Technical and Vocational

The Role of Technical and Vocational Education in the National Development of Bangladesh

This paper explores the situation for Bangladesh for its development by providing technical and vocational education.
This paper explores the situation for Bangladesh for its development by providing technical and vocational education.
Gazi Mahbubul Alam
Written by Gazi Mahbubul Alam


Education is a  basic human right and considered by many as a  key tool  for  national development. However, this tenet has been challenged by several economists, especially Pritchett (1996). His empirical analysis suggests  that many countries, whilst having  a  large educated population,  remain unable  to make  significant progress. It is also claimed  that  third world development  is  sluggish. These  findings generate the  question: while  education increases  globally, what  exactly  is  it  that  hinders a  country’s progression? There are no short answers, but a major area of concern is the type and quality of education vailable.  Scholars  argue  that  countries  need  a  well‐diversified education  system  in  order  to  gain sustainable  development  through  education.  This  paper explores  the  situation  for  Bangladesh  for  its evelopment  by  providing  technical and vocational education  (Asia‐Pacific  Journal  of  Cooperative ducation, 9(1), 25‐44).

Key Words: Employment Pattern, Human Capital, Job Market, National Development, Person Power, Rate of Return, Technical and Vocational Education.


The World  Bank  (2002)  described  Bangladesh  as  lagging  behind  the  economic  growth  of technical and  technological modernization, but went on  to note  that “Bangladesh’s greatest trength is its people.  Ethnically homogeneous and firmly wedded after much turmoil to the ntuitions,  they  are well  known  for  hard work  and  resilience  under  stress”  (World  Bank, 2002, p. 6).

The  World  Bank  also  noted  that  Bangladesh  has  no  more  alternatives  in  order  to  gain development,  except  properly  utilizing  its  population.   The  World  Bank  (2002),  United Nations  Development  Programme  (UNDP)  (1999),  United  Nations  Educational,  Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO)  (2000) all suggest  that Bangladesh urgently needs  to utilize  its  over‐crowded  population  and  large  labor  market.   To  improve  the  quality  of employees, Bangladesh’s people need  to be  trained  in modern professional‐based  and  job‐oriented  technical,  technological and vocational programs.  World Bank  (2002) data  reveals that, in the last 25 years, Bangladeshʹs economy has only developed at a 4% annual gross rate for  its  domestic  product  (GDP),  leaving  it  still  poor  and  dependent  on  foreign  aid  for  its development; particularly due to political instability.  Local politicians and privileged people blame the continuing deprived state of Bangladesh on its relatively recent independence.

Again  the  World  Bank  (2002)  report  suggests  that  Bangladesh’s  economy  and  human development  could have  grown  faster  than  its  actual progression  in  the  last  25  years  (i.e., since  independence  in  1971),  if  it  had  earlier  taken  substantial  steps  in  educational development.   For  example,  the  economy  of  South Korea, Thailand  and Malaysia  reached upper middle‐income  status within  about  25  years  after  achieving  political  stability.   This outstanding improvement in living standards and quality of life for the citizens was achieved by  securing  an  appropriate  educational  atmosphere  in  order  to  provide  high  quality education in different technical and professional fields (Figure 1).

Education is generally viewed as crucial for rapid economic growth, and essential if we wish to  increase  the productivity of  the poor by reducing  fertility and providing people with  the skills  they need  to participate  fully  in  the economy and  in society  (Fagerlind & Saha, 1989). Therefore, it is important for Bangladesh to offer different educational programs in terms of population,  social  requirements,  and  globalization,  and  so  on.   The  Bangladesh  Bureau  of Educational  Information  and  Statistics  (BANBEIS)  noted  that,  since  independence  many attempts  have  been  made  for  the  renewal  educational  policy,  but  that  the  desired development  has  yet  to  take  place,  because  most  of  the  educational  policies  and developmental steps were taken for ‘general education’ (BANBEIS, 2007).

Bennell  (1996)  observes  that  all  countries,  especially  developing  countries,  need  balanced development  through all of  the educational sectors  in order  to make significant progress  in terms  of  national  development.   Presently  Bangladesh  is  mainly  offering  education  in ‘general  subjects,  but  to  achieve  development,  it  must  offer  a  variety  of  courses  for disciplines  such  as  technical,  vocational,  professional,  agricultural,  and  so  on,  because  the country needs a balanced distribution of manpower for all professions (Alam, 2003, 2007), so that the vast population of Bangladesh can contribute to economical growth by participating iin  different  professions.   Additionally,  if  people  get  involved  in  different  professions naturally,  they will may  their  own  professions,  and  that may  help  in  the  development  of social equity, respect and freedom.


