Technical and vocational education: Infrastructure development and change of mindset

Prothom Alo

According to the BBS statistical yearbook 2019, over half of the migrant workers are semi-skilled or unskilled. Their job market is shrinking across the world and thus they are facing more competition. Unskilled workers will not be able to get work in future. Opportunities must be created for them so that they can get admission to technical institutions. This will enable the unskilled to become skilled as well the semi-skilled to upskill. The lessons must be coordinated too as the classes will constitute learners of different ages.

For about a decade, initiatives have been taken to increase technical and vocational students, boost quality of the education and create job opportunities. A National Skills Development Policy was introduced in 2011. In 2018, the National Skills Development Authority too was formed. In the meantime, National Technical and Vocational Qualifications Framework has been finalised. Due to such efforts, the enrollment of students has increased 17 per cent students in polytechnic institutions which was 1 per cent in 2010. The number should be further increased.

Though people here lean more towards general education and desk jobs, this is not always possible. The BBS survey makes a connection between higher education and unemployment. It shows the rate of unemployment is 4.6 per cent among people having no formal education whereas it’s 13 per cent among people completing primary education. The rate is 14.6 and 51.5 per cent for people passing Secondary School Certificate and Higher Secondary Certificate respectively. As many as 47 per cent graduates and postgraduates cannot get jobs as per their education.

The initiative to train the teachers at polytechnic institutions, too, is inadequate. The number of seats still stands at 30 at the only vocational teachers training college in the country. The college was set up in 1966 for a handful of polytechnic institutions of the country. The college hardly seems to existed, but at least 400,000 teachers will be needed once the National Skills Development Policy is properly implemented. If the teachers themselves cannot prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, how will they prepare their students?

There is a new tendency among the polytechnic graduates. They take admission to graduate courses after diploma. They spend another four years after for a degree after their diploma, but it does not add any value to their qualifications in the job market. They rather have to compete with the graduates.

A diploma engineer working in Singapore recently said he would still have been studying if he had got admitted to a graduate course after earning his diploma, but now is working at a good company abroad. He is sending remittance to the country. He also noted that, for our technical and vocational students, there are not significant initiatives for consultation regarding career and professional life. Many cannot take the right decision in time due to this.

According to the latest BBS survey, one in four youths is not involved in any training, education or profession. Those losing jobs in COVID-19 epidemic will add to the number. Besides, many migrant workers will return to the country losing their jobs abroad. This will create huge competition for the local job-seekers.

Many of the migrants are returning with higher skills. They should be given incentive and assistance. Some 20-billion-taka incentive has been deposited with Probashi Kallyan and Karmasangsthan banks. More attention must be paid to the skilled workers so that they get jobs and can create opportunities for others.

China and Singapore developed excellent infrastructure for technical and vocational education. They also managed to nurture the social system that recognises such jobs. It’s crucial to create infrastructure as well raising social awareness to recognise technical workers.

Standard technical education must be spread in order to upgrade the working skills and economy of the nation. It’s better to realise this as early as possible.

*Munir Hassan is head of Prothom Alo youth activities and programmes.

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