A negative mindset about vocational and technical education stems from the family as there are few youths with vocational education who have succeeded in their careers, according to students.
"Therefore, students are less interested in vocational education," Rafiul Ahmed, a student of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, told a webinar Thursday, urging the authorities to upgrade the education system in line with demands in the job market.
At the programme, defined as "Sectoral Action Plan for Youth Sensitive Budgeting", and jointly organised by South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (Sanem) and ActionAid Bangladesh, Dhaka University student Shafa Tasneem talked about encouraging parents to allow their children to take a route to vocational careers of their own choosing.
Sanem and ActionAid suggested the government prepare a sectoral action plan to coordinate the education system with a view to utilising the skills of the youth population. Dhaka University student Farzin Muntahena said the plans should be regional so that a youth from even a faraway district could be part of the planning stage.
"Youths should be confident enough to realise that there are opportunities for them to be entrepreneurs instead of being doctors or engineers. At the same time, parents also need to change their mindsets," Farah Kabir, country director at ActionAid Bangladesh, told the programme.
Eshrat Sharmin, senior research associate at Sanem, presented the keynote paper at the programme outlining the idea of a sectoral action plan.
The keynote paper emphasised youth education and health, allocation for research, implementation of skills development programmes under the formal education system, making city-like career facilities available in rural areas and allocations for the unemployed.
Speaking on the occasion, Planning Minister MA Mannan said, "Unemployment among educated youths is a peculiar culture in our country. Everyone wants to avail tertiary education. We have to understand that university-level education is like a commodity that is up for sale in the job market."
"Those who have demand in the job market are being picked up by different organisations while the remaining students remain unemployed," he added.
The minister said action plans need to be worked out on how formal education can be made more market-oriented, while the workplace environment can be improved further.
Dr Selim Raihan, director of research at Sanem and professor of economics at Dhaka University, said he had proposed a youth-sensitive budget last year. In continuation of that, the research organisation is talking about a sectoral action plan.
He noted that there is no shortage of interest among the youths as many of them are farming fish, growing strawberries, et cetera, commercially.
"They are stepping into these sectors since the sectors do not require too many licences or too much money. But the issues relate to a marketing of the products," he noted.
Md Borhanul Haque, joint secretary of the Technical and Madrasah Education Division, said 493 technical schools and colleges are being set up at 329 upazilas of the country to transform madrasa education into a vocational one. Once it is implemented, there will be a huge change in the education system.