Education contributes to reducing inequalities and achieving gender equality. The boys and girls who are in class one today need to complete primary and secondary education by 2030. Important areas of work are affordability, quality of Education, eliminate gender discrimination and putting proper importance on vocational education.
In terms of ‘Education for life’, how many university graduates have competency for a suitable profession? How many of them are technically sound? How many of the graduates are employable? Do they have the courage to be an entrepreneur? Is he ready to face the global challenges? All these are important questions for a young. Commonly, we tell that our youth needs to be a global citizen with a high competency with high employability; but what is the reality?Commonly private sector managers used to tell that they don't get employable youth. Many organizations used to tell, they are lack efficient officials. At the same time, efficient youth move from one to another organisation, going to a higher position frequently. On the other hand, the number of job seekers is unbelievably high. One study says higher education produces more unemployment than technical education. For a long, we have been talking about technical education, which is needed for both the private and public sectors. In all the Education Commission Report, including Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission Report 1974 and Kabir Chowdhury Education Commission Report in 2009, the necessity of technical education is mentioned with high importance.
What are the challenges on the way to quality technical education? Stigma on technical education, infrastructure in terms of number and quality, curriculum, capacity building of teachers and participation of private sector are the important area to be addressed on the way to quality technical education. A polytechnic student after his education is employed as a Diploma Engineer which in course of time has become a stigma, though system is developed for them to have graduation.
In the last decade, a huge number of technical universities are set up in the country; along with, a good number of technical and vocational schools. In 2008, only 3% were technically educated people. Now, it stands at 18% and we have a target to reach 30% by 2030. It is commonly said that most of the private technical and vocational schools or institutions are lack laboratory, workshop and practical classes. This is a good part of our education system that we could encourage organisers to set up technical education institutions and the students to get admission. But so many things need to be done. If we look into the technical institutions in Singapore, the Nanyang Polytechnic, they provide a high standard of Education. Vis-a-vis, in our country, we need to investigate these issues very carefully. I find an extraordinary concept there that supply will create demand for technical people. So, not looking towards the local and present needs only but the needs of the globe and futuristic action may open up wide doors of opportunity for our skilled youth.
As the number of Polytechnic Institute are being increased and also technical education and vocational institutions are being set up in increased number, we need to look into how best we can have more technical university and especially the skills University. In the meantime in our country, a huge number of technical universities has been set up where different technical subjects including 4IR, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, machine learning (ML), etc. are taught along with how to practice these in the field of agriculture, livestock, health, education and in all sectors of life. Nowadays, in different countries, Skills Universities are being popularised. So, the students who have the technical education in schools and college get much more opportunity for their skill development. And normally, the university education system is whenever he gathers experience and gets time take the opportunity to study in the university. So, giving an opportunity to be a university student, in a different way, helps remove the stigma on technical education. From our college and university, we get very less employable youth. Very recently, the Ministry of Education decided to have a compulsory technical subject for all the Secondary School students; this may act popularising technical education, removing the stigma of technical education and encouraging the students to come up with employable qualifications. In the meantime, the government is trying to support the vocational and technical schools and institutions to be equipped more for providing hands-on training to their students to be employable.
The government decided to have 100 Economic Zones and more than 28 High-tech Parks. These investment areas need a huge number of skilled manpower in different technical areas. The government needs to look into how best we can prepare our people for working in these economic zones and high-tech parks. In the meantime, concerned authorities decided to have some technical institutions and skill development activities in the economic zones and high-tech park areas. Infrastructure in technical education needs to facilitate further by the government. So many big projects for infrastructure and capacity building for Technical and Vocational has been taken. In the meantime, the government started working on this and very soon the education sector will see the changes of developed infrastructure with good laboratory.
The third area to be addressed is curriculum and standards of education. Considering some of our back-dated course curricula with the changing scenario of the globe, and also especially with the Covid-19 where much more technical people are needed, we need to set up the permanent technical curriculum expert team to look into the needs of the economy and work accordingly. We know that in the meantime the Industrial skill Councils develop a huge number of standards of training. I believe these have been started slowly but as and when we'll be able to scale these up these may serve the purpose of the present and future needs.Capacity building of the teachers is most critical. In the changing society, every day, we should look into it, the width and depth of technical area, putting our efforts for capacity building of the teachers. Good quality with the commitment of the teachers can bring better output in the technical education and make it much more meaningful and helpful. A few years back a huge number of teachers are trained, with a long training in Nanyang and in China for adapting their course curricula, standards and methods. We need to work hard for implementing those.
Private sector participation is much more important as the present government always tells that the private sector is the key driving force of development. So, we need to engage the private sector for developing education, skill and entrepreneurship. Bangladesh Investment Development Authority started stimulus Entrepreneur development programme in 2019 which created a huge number of local levels entrepreneur. Very recently UNICEF started patronising globally and locally in Bangladesh naming Generation Unlimited (GenU) in the area of education, skill development, developing entrepreneur and youth engagement with a target to reach at least 17 million youth in five-year time those are out of education and job. We need to encourage the private sector much more, especially the big business houses and also the organisations of the Private Sector investors like FBCCI, DCCI, MCCI, BGMEA, BKMEA and other big Chambers and Association. Professional bodies like Engineers Institute, Institute of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh (IDEB) and others have come forward to extend their hands to develop the technical education and more need to do. The government may encourage the private sector to contribute to developing the infrastructure of the technical institutions.
For encouraging the skills for the private sector Skill Development Authority is established under Prime Minister's Office, which in the meantime could organise thirteen Industrial skill development councils (ISC) with the participation of the private sector. In terms of higher education, our universities need to include mandatory apprenticeship provisions for the students providing skill and experience to face the reality of private sector performance. Teachers training for having better knowledge and changed attitude may help the process of transforming our education system from a traditional to Technical and technological. We need to work hard for preparing the youth fit for facing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Artificial intelligence, Internet of things, blockchain, cloud computing all are necessary for the coming days' profession. Covid-19 proved our normal education system to be more equipped with technologies, technological soundness, more efficiency both in hardware and software.
We find that ICT played a vital role in combating corona and in facing the economic crisis. Many people lost their job, but at the same time a huge number of new professions have come up where knowledge and skill of ICT are pertinent. So, we need to investigate the necessity of the globe and prepare ourselves to cope with the situation.
The writer is former Principal Secretary at Prime Minister Office and SDG Coordinator