Before considering the role of technical and vocational education (TVE) in Bangladesh,  initially the concept of national development and justification for the choice of both the economic and community development indicators are examined.

National Development and Technical and Vocational Education

Fagerlind and Saha (1989) argue that there is a value‐free meaning contained in the notion of development over and above  the  ideological and political uses of  the concept.  This value‐free meaning is thought to mean that:

Development  can mean  the  actualization  of  an  implicit  potentiality,  the  simplest  example  being  the patterned growth maturation of a seed or an initial germ–cell, to the full adult from the individual plant, or animal or human person. Without stipulating, at this point, anything too weighty or too precise, this can also certainly seem to apply to man and his social situations. (Fletcher, 1974, p. 43)

Thomas and Potter  (1992), go on  to argue  that “All definitions of development  contain  the central  notion  of  a  process  of  change  from  a  less  desirable  to  a  more  desirable  kind  of society… development of what? How  is what  is desirable defined,  and by whom? How  is progression to be achieved?” (p. 18).

Thomas and Potter’s (1992) summary of the concept of development seems clear cut, but also raises questions.  For example, since the 1950s there have been at least three main schools of thought on the definitions and approaches towards development.  The first school is that of the economists. Economists such as Bernstein, Shultz and Psacharapolous view development primarily in terms of a nation’s relative prosperity.  A nation’s development is thus assessed by measuring  any  increase  in  its  gross  national  product  (GNP)  (Thomas  &  Potter,  1992). Development here  is seen as achieved  through  investing  in human capital, and “raising  the productivity capacities of societies” (Thomas & Potter, 1992, p. 18).

The  second  school of  thought  is  that of  the  sociologists  such as McClelland, Weber,  Inkeles, and Smith.  They propose that modernizing a country leads to economic development, and a modern society.  With modernization as the main goal, the emphasis is placed on education; technology and  industrialization are seen as the agents of transformation.  Underdeveloped countries  can,  they  say,  be  transformed  into  modern  countries  with  similar  economies, societies and politics as those in the prosperous West (Little, 1999; Thomas & Potter, 1992).

In  the 1960s and 1970s, another group of  theorists such as Seers, Sen and Edwards began  to consider  development  from  a  human  needs  perspective.   The  emphasis  here  was  not  so heavily focused on economic growth as the primary  indicator of development, but more on assessing the needs of individuals: their freedom, equity, participation and empowerment to fulfill  their potential  capabilities  (Thomas & Potter,  1992).   Sen  (1999),  for  example,  argues that:

If,  instead,  the  focus  is  ultimately  on  the  expansion  of  human  freedom  to  live  the  kind  of  lives  that people have reason to value, then the role of economic growth  in expanding these opportunities has to be integrated into that more foundational understanding of the process of development as expansion of human capability to lead more worthwhile and more free lives. (p. 295)

Table 1: Some indexes of development for five underdeveloped countries including Bangladesh

CountryHDI rankGDP per Capita (PPPS)Adult literacyEducation index rateLife expectencyCorrupt country index placing1

Table 2: Some indexes of development for five developed countries (UNDP, 2005)

CountryHDI rankGDP per Capita (PPPS)Adult literacyEducation index rateLife expectencyCorrupt country index placing2

Before  the 1990s,  the economists carried  the strongest voice.  The argument  for  investing  in human  capital  through  investment  in  education was  considered  to  lead  to  higher  rates  of return  (both private and  social)  that would  far outweigh  the  initial  investment.  Education policies  in both developing and underdeveloped countries  reacted  to  this by  implementing programs which led to massive expansion in the provision of education.  In some countries, this  approach  seemed  to  work  (e.g.,  in  East  Asia)  (World  Bank,  1995)  resulting  in industrialization  and,  to  some  degree,  modernization.   But  in  other  countries,  such  as Bangladesh,  the  results  in  terms  of  economic  indicators  have  been  disappointing  (World Bank, 2002).

