Promoting technical education

The government has taken an initiative to set up 100 technical schools and colleges in the country to supplement the ongoing efforts of promoting technical education, according to a news report in this paper on Friday. “These 100 schools and colleges will be established as part of the government’s plan for setting up 389 more technical schools and colleges across the country in phases,” Secretary of Technical and Madrasa Education Division told a news agency sometime ago.
Of course, the present government has to its credit the taking of steps to expand opportunities for technical and vocational education. It has done more compared to previous governments in the last two decades to increase facilities for technical and vocational education. But as it is, government run polytechnic institutes in Bangladesh are 77, technical schools and colleges 64, technical training centres 38, medical colleges 18, agricultural colleges 4, agricultural university 1, textile institute 6, agricultural institutes 13, forest institute 1, marine institute 1 and textile vocational institutes 40.
The above figures clearly show that for a country with well over 160 million people and a big part of them being teenagers or fast reaching the age to enter the labour market through some kind of need based education, the number of state run organizations to impart such education, is small compared to the need.
For example, when there should be at least two or three polytechnics in each of the country’s 64 districts, the total number of polys is 77. The same kind of insufficiency is noted in the other groups particularly in the areas of technical schools and colleges and technical training centres. It is also relevant to mention in this connection that the media often focuses on the poor state of whatever institutions are there in the state sector for vocational or technical education. In many cases, it is alleged that these do not have adequate number of teachers or trainers against sanctioned posts or equipment and machines for training are missing or remain dysfunctional.
The budget makers are seen spending money to pave the way for getting degrees by hundreds of thousands of youngsters in general, theoretical and religious education every year. But what good such generalists or potential prayer leaders–who pass out in hordes annually– can do to fill the ranks of skilled manpower needs to take the country to a higher level of economic existence ?
It is imperative from the highest levels of the government to realize that the priorities in education must be redefined at the fastest and remedial actions taken just as fast. Useless and redundant forms of education such as madrasha education need to be discouraged and curtailed. Allocations must be much increased for creating centres for types of education that would create real human resources.
Education is no more looked at in isolation from a country’s economic or developmental goals nowadays. Rather, it is recognized as the single most important factor in promoting economic growth and development through the creation of human resources. Thus, south east Asian countries like Japan and South Korea could achieve very remarkable progress in building economic prosperity for their people in a relatively short period of time in the last century by developing their human resources from application of appropriate educational policies.
Successive governments in Bangladesh claimed that they followed a similar path of using education as the means to attaining economic progress. But the claims have proved to be hollow in the backdrop of the prevailing education systems in the country which are far from making the best use of resources being poured into the education sector.
The frequent advocacy is noted from some quarters that the present education budget should be at a higher level to realise different objectives in the education sector. But this is a doubtful suggestion in the backdrop of the otherwise consensus expert opinion that it would be a great waste to pump in more and more resources into the education sector till it can be proved that the same will be actually well spent.
A complete overhaul of the education system is very necessary. The present system produces mainly literate or generalists. They are of no use for the country’s developmental or economic needs. The thrust right from the primary to secondary and higher secondary stages should be on need based education. Agricultural, vocational, scientific, technical and managerial education should form important components of syllabuses progressively throughout these stages. Sea changes will have to achieve to these ends in the field of teachers’ training, recasting of syllabuses and other related matters.
Substantial investments are required to build specialised educational or training institutions to create diverse human resources in fields such as leather technology, fashion designing, marine technology, agro-products processing, information technology, seafood processing, modern farming, etc. Investments in these specialized and sector based educational institutions can have the most effect in taking care of the supply sides requirements to expedite economic growth.
Primary education is presently using up a lion’s share of the education budget. While this emphasis may continue, very urgent steps need to be taken to invest much greater resources on technical education. The number of engineering universities, colleges, technical institutes, polytechnics, etc., must be rapidly increased in the coming years so that education can become real life oriented and can create adequate human resources to work as catalysts for the aspired economic growth.
Greater public sector investments in technical and higher education is also necessary because the majority of the pupils are in no position to afford such education at home or abroad. Only greater public sector resources going into these forms of education, even at the cost of government subsidies, should produce the highly beneficial long term effect of creating a growing pool of technically able manpower in the country for engaging in various tasks to expand the economy.