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Transforming education as the scope of skill development opportunities for the youth

  • Published at 03:36 pm December 3rd, 2019
Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)-International Youth Day
Speakers at the round-table dialogue jointly organized by Dhaka Tribune and international development organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to mark International Youth Day on Thursday, August 22, 2019 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka Tribune and international development organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) jointly organized a round-table dialogue to mark International Youth Day, where speakers discussed the scope of skill development opportunities for Bangladeshi youth, their employability and entrepreneurship

The objective of this dialogue was to gain a better understanding of the thought process of the country’s youth at the grass roots level and their reflection on transformative education, and elaborately discuss findings of the research conducted by VSO on the marketplace.

Through this process, we are eager to discover the youth’s needs and wants, their thinking mechanisms, their hopes from the education system, and their requirements in skill development. This is so that we can help create an enabling work environment, bring about an education system with a better curriculum and training methods, merge vocational training and capacity building with mainstream education, and create a viable enterprise for the youth. Along with these, the aim is also to hold various stakeholders such as the government, media, and private sectors accountable regarding progress.

Tazeen Hossain, Programme Manager-Youth, VSO Bangladesh (Chair) 

VSO Bangladesh Program Manager Tazeen Hossain said, one third population of Bangladesh is youth. VSO is working in Bangladesh to create enabling environment for the youths so that they can help in developing decent work and viable enterprise, and also on how to hold the stakeholders- private and public- more accountable on the process. The skill development should be inclusive and reach out to diverse group of youth. It is utmost important to content and module of skill training should be up to date considering current demand of local and global market demand.    

Md. Forkhan Uddin, Country Director, VSO Bangladesh

I understand we need to reflect critically whether our general education system delivering employable youth to the job market or not. I think government need to take effective initiative to ensure more access of youth to ‘Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET)’ and popularize the same among the youth. The role of development organizations and private sector in this journey to support the government is very critical. I would request the I’d like to request everyone to collaborate to fulfil the objective of this roundtable dialogue in the days ahead.

Md. Shafiqur Rahman, Project Manager-Women and Youth Entrepreneurship and Employability,  VSO  Bangladesh

A number of segments worth mentioning are from our Labor Market Research conducted in the Rangpur division -- youth unemployment, education in rural areas, and the equilibrium of demand and supply in the job market. The research was carried out by Bart van Krimpen, from Randstad   , Netherlands who helped us virtually and physically to conduct the research properly. 

Bangladesh’s growth statistics show that the unemployment rate of our youth in 2008-09 was about 5%. There is a huge difference between the unemployment rates of urban and rural areas. There is also a big gap between the female and male ratios of unemployment, where 32% females from rural areas remain unemployed. This is primarily due to the lack of proper education, since education becomes quite stagnant after the secondary school level. Around 60% of the female population in rural areas within the age range of 20-24 remain unemployed, while in the urban areas, 62.5% of females within the age range of 25-29 remain unemployed. 

This data suggests that even though the nation’s overall unemployment rate is not very high, it still has high rates of unemployment and high levels of pay disparity when it comes to females. One of our major goals is to promote sustainable jobs where we focus on a stable income source rather than the income volume. Moreover, we focus on vocational education and capacity building for the youth through our Department of Youth Development. Here, we measure the key performance indicator (KPI) using a number of appropriate factors. A minimum of 90% of the candidates need to complete the course on technical vocational education, and a minimum of 75% of the candidates need to be employed - be it through self-employment or getting hired - with a starting salary of Tk3,500 or above. As a result, we have been able to accommodate 90% of these candidates as a part of our organization.

Unfortunately, we find the female ratio in the lower bracket due to a lack of support from their families. This lack of support has roots in social and cultural barriers, which we need to overcome. Along with the training, the candidates also require sufficient financial support in terms of access to capital, sufficient market opportunity and running capital which, if provided, could result in faster progress. We have tried to showcase youth aspiration, such as viable trainings conducted over shorter durations, as well as the market demands through marketplace research in sectors such as wholesale, retail, sales, marketing, hospitality, healthcare, etc.

Lastly, the research also shows how working females demand security in their workplaces, be it daytime working hours or proximity to their homes. Along with these, we should focus on helping them build relevant soft skills such as counselling, leadership, communication and personal development for opening bigger doors of opportunity for them.

 Shadhona Akter, Youth Entrepreneur

I was excited when VSO came to me with the proposition of building my own small business by making paper and shopping bags. With this, I could help young people by providing them with a platform for training and grooming. I sold 2,000 paper bags on my first day, making Tk600, and felt an extreme sense of satisfaction and pride since I was working for myself and not for someone else. Now, I run a flourishing business with workers whom I have groomed myself. I get to support my family, finance my education, and live an independent, self-fulfilled life.

Joseph Mahtab, VSO Alumni Member

I would like to break down the term education into four driving factors: firstly, education should be relevant - that is, it should cater to the ever-changing needs of the job market; secondly, the education we receive should be approved by the law and it should teach us to be legally just; thirdly, education needs to be accessible to everybody; and lastly, education needs to provide the basic qualifications an individual needs for a lifetime and not momentarily.