By  the  1990s,  a  more  holistic  view  of  development  was  beginning  to  take  centre  stage, especially  in  organizations  such  as  UNESCO  and  UNDP.   From  this  perspective,  human development  is  not  just measured  in  terms  of  the  economy  but  also  in  terms  of  freedom, equity (access to education, health), participation and quality of life.  The UNDP (2002, p. 2) defines this wider meaning thus:

Human development  is about much more  than  the  raising of national  incomes.  It  is about  creating an environment  in  which  people  can  develop  their  full  potential  and  lead  productive,  creative  lives  in accordance with  their needs  and  interests. People  are  the  real wealth of nations. Development  is  thus about expanding  the choices people have  to  lead  lives  that  they value. And  it  is  thus about more  than economic growth, which is only a means – if a very important one – of enlarging people’s choices.

The author support the view that national development must be a country’s development in terms  of  its  economic  and  social  freedom.  He  also  considers  that  economic  freedom  and social freedom are  interrelated  ; one cannot succeed without the other (Thomson, 1981).  To increase national economic development, a country must have social freedom and, to achieve social  development,  a  country  must  have  economic  freedom.   Data  will  be  provided  to support this assertion.

It  is  important  to  note  that  this  comparison  does  not  consider  the  quality  of  education provided  in the countries  included.  Furthermore, GDP has been calculated so as to include foreign  aid  received  by  underdeveloped  countries  from  developed  countries.   In  some countries,  a  lower  income  (GNP)  produces  a  better  quality  of  life,  due  to  a  good  balance between income and the purchasing power controlling the value of basic goods.  The placing of corruption and transparency column (Tables 1 & 2) is a key indicator, as transparency is an aspect  of  social  development  that  can  help  to  achieve  economic  development,  and  also human  development.   Conversely,  corruption  is  an  aspect  of  social  decadence  that  will hinder any level of national development (Alam, 2003).

The tables indicate that underdeveloped countries have a low GDP as well as a low Human Development Index (HDI), while developed countries have a higher GDP and also a higher HDI.   Therefore,  economic  freedom  and  social  freedom  seem  to  be  interrelated.  Nevertheless, Lewin (1993), Fagerlind and Saha (1989), and Knight and Sabot (1990) believe that education can play a vital role in national development as we shall see.

The Role of Technical and Vocational Education in National Development

The three theoretical perspectives outlined in the previous section consider education to be a key agent of national development, either as a way of developing human capacity, increasing the  skilled workforce  for modernization,  or  as  a matter  of  personal  freedom,  developing capability  and  empowerment.   From  the  1940s  onwards,  and  as  noted  above,  education provision was either  considered  in  terms of producing  the  requisite  ‘person power’, which the country needed as an investment and which would yield both social and private rates of return, or as a response to social demand (Thomson, 1981).  However, due to the popularity of  more  humanistic  theories  of  development  in  the  1990s,  the  World  Conference  on Education for All (WCEFA) noted that there was a general realization that education was not only the key to economic development and human capacity/productivity building, but that it was also a basic human right (WCEFA, 1990).

In summary, above all, education is a human right and, as such, should receive priority in the allocation  of  national  resources.   It  is  very  short‐sighted  to  keep  education  bound  and ‘gagged  to  the  role  of manufacturing  skilled manpower,  or  to  judge  one’s  success  by  the number  of  either  children  or  adults who  have  efficiently  undertaken  a  ‘learning  package’ (Hallak, 1990).

Education was previously seen as  fundamental, not only  to  the economic development, but also to the social and political development within nations and for individuals.  Hallak (1990) argues  that education  is also  linked  to human  resources development, and  that  this has an impact on more than just economic growth, but also an impact on the wider development of individuals and societies. Education, he argues, contributes to:

−  Individual  creativity,  improved  participation  in  the  economic,  social  and  cultural  roles  in society;
−  improved understanding of an  individual and  their respect  for others,  thus promoting social cohesion and material understanding;
−  improvement in health and nutrition;
−  improved chances of economic development;
−  improved technological development;
−  socio‐cultural change;
−  democracy and equality; and
−  ecological development/quality of life (increasing people’s awareness of their environments).

