Economy of Bangladesh · Education · Employment creation · Entrepreneurship Education

Lifelong learning in the age of fourth IR

Lifelong learning in the age of fourth IR

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on February 17, 2020

It is stated that education is the backbone of a nation. Importance of education to make a knowledge based society is unquestionable. Therefore governments are tired to increase percentage of educated people of their citizen. Education gets a significant amount of budget of all countries around the world. Developed countries spent 4-6 % of respective GDP in education. But countries like Bangladesh are unable to allocate enough resources but they are also spending around 1.5 – 3 % of respective GDP in education sector. As a result satisfactory results are coming in terms of primary school enrollment rate, rate of primary graduations, and female participation in education etc. c6ategories. Government is encouraging private sector entrepreneurs to invest in education sector in Bangladesh. As a result number of higher education institutions i.e. number of universities are in total above 140 in the country now. It has a significant contribution to ensure inclusive higher education during last two decades. Private sector investment in education sector especially in Private University, Medical College and Technical Institutes are contributing to stop brain-drain as well as save valued foreign currency spent earlier for higher education purpose. Not only saving foreign currencies Bangladeshi tertiary education sector is attracting foreign students and earning foreign currency too.

On the other hand, Bangladeshi higher education institutions are producing about three million plus graduates per year but about one third of them are getting employment opportunities. As a result number of higher educated unemployment is increasing rapidly. On the other hand Bangladesh is paying more outbound remittances to the foreign professionals working here than its earnings by exporting about 12 million workers to the international market. Most of the foreign professionals working here in Bangladesh are illegal (without working visa / work permits) as a result government is losing valuable revenue from them. Anyway our target in this article is not calculating number of foreign illegal workers / professionals here in Bangladesh, but we want to know why Bangladesh needs to employ foreign professionals where about two million plus higher educated people are remaining unemployed. It is because our higher educated manpower are lagging behind in terms of competency needed to be employed. In other word we can say that our existing education curriculum is unable to produce qualified manpower with required competencies needs to be employed in the occupations where foreign professionals / workers are working. Therefore it is crying needs of the day to revisit course curriculums in all levels to make these as per requirement of the industries.

Bangladeshi industries are not only playing locally but they are also integral part of global trend of industrialization. The world is transforming from 3rd into 4th Industrial Revolution (IR). As a result Bangladeshi businesses are to adopt applicable 4th IR technologies to remain competitive in respective export markets. Due to rapid shift of technology many occupations are becoming useless. To remain that professional on service, reskilling or upskilling is required. Reskilling or upskilling needs cost, the question is who will bear the cost of this essential reskilling or upskilling. Is it the employee who should bear the reskilling / upskilling cost to remain him useful in next generation technicalities. But they have limited capacity to bear this cost. On the other hand the employer (Private sector) are not in a position to bear reskilling / upskilling cost of the employees rather to hire a new employee having required skills. Therefore it is high time for the government to come up with required support for reskilling or upskilling existing local manpower to retain them employable. Government in Bangladesh having a limited focus to skills training or lifelong learning. But skills training institutes could be main weapon of the government to ensure in-time reskilling – upskilling of local professionals. You will hardly found any initiative backed by the government for mapping up which occupations are going to be abolished due to technological advancement in next 10 years and alternative initiative for reskilling those professionals into retain them employed.

Separate initiative required for the higher educated unemployed population to make them employable or entrepreneurs with proper occupational training. Government can inspire Private sector entrepreneurs to invest in occupational training sector like private universities. For example; government can offer tax weaver against private sector’s expenditure for reskilling or upskilling of respective employees. Budgetary supports could be offered for establishing training institutes in a forms of technical 4th IR machinery to produce employable manpower. On the Job Training (OJT) could be one of the best forms of reskilling / upskilling. Public sector employees especially working in different ministries are getting chances of OJT but in many private sectors it is absent. Therefore government can make OJT for a certain period mandatory for all employees irrespectively for the public or private sectors. Mandatory OJT can be useful for reskilling / upskilling.

Finally; Lifelong learning from formal or informal sector could be inspired to remain people updated and productive. It is said that, 4th IR Technology will make 60 – 90% of existing occupations irrelevant. Therefore today is the right time to revisit our existing curriculum in all levels of formal education, establishing more training institute with updated machinery to make unemployed population employable / entrepreneurs and finally to reskill / upskill existing manpower to remain them productive and useful. OJT and lifelong learning system could be patronized by the government to face challenges of 4th IR Technology ahead of us.

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