workforce go abroad without receiving necessary education and training. As a result they need to work in the ordinary positions and give more physical efforts to earn money. If these migrant workers could be trained properly and provided required technical education before sending abroad, Bangladesh’s income from foreign remittance could be several times higher than the present amount. Every year thousands of students drop out from schools and colleges for lack of merit or financial assistance. To make them worthy citizens government should plan to arrange some technical, vocational or professional training for them so that they can become self-reliant either by establishing their own trade at home or by going abroad to work as skilled labourers.
Bangladesh’s position is at the bottom part of the list of countries in the world in terms of lowest ratio of public expenditure on education in percentage of GDP. And thus in case of using technology in education the country is lagging behind Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Nepal in South Asia. Albeit Bangladesh is the world’s 44th largest economy, it ranks 114 among the 149 countries that are providing technical and vocational education. This is really unfortunate for a country that is enjoying the benefits of 70% population who are aged less than 35 years. Under such circumstances Bangladesh will have to increase its budget in the education sector and put emphasis on technical and vocational education with a view to turning its huge population into blessing.