Examining this list, it seems clear that for Hallak, modernization and economic development, although desirable, are not the only aspects of human development that are, and should be, enhanced  by  the  provision  of  education.   Participation  in  social,  political  and  cultural activities and improvements in health as education goals are equally important.  Alam (2007) notes that investment in education and training produces benefits for the individual and for society as a whole.  Moreover, Alam  (2007) observes  that education not only benefits  those who gain it through increased income, but also helps overall social development.  The return on investment for society will be a skilled workforce that will enable global competitiveness and economic growth, while  the  return  for  the  individual will be an  improved career path, increased earning power and a better quality of life.  According to Fagerlind and Saha (1989), the concept of ‘human capital’ suggests that education and training raises the productivity of workers and  increases  their earnings over  their  lifetime.  But  this  is not always  true  for  the high proportion of  learners and  trainees who have gain education  leaving certificates.   It  is the people with  the highest  level of education, Fagerlind and Saha  (1989) observe, who are most likely to benefit from human capital investment.

The Role Of Technical And Vocational Education In National Development

According  to Alam  (2007), human  capital  theory has powerful  influence on  the analysis of labor market.  Alam notes that investment in education and training produces benefit both to the  individual  and  to  society  as  a whole.   The  return  on  investment  for  society will  be  a skilled workforce  that will  enable  global  competitiveness  and  economic  growth, while  the return of the individual will be a better career path, increased earning and a better quality of life.

According  to  Fagerlind  and  Shah  (1989)  the  concept  of  ‘human  capital’  suggests  that education  and  training  raises  the  productivity  of  workers,  and  increases  their  lifetime earning  capacity.  According  to Alam  (2007), governments perceive  increased demands  for skills when the labor supply shows rapid growth, when employment grows quickly, or when employment  increases  significantly.   They  argue  that  governments  have  called  upon vocational education and  training  (VET) systems  to help unemployed young people and older workers get  jobs, reduce  the burden on higher education, attract  foreign  investment ensure rapid growth of  earnings and  employment, and  reduce  the  inequality of  earnings between the  rich  and  the poor.  But Zymelman  (1976) Paschorpoulos  (1987)  and Tilak  (1998)  argue that technical and vocational education provides  a  lower  rate  of  return  (ROR)  than general  education.  However, Bennell (1996) rebuts this ,arguing that even if TVE students are less ‘academically brilliant’, the RORfor TVE is still high.  Colin (1999) suggests that TVE not only prepares skilled labor but also provides  general  education  to  the  students.   Foster  also  (1965)  aggressively  criticizes  that vocational  school  is  a  fallacy  in  development  planning,  and  points  out  that  vocational education can be effective  if  the acquired skills are utilized properly.  Colin  (1999)  likewise says  that technical and vocational education can play vital role  for development planning, but he warns  that  if  the policy makers do not make  it up‐to‐date, and TVE schools do not have enough qualified  teaching faculty and sufficient facilities to offer quality TVE, it will not be useful.  He also claims that these  are  not  limitations  of  TVE  per  se,  but  limitations  of  the  educational  policy  of  the country.  Bennell (1996) says that though TVE has been a powerful influence in development planning;  indiscriminately  offering  technical and vocational education  may  have  negative  impact  on  development. Arriagada  and Ziderman  (1992)  criticize  TVE,  saying  does  not  pay  an  appropriate  role  in development  and  claim  that  the  higher  investment  needed  for  TVE  does  not  seems  to  be compensated  for  by  high  return.   However  his  definition  of  TVE  can  explain  a  good significant  role  of  TVE  in  development:  “Vocationalization  refers  to  effort  by  school  to include  in  their  curriculum  those practical  subjects which are  likely  to generate among  the students  some  basic  knowledge,  skills  and  dispositions  that might  prepare  them  to  think becoming  skilled worker  or  to  enter  other manual  occupations”.   The World  Bank  Policy Paper  on TVE  (1991),  says  that  to get  the maximum benefit  to national development  from TVE certain factors must be considered: 

−  Well‐timed modern courses linked of local and global demand;
−  relevant and up‐to‐date technical and vocational education courses need to be developed; 
−  proper  justification  in respect of  individual country that at which  level of schooling  is best  in offering TVE courses; and
−  wider range of TVE courses need to be developed in terms of demand and cost effectiveness (not only for offering various courses but also for duration of the courses, for student classification in terms of their merit, ages, job market, etc.).

Lewin  (1993, p. 14)  claims  that TVE  seems  to allow us  to “kill  several birds with  the  same stone.”  Akyeampong (2002) points out that TVE in national educational system not only for its  economic  contribution  but  also  for  its  cultural,  social  and  political  contribution. International  Labor Organization  (ILO)  (2001)  claims  that  technical and vocational education  is  intended  as  a  bold  and courageous  step  to undertake, with  the  changing  scenario  for  economic  life by developing human capital.