When we talk about transforming the education system, we need to focus on eliminating the variations among primary and secondary school levels, which comes with examinations that are much too intense for children to cope with.  

Our mainstream education system comes with the risk of failure when students are unable to achieve passing grades. On top of that, financial drawbacks in low income families, often prevent our youth from getting a second chance at proving themselves. This should be a concern if we are talking about upgrading our education system. The government needs to form an education system on a single unified stream, at least at the secondary schooling level, to overcome the multiple gaps in each academic level. This will also help the students to build the required capacity to gear up for the job market in the right way. 

Ashik Azam Noor, Alumni Member, VSO

Bangladesh’s education system needs to focus more on the practical demonstration of science, arts and commerce, besides theoretical studies. Making education more hands-on and practical should be given more priority. Our youth should be able to relate their education with real life.

Laila Akter, Youth Entrepreneur

The education system, especially in the rural areas of Bangladesh, needs to be better equipped in terms of skill development for the youth. This will enable them to get jobs and make a living for themselves.  

Md Shariful Islam, Youth Entrepreneur

The accessibility and quality of education should be of utmost importance. Even though we have several different education institutions in this country, we lack in providing quality education. The training or the curriculum needs to be upgraded so it can be relevant to current educational requirements. Moreover, we as a community need to uplift the disabled, integrate them as a part of our workforce, and provide them with equal opportunities to make contributions to their own lives as well as the nation’s progress.

Alamgir Kabir, National Youth Advisory Panel Member, PLAN International

Inclusivity in education is necessary. If we as a nation expect to excel, we need to work on making the system more inclusive for different groups of people, whether they are differently abled or autistic . We also need to work towards making education accessible to these segments or groups of people, and not neglect their talent and potential. 

 Md Babul Akon, Alumni Member, VSO 

“Every human is as big as their dream” - this is a quote that I thoroughly believe in. Before one struggle to choose the subjects in secondary school or work towards developing skills through training, they should remember to emphasize on what their dream is and be clear about what they want to pursue. We need to focus on youth-designed programs where young people get the choice to celebrate their individualistic ambitions and act upon them through suitable coping mechanisms.

Md Shariful Islam, Youth Entrepreneur

Through developing skills myself, I had the opportunity to contribute and pass that knowledge on to other people. In rural regions, where access to training and education is limited, a bare minimum of contribution in terms of sharing the knowledge or skill set can help other people grow. Hence, even if the accessibility of high end qualification is hard, if people can individually contribute through sharing the skills that they have already, the help goes a long way.

Tosiba Kashem, Project Coordinator-Empower Youth for Work, OXFAM

When we are talking about accessible education and training, I don’t think a few days of training or financial aid would be sufficient to gear up an entrepreneur. We need to be trained from scratch using the academic curriculum, where we are taught to be brave enough to take risks, manage our required finances by ourselves and train ourselves well. If we want to see the results of transformation through education, it needs to be implanted from the very beginning of an adolescent age, in a comprehensive manner. Moreover, relevant factors and indicators need to be taken highly into account while comprehending the transformation, and a common platform needs to be established by the government through which the youth can voice their opinion and send in their messages directly to the relevant governing bodies.

Md Hatem Ali, Deputy Manager-Young People (Economic Opportunity and Decent Work), ActionAid Bangladesh  

The current statistics guide us with the information that people with higher education tend to remain more unemployed than people with basic level of education, since the former group struggles at the mid level where they can neither do lower-end jobs, nor be highly entrepreneurial in their ventures because of the risk factor. The curriculum needs to be designed in a more technical way that helps potential candidates to pursue the jobs that put their skills to use. 

SK Roqibul Hasan, Senior Manager, Apprenticeship Development: Skills Development, BRAC 

As a nation, we need to break our stereotypical societal norms in deciding the curriculum for the youth. We need to expand our mindsets and not colonize students with specific career options based on their grades and marks. Tertiary sectors like defense and military can also opt out of high-end education to directly devote themselves for the rigorous training procedures to save their productive time. The main aim of educational qualification one decides for themselves should be calculated and analyzed based on job-specific skills. 

Engr. Mohd. Habibur Rahman, CEO and Managing Director, Connect Markets

One of the most important factors that we often miss out on is talking about market engagement or the private sector. We live in a country where 90% job opportunities, starting from street side tea stalls to global corporations, fall under the private sector. We have miserably failed to meet the market demand. If enough priority is not given to the private sector, we might successfully get up to secondary level jobs, but not be able to grow into anything bigger. If the definition of education merging knowledge and skill, it is time we focused more on the development of skills that we have missed out on. Hence, we should work for skill development among the youth in accordance with the partnership of private sector engagement. 

