Bangladesh ranks 47th, down from 45th previously, among 50 emerging nations in the world in the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2019. Bangladesh is only ahead of three African countries – Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – in providing its youth with skill-based education. Meanwhile, foreign nationals are often hired by Bangladeshi employers as they feel locals lack necessary competence and skills. A recent report of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) revealed that at least 2.5 lakh foreign nationals from 44 countries are working in Bangladesh through legal and illegal means. Professor Imran Rahman, Dean of ULAB School of Business and Professor Syed Ferhat Anwar, Director of Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka University discuss why Bangladesh fails to produce high-skilled workforce and what can be done about that.
'Education needs to be reformed to produce high-skilled workforce'
Imran Rahman, Professor
There are many foreign workers currently working in Bangladesh. The employers of these foreigners claim that they have hired foreigners as there is a lack of skilled workers in Bangladesh and there is absolutely no reason to deny that.
From the primary to the university level, our education system has failed. As a result, we have failed to produce skilled graduates that will serve the marketplace. We provide the students with degrees but what they learn during this lengthy period is just answers to questions they are asked.
However, I will not say that every student that graduates is unskilled. There are skilled students as well, but their number is very low.
Employers of the various industries do not really want to hire foreigners as the hiring process is not easy. But as their business will face losses for the lack of skilled people, and so they are forced to hire foreigners with necessary skills. Even in the education sector, we are hiring foreigners as faculty members to teach at our universities as we lack in the number of quality teachers.
If we want to bridge the gap between educated and skilled graduates we need to start reforming our education system. First of all, the education process should be very practical or an active learning method should be introduced from the very beginning. In our current education system, our students just hear what the teacher says and takes note of the lectures. Later, they also pass the exams by following the notes and stay quiet throughout the entire class duration.
In our culture if someone questions something, it is considered ill-mannered. But students have their own brains and ability to analyse things. We need to give them scope to speak up in the classroom and allow them to question teachers. And I believe we can ensure that in our current education system.
I would suggest introducing a unified curriculum in our education system from primary to college level, provided it is a 21st century curriculum. But if a bad curriculum gets introduced, the current state of our education system will worsen further.
'Skill based knowledge is now a dire need'
Syed Ferhat Anwar, Professor
Employers of different industries look for efficient people with practical skills to avoid loss in the business. Undoubtedly they are getting these benefits in the foreign workers.This is the primary reason behind hiring the foreigners in the first place.And, it is our duty to make our citizens ready so that the industry can rely on the local workforce.
The process of producing skilled workforce needs to start from the academia. If you look into any global academia, there are two dimensions of academics. One is the basic education and other is the applied knowledge or skill based knowledge.
Basic knowledge teaches us the basics of the particular subject whereas applied knowledge teaches us professional skillset for our workplace. For example—in basic knowledge, when a student gets admitted in English department, he is taught literature and aspect of the language. On the other in skill based knowledge the students get taught on the languages required for the particular job. For example- Banking English is much more different than the basic English language. There are different terms and Jargons and basic knowledge never teaches those.
In our universities, we the teachers are teaching students following the books that has been written in way past. Undeniably those are necessary as it will lay the foundation of the students, but apart from few, we do not teach our students the skill based knowledge required for their workplace.
Providing applied knowledge to the students is a part of continuous education process. We need to have a training wing at our departments that will provide training to their students and make them ready for the marketplace. IBA along with several other departments and institute of Dhaka university are imparting applied education as part of their academic pursuit. However, it is also true that many departments are shying away and sticking to the older school of thought.
Industrial experts are used to provide knowledge on what is currently demanded and thus come in as experts. We must realise that the task of academia is to create and disseminate knowledge and this is what is demanded in a knowledge economy where continuous learning is a must.
If we say that the local students do not have the urge to learn on how to become top executives is wrong. In our executive development program, we receive many applications and it clearly shows that our students have an urge to learn.
Foreigners are taking away more than 9 billion dollars, this is a total loss for the nation. This is happening because we as academics are not putting judicious emphasis on skills based applied knowledge directed towards the professional work force targeting blue collar, white collar, as well as technical workforce of our country.
In my opinion, why will we not take steps to prevent this? We have the capability to provide skill based knowledge to our students and make them ready for the workplace. I do not think that it is wise to resist ourselves and deprive our students of it. Thus, we need to act now and start providing our students sector specific skills.
In blue collar level jobs, technology is taking over. We cannot use the mediaeval methods anymore. As a result the workers from the blue collar job sector must be made educated in terms of technical aspects so that they know how to properly use the machineries. And for this, training institutions must be set up in the root level to provide knowledge.
Knowledge is evolving every moment and bookish education will not help if we want to keep with the pace of 21st century. But unfortunately in our every sector of education we are just providing basic know. Bangladesh has a vision to become a developed nation by 2041 and to obtain that it is necessary to have steady economic growth. Thus emphasising to produce skilled citizens is a dire need now.