From  the  discussions  above,  it  seems  clear  that  from  the  economic,  social  and  political standpoint, national development  requires  education which  is  intended  to meet a  range of different  national  needs.   These  include  those  associated  with  building  an  appropriate workforce,  and  stronger  economy,  as  well  a  cohesive,  literate  and  healthy  society. Economical  freedom  and  social  freedom  are  interrelated;  one  cannot  thrive  without  the others.   Alam  (2007)  says  that  without  economical  growth,  social  freedom  cannot  be achieved.  Therefore the purpose of education is to provide adequate knowledge to the local community to cope with the professions, and that education will also provide social value, so that people can achieve two developmental things.  Moreover, if education programs offered do  not  provide  employment,  parents  will  perceive  that  investment  in  education  as  not worthwhile, because  their children do not achieve anything promising  for  their  future as a result of their schooling.  Under circumstances where there is no effective enforcement of law to makes primary and secondary schooling compulsory, the number of school‐going people will  likely decrease.   Though  this  decline might  not  initially  hurt  the  employment market since  there  are  few  job  opportunities  in  Bangladesh,  it  will  impact  in  terms  of  social development  predominantly  in  the  health  and  other  sensitive  sectors  through  a  drop  in general literacy and it will hamper future economic growth.

Context Present Situation of Technical and Vocational Education in Bangladesh

The discussion above  indicate  that offering different TVE programs may have a  significant role to play in achieving national development, but suggest still Bangladesh has not made an ‘epoch‐making development’ of TVE.  In this section, I discuss the current situation of technical and vocational education in Bangladesh.

Jeong  (1999)  claims  that before  joining at  the  labor  force, workers need  to be  trained  to be more productive and to perform their tasks properly.  Atcharena and Caillods (1999) say that workers need the training before  joining the labor force, and also need in‐service training to maintain up‐to‐date skills.  But Bangladesh has  taken  the decision  to build more  traditional educational  institutions  rather  than  TVE  institutions,  which  has  resulted  in  producing graduates  rather  than  skilled person power.  TVE  is  inherently multidisciplinary  in nature, and depends to a significant extent on specialists from relevant disciplines in the country, as well  as  those  in  developed  countries  where  development  has  been  progressed  through multidisciplinary activities  (Watts, 1985).  So  the multidisciplinary nature of technical and vocational education may help the students to reach the labor market and further education, with a solid foundation.  Under such circumstances, there are many unemployed young people in Bangladesh.  Such people engage  in  socially‐undesirable  activities  such  as  drug‐taking  resulting  in  social  problems. The present drop‐out rate is high at secondary level (Grades 9‐10); about 52% for males, and 58% for females (BANBEIS, 2007).  These drop‐out students try to join the labor force without any  requisite  training  or  skills,  because  general  school  curriculum  does  not  have  a  TVE component.  Under  the control of Bangladesh Technical Education Board  (BTEB),  there are only  a  few  schools  providing  TVE  to  the  local  community.  Most  of  the  schools  are  non‐government, and are regulated by NGOs.  Though the drop‐out rate is high at the secondary school  level,  polytechnic  institutions  (of  which  there  are  20‐government  and  7‐Non‐government options) offer diploma‐level education using an out‐dated TVE program to their llocal community and with limited resources (Oxtoby, 1997).

So drop‐out students remain untrained for employment.   The  number  of  polytechnic institutions  is  also  low  in  comparison  with  most  other  countries,  and  the  Bangladesh population. O ne government vocational teachers training  institute offers  in‐service training for  the  teachers,  but  its  effectiveness  is  questionable  (World  Bank,  1990).   This  brings question how effectively TVE teachers are performing in teaching.  Additionally, the present TVE  system  does  not  provide  any  in‐service  training  for workers.   So  secondary  school‐leaver workers  have  little  chance  to  undertake  professional  training  in  their  lifetime,  and instead  gain  experience  from work.  Hyland  (1999)  considers  that workers  need  training before and also need ‘inside’ training.  Hyland highlights the importance of lifelong learning if  the  worker  is  to  cope  with  changes.   Figures  2  and  3  show  that  enrollees  are  rapidly decreasing  at  the  secondary  level,  which  supports  the  drop‐out  situation.   Below  I  will discuss the present status of offered TVE programs by a few TVE schools and institutions.