Dr Mohammed Jahangir Hossain, Director (Planning and Development) and Project Director, Generation Breakthrough Project, Directorate of Secondary & Higher Education Bangladesh  

Residential training is a crucial part of the development system, yet it gets constrained due several financial limitations. Although, I believe we are in a generation that is driven by the power of knowledge and not numbers, we as the governing entity have a longer way to go to make ends meet. Adolescents are our primary focus and we need to keep them in mind when working for development. The government has been working tirelessly for the adolescent needs for a long time, but has not been able to come up with high value output yet. What I have tried to ensure is the quality of the training by maintaining an efficient timetable and by making it more sustainable. When it comes to the youth, especially females, the development of life skills is as important as providing income generating training - if not more. Parents, teachers and the community need to embed children with the knowledge of gender equity sensitization before talking about female health issues, menstrual cycles, etc. We need to ensure that the youth works towards their goals sensibly and not get so intoxicated by their ambitions that they fail to make level-headed decisions. Some of the findings that the government has started to follow after a series of trial and error of their previous experiences in controlling the locality are: firstly, focusing on the primary institutes of education; secondly, the involvement of the community along with the teachers; and lastly, sharing the programs through target teachers. We have tried to accommodate the most suitable candidates for the training not based on their degree of qualifications, but their merit and their in-built talent, because these are the people who, according to me, are well-equipped to handle real-life challenges and improve themselves with time. Examinations are not the only way of testing a child for their ability of knowledge intake. Rather, we have researched on several other forms of development methods whether it is through role play, gaming, extra-curricular activities, sports, etc. The government is working on programs for the generation breakthrough, where we incorporate academics with sufficient programs based on life skills, menstrual awareness and gender equity sensitization. Along with that, we are also working on laws to prevent sexual harassment and agricultural disparity, which are prominent challenges in a country like ours. We are also working towards making a minimum of two trainings compulsory for our candidates, and working on the progression of apprenticeship and internships. Our goals will hopefully be in seen implemented by the year 2020. 

Tanjilut Tasnuba, National Programme Officer, ILO

The three major policies that we are working on are based on heavy topics of education, skills and youth. The challenges one faces rise invariably when it comes to implementation. We need to focus on creating a synergy among the three factors. Youth representation in the policy review is required starting from the urban to the grass roots level. Competency based training, assessment and education needs to be focused upon. Industry linkage, recognition of prior learning and apprenticeship need to be governed by the monitoring bodies. An initiative that we are working on is sector-wise technical and vocational training, which will hopefully help to overcome the challenges in implementation. 

Nusrat Jahan Milki, Project Manager-Schools, British Council

Soft and transferable skills are needed to be embedded in mainstream education. Critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and imagination, communication and collaboration along with digital literacy and life skills are some integral soft and transferable skills that need to be included in the educational or training system for beneficial, core development of the nation’s youth.

Nazmul Ahsan, Manager-Action for Impact, ActionAid Bangladesh  

The main purpose of education itself is to mould individuals in a positive way, because education promotes innovation. We have around 600 training and educational institutions spread over various districts. But the question is, how many of these institutes are succeeding in developing market-oriented skills among their students and contirbuting to the transformation of education. If we actually want to help our economy to reach higher levels in the global domain, we need to increase the number of women recruited in the job market, which is currently at 36%. We need to raise awareness about the training programs in rural areas and we need to overcome structural defects before we talk about globalization and economic growth.

Md. Shahidul Islam, Head of Education Programs, Dhaka Ahsania Mission  

The youth need a more systematic guidance when they are pursuing their goals. Parents and society need to stop pressuring children into putting all their focus into obtaining optimum grades and need to start building them as efficient individuals. We need to think out of the box and merge education with entertainment for the children to enjoy the process of learning and, at the same time, receive more efficient output. 

Md Mehedi Hasan, Programme Manager – Secure Livelihoods, VSO Bangladesh  

In hopes of finding better opportunities in urban towns, internal migration has visibly increased in recent times. The government needs to create more scopes of employment or provide financial help to self-employed people from the rural areas, to help them live a sustainable and sufficient life in their own home towns, to eliminate or lessen the rigorous process of internal migration.

Ishrat Tanzil, Education Coordinator-Education Program, JAAGO Foudation

When we are predesigning training programs for women, we need to ensure that we provide them with job opportunities which will be comfortable for them in the current social context. Along with that, schools and institutions need to come up with segmented modules that help children understand their general subjects better, to be able to choose their future career paths with clarity.

Khairul Islam, Manager-Education for Youth Empowerment, Save the Children  

The merit needs to be converted into output for the growth of the economy. We suggest our Module 24, which consists of the development of soft skills, which has 72 sessions with a duration of 66 days for 2.5 hours on average, a 66-day training for hard skill development followed by apprenticeship or internship which, if put into practice, could be a great tool for development.

Other attendees:

Md. Forkhan Uddin, Country Director, VSO Bangladesh

Tazeen Hossain, Programme Manager-Youth, VSO Bangladesh (Chair) 

M. H. Tansen, Head of Schools, British Council Bangladesh 

Takaddus Annur Anisur Aziz, Officer-Education Program, JAAGO Foundation  

Sabikunnaher,Project Support Coordinator, VSO Bangladesh 

Runu Akter, Youth Engagement Officer, VSO Bangladesh 

Tanzid Nahid Mustafa Sundrin, Project Assistant- NYEN, VSO Bangladesh