Bangladesh needs to plan its upcoming Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme to get the best out of it for the people. It has to be cautious to be able to avoid a situation in which the programme turns unproductive while the nation will require to take the extra burden of loans.
Bangladesh should be able to utilise the TVET programme, supported by International Labour Organisation (ILO), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, to train the young to raise the skilled and entrepreneurial workforce the country needs to create wealth for overcoming poverty. Designed correctly the programme would prepare the population for sustained gainful employment.
The coming five to seven years will be a period of TVET in Bangladesh with three major TVET projects implemented by ILO, ADB and WB, in operation. Moreover, a number of small projects will continue. Considering these, cautious steps are required from the beginning to avoid getting into a danger. Providing TVET requires more funds than general education. Any mismatch and overlapping of TVET and misutilisation of fund for it will land the country into large long-term obligations on account of loans, to be provided by the ADB and WB. Bangladesh will, however, need to reform its TVET project.
There is a fresh awareness among policy-makers in the countries in South Asia and the international donor community of the critical role that TVET can play in national development. The increasing importance that government of Bangladesh now attaches to TVET is reflected in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers prepared by it in collaboration with the multilateral donor organisations. Being work-oriented, the TVET curriculum emphasises the need for acquisition of employable skills. It seeks to train people to raise the skilled and entrepreneurial workforce that Bangladesh needs to create wealth to be able to emerge out of poverty. TVET institutions can respond to the different training needs of learners from different socio-economic and academic backgrounds, and prepare them for gainful employment and sustainable livelihoods. The TVET should benefit to the youth, the poor and the vulnerable of the society.
The nation has a vision of “an integrated, peaceful, prosperous Bangladesh, driven by its own people to take its rightful place in the global community and the knowledge economy.” In its Plan of Action, Bangladesh recognises the importance of TVET as a means of empowering individuals to take control of their lives. It calls for the integration of vocational training into the general education system. Bangladesh also recognises the fact that vast numbers of its young people are outside the formal school system, and consequently attaches importance to the integration of non-formal learning methodologies and literacy programmes into national TVET programmes.
It is within this framework that the country is spearheading the development of a new strategy to revitalise TVET. The strategy would seek to: To revitalise, modernise and harmonise TVET to transform it into a mainstream activity for youth development, youth employment and human capacity building; to position TVET programmes and TVET institutions as vehicles for regional cooperation and integration as well as socio-economic development as it relates to improvements in infrastructure, technological progress, energy, trade, tourism, agriculture and good governance; to mobilise all stakeholders in a concerted effort to create synergies and share responsibilities for the renewal and harmonisation of TVET policies, programmes and strategies.
The document would present a strategic policy framework and a set of practical recommendations for adoption of national policies and action plans for promoting quality technical and vocational education and training of relevance.
Currently TVET systems of the country provide a variety of training in different types of institutions, including technical and vocational schools both public and private, polytechnics, enterprises, and apprenticeship. Non-traditional apprenticeship offers the largest opportunity for the acquisition of employable skills for the informal sector.
Formal TVET programmes are school-based. Training models often follow the colonial models. In general, however, students enter the vocational education track at the end of junior secondary school and starting of senior secondary school, from 9th to 12th classes of secondary and higher secondary education. The duration of school-based technical and vocational education ranges from three to six years, depending on the model. In an attempt to expose young people to pre-employment skills, some courses have incorporated basic vocational skills into the junior secondary school curriculum. Oversight responsibility for TVET is shared in general between the ministries responsible for education or technical education and for labour or employment. Some specialised vocational training programmes in agriculture, health, transport, and the like fall under the supervision of the sector ministries.
With a few exceptions, the TVET delivery systems currently operate in countries with weak national economies, high population growth, and growing labour force. TVET is delivered by both government and private providers. The private providers train for the informal sector, which is an expanding job market, while public institutions train mostly for the more or less stagnant industrial sector. Private providers also target “soft” business and service sector skills like secretarial practice, cookery, and dress-making that do not require huge capital outlays to deliver.
A limited amount of in-company or enterprise-based training also takes place in some countries. This type of training is often dedicated to the sharpening of specific skills of company employees.
TVET systems are undergoing or have undergone reforms that are designed to build on the inherent strengths of the system. The major reforms concern the setting up of national training bodies, and the enactment of laws to strengthen national vocational training programmes. The need to link training to employment, either self- or paid-employment, is at the root of the best practices and strategies world-wide.
Bangladesh already has the law in place. A National Skills Development Council (NSDC) with overall responsibility for skills development has also been set up. The policymakers, therefore, need to answer: why is not the NSDC properly functioning as yet? For coherence within the diverse TVET system, the needed National Qualifications Framework is yet to be established. An ILO team is working to develop a new NVQF in collaboration with the department of education. In the countries, where TVET is devolved and well-organised, National Qualifications Framework provides a mechanism for awarding qualifications based on the achievement of specified learning prescribed by industry. The framework allows for accumulation of credits and recognition of prior learning, which promotes the culture of life-long learning. Employers support vocational and technical training financially by paying a levy.
It is surprising that currently the projects of ILO, WB and ADB, attach almost no priority to entrepreneurship in agricultural, public health and water resources, energy and environmental management areas.
The donors recommend competency-based curriculum in computer literacy, pharmaceuticals, textiles, IT and building construction. The promotion of handicraft and indigenous technologies is not rated as important.
Globalisation has created a tension between developing skills for poverty eradication and skills for global economic competitiveness. In a globalising world economy, the acquisition of “industrial” skills is also important. Bangladesh must, therefore, pursue the development of skills at all levels of the spectrum, basic, secondary and tertiary, that best suits its economic development and the needs of the domestic labour market.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) education at all levels is also important for survival in a globalising labour market.
Globalisation is flooding the markets with cheap goods and technology products from abroad. The question arises as to how competitive will locally produced goods be against the cheaper imported versions? National policies should, therefore, take into account these and other globalisation-induced factors in designing TVET programmes and courses.
The TVET system must be labour-market relevant, equitable, efficient, and of high quality. This strategy document provides the framework for the design and implementation of such national TVET systems.