The  above  discussion  about  the  role technical and vocational education might  play  in  national  development,  especially mentioned points noted in a World Bank Policy Paper on TVE, and implies that to maximize gains in sustainable development via TVE, modern and well‐timed TVE programs should be offered  to  students,  and  these  need  to  provide  the  best  practical  knowledge  in  relevant programs.  Colin (1999) insists that TVE needs to offer most up‐to‐date technical, professional and  job‐oriented  courses  in  order  to meet  the  challenges  of  the  twenty  first  century  labor market.  He also says  that even  if providing modern up‐to‐date TVE program  is expensive, developing  countries must make  this  investment,  because  such  investment will help  build the  appropriate  human  resources  which  will  contribute  to  national  development  and participation of labor market.  But it seems that Bangladesh has not made desired progress to moderate  and  to  innovate  and  provide  up‐to‐date  TVE  programs  (Rafique,  1996;  World Bank, 1990).

Rafique  (1996) says  that present status of TVE  in Bangladesh  is such  that we only offer old programs and topics.  He suggests that Bangladesh needs to offer up‐to‐date programs such as information technology, computer science, e‐commerce and so on.  Oxtoby (1997) likewise says  that  Bangladesh  not  only  needs  to  restructure  its  TVE  facilities,  but  also  needs  to restructure  the TVE programs.  Rafique  (1996) reports  that  in Bangladesh 64% of  technician level jobs are held by people without any formal education or training, and suggest that that if TVE  in Bangladesh fails provide good programs with an up‐to‐date curriculum; they will likely  lose  credibility  with  the  employers.   Rafique’s  arguments  raise  the  question  as  to whether  trained  people  can  meet  employer  demands,  or  if  employers  feel  a  need  to  be involved in training people themselves.  However, Moenjak and Worswick (2001) claim that although in some circumstances some employers do not bother recruiting trained people, the importance of skilled person power is unquestionable.

The data and analysis  then suggest  that technical and vocational education  in Bangladesh  is not developed sufficiently  to meet the challenge of building appropriate human resources.  Having discussed the present situation  of  TVE  in  Bangladesh,  I  now  discuss  barriers  to  the  development  of  TVE  in Bangladesh.

Barriers To Technical and Vocational Education in Bangladesh

There are many barriers to the development of technical and vocational education in Bangladesh and these are summarized below:

−  Most elite parents think that their children should not become a laborer. Even if their children are  less  academically  able,  parents  try  to  push  their  children  into  higher  education‐disobeying the law. Social elites and political leaders in Bangladesh do not bother much about the  law. They  also  send  their  children  to  study  abroad.  In  such  circumstances, poor parents become disappointed about their children’s education (Alam, 2003, 2007);

−  The quality of TVE is poor and cannot provide sufficient significant knowledge for jobs. Most of  TVE  schools  are  also  located  far  from  rural  areas; meaning  village  students  cannot  have access to them easily (World Bank, 1991);

−  Gallart  (1988)  claims  students  of  TVE  suffer  anxiety  about  the  purpose  of  TVE,  being  only preparing  laborers  to get more profit  from  them,  saying  it  is  a moral obligation  to  eradicate such  anxiousness  and  help  them  understand  that  TVE  has  two  roles ‐  preparing  skilled manpower  for  the world of work,  and opening  the door  for TVE  students  to pursue higher education with  a  solid  foundation. Unfortunately,  higher  education  is  very  limited  for  TVE school graduates  in Bangladesh. In addition, once a student has a gap of two years academic study,  he/she  cannot  enroll  in  further  higher  education.  In  these  circumstances  if  a  TVE graduate  joins  his/her  job  after  completion  of  secondary  and  higher  secondary  education, he/she cannot come back into further education (Rafique, 1996);

−  Higher educated people in general discipline areas can work at any place but higher educated people  from  TVE  can  only work  in  TV  related  placements, which  is  low  in  terms  of  social prestige.  All boards, educational enterprises, and other organizations are under the control of their mother organization named ministry. The head of the ministries is the honorable minister who  is  appointed politically  so he/she does not need prerequisite qualifications. The  second head of the ministries is the secretary, who must have the general educational background and mainly  secretary  controls  the  ministries  even  if  it  is  ‘Ministry  of  Science  and  Technology. Therefore the top authorities enjoy the respect and favor of general graduates rather than TVE graduates. In  these circumstances TVE graduates are socially neglected so bright students do not have much interest in studying TVE (Rafique, 1996); and

