After independence in 1971 Bangladesh came a long way in all the sectors. Our educational sector is not different. We have done remarkably well in primary education and women enrolment. But now there is a bigger challenge for us. We now have to plan and train our students so they possess the skills for the new tech-based economy.
The future of education
Our education system didn't evolve much after the industrial revolution. The current system is suitable to produce more workers who can do a repetitive job, but the skill required to get a job is changing dramatically.
Back in the days, there were hundreds of workers working in the general motor or ford factories which used to be one of the best places to work. When Facebook bought WhatsApp back in 2013 for a staggering 19 billion USD it had only 55 employees.
It is not about only quantity anymore, it is about quality and hands-on experience. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) degrees are the future of education as we will see everything around us will be automated in near future.
The jobs which will be coming 10 years from now doesn't even exist now. If something is repetitive then we can automate it. But if our judgement is required to execute a job then it is hard to automate in near future.
The jobs which will fall / which will rise
Manual labour related works are in danger of job losses. Works that have human interactions such as working in restaurants, locomotive drivers, receptionists are more likely to be replaced by automation.
The ongoing pandemic has pushed us more into automation as we are avoiding human interaction to avoid the spread of the virus. Apart from the tech-related business others have suffered during this time.
We can see in Bangladesh companies such as Daraz, Evaly, Pathao delivery has thrived during this time as people have opted to stay at home and do everything online as much as possible. But at the same time, traditional jobs of accountants were halted.
The job of a lawyer which used to be very prestigious can also be automated but the creative works are supposed to thrive. Technology is evolving so quickly that we need to constantly learn and relearn. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, as many as 375 million workers — or 14% of the global workforce — are forecast to require upskilling by 2030.
The hurdles for Bangladesh in improving its education system
This is the perfect time for Bangladesh to digitise the education system and update the education curriculum to meet the future skill shortage.
Due to COVID 19, all the schools have stopped teaching physically but many rural schools are struggling to operate their activities online as they are not well trained. The first thing we need to make sure that the teachers have the proper equipment and training to run online education.
The price of internet packages for students are less now but the prices for laptops, tabs should be subsidised so that even the rural students can afford it. In western countries, a person can buy a product with very affordable monthly instalments. We need to do the same for our students so that even a low-class family can afford it.
What are the other countries doing?
Western countries are way advanced from us when it comes to updating the curriculum according to the skill requirements in the market. Countries like Australia are encouraging their students to study subjects like AI, Robotics etc where they offer a big subsidy. On the other hand, they are charging more if a student is studying subjects related to business or humanities.
The top universities are fully online as students have the options to learn remotely. As well as the universities are working with platforms like Coursera or EDX where they are offering their degrees online at cheaper prices.
The governments know the present labour force need to retrain to have sufficient skills for the future, that is why they are encouraging companies to work with universities and other institutions so that they can customise the content and retrain their employees internally.
Not only Australia, the southeast Asian country Malaysia is doing exceptionally well when it comes to training its workforces. Many Australian and British universities are already running their campus in Malaysia where they are providing world-class educational facilities. Also, the local universities are coming to the top 100 university ranking list as they are heavily investing in research in STEM fields.
Are Bangladeshi universities doing enough?
Our local universities are lacking in research in comparison with their peers. The other South Asian countries are investing way more in research on STEM fields than local universities. The government needs to increase its budget for research and development.
The universities also should collaborate with foreign universities so that they can send their academics and research fellow to their campuses for more enhanced learning.
If we can increase our patents through more research, then international companies will be more attracted to work in Bangladesh with local partners.
Due to geolocation and youth population, Bangladesh has a huge potential to be the powerhouse of South Asia. We have progressed a lot in the last 50 years. Now it is time to move one step forward. We need to plan now how we will make our population ready for the future. There are no other option rather than training and retraining. We just have to start from now to achieve our goal to be a developed country by 2041.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.