−  Providing good TVE needs more money  for practical workshop  facilities, and also demands industrial  attachments  for  internships  (World  Bank,  1990).  Lauglo  and  Lillis  (1988)  say  that vocational  and  practical  subjects  ‘pedagogic  systems  have unusually multifarious  expensive requirements  (such  as  equipments  materials,  resources,  curriculum,  support  system, personnel, managements  requirements,  etc.),  which  are  not  easily met.  As  a  poor  country, achieving a high budget for education is a real challenge for Bangladesh. It is also added that budget  for TVE  is very  low  in comparison with other  sectors of education  (BANBEIS, 2007). The  present  distribution  of  government  revenue  budget  on  TVE  is  a  lowly  1.4%  and development budget is only 4.3% (see Figures 4 and 5).

The World Bank (2002) notes that political leaders of Bangladesh have no strong commitment to  develop  the  country  or  providing  appropriate  training.   Since  a  certain  level  of  TVE  is emerging at secondary and higher secondary education for national development but as elite children do not have any problem  in build their careers, so the concepts of TVE seems only for  speeches. The above mentioned barriers  to  the development of TVE produce a  serious, detrimental impact on enrolments in TVE as Figure 6 illustrates.

Job Market for Skilled Persons

The World Bank report of 2002 notes the present population of Bangladesh is more than 140 million, with density of 1050 persons per square kilometer.  Over‐population can be a barrier to economic growth for a nation, but if the people are trained and are more productive, they may not a burden on society, but instead a source of skilled person power.  They can perform their  task  efficiently  with  best  professionalism,  and  they  can  also  contribute  for  national development by participating global labor market.

Now  I discuss  how  the  country  can  benefit  by  the use  of  trained  human  resources  (if  the country  can  develop  trained  human  resources  in  various  professions).   Though,  there  are many  sectors,  which  might  be  progressed  by  skilled  person  power,  I  will  discuss  the agriculture,  garments  and  leather  sectors,  and  consider  the  impact  of  the  exportability  of skilled person power.

Comparison of Employed Skilled Person Power and Employment Patterns

Before discussing  this  issue  in  respect of Bangladesh,  I  first make comparison of employed skilled  person  power  employment  pattern  found  in  the  study  of  job  market  for  TVE graduates with South Korea and Germany/Japan.  Table 3 explores the employment pattern, but before discussing the analysis of the data in Table 3, it is worthwhile to note that position of skilled worker of Bangladesh is an official agenda but the position is occupied by unskilled worker who do not have either TVE or general education  (Rafique, 1996;  ILO, 1993).  As a point of concern, it should be noted that this comparison does not take into consideration the quality and level of skill possessed by the skilled person power of the countries included.

Table 3: Comparison of employment patterns (% of workers in a given employment classification), complied data

CategoryBangladeshGermany/JapanSouth Korea
Skilled worker7368.636

The World Bank Report of 2004 indicates that the per capita GNP in Bangladesh is US$370; in South Korea it is US$13,300; in Germany US$27,890 and Japan US$31,250.  Within the limits of the available data on skilled person power, it seems that the employment pattern changes with  increasing  proportion  of  technicians  and  decreasing  proportion  of  skilled  workers spectrums as can be seen in Figure 7.

It  should be noted  that  in  transitory  stages of  an  economy,  the  absolute number of  skilled workers increases because an economy is unlikely to get to a higher level without increasing its base of skilled person power.

This implies automatically that a large number of employed skilled workers are required to be  trained  to  assume  higher‐level  duties  and  also  assume  the  responsibility  as  industrial technician that warns that skilled workers must have a sound base of general and vocational education. But due to improper initiative, Bangladesh is lagging behind.

Agricultural Sector

The  USA  Food  and  Agriculture  Organization  (FAO)  opines  that  agriculture  can  build national economic development, slowly but strongly, with a solid foundation (FAO, 1997; see   The  FAO  (1997)  emphasizes  that  agricultural revolution of a recently independent country not only helps it to be sound in managing own food,  but  also  helps  to  build  infrastructure  for  industrial  revolution  by  exporting  and  by producing  raw material  for  industrial uses.  But Nikiko  (2001) says agriculture means both cultivation of crops and producing necessary goods  for  industrial  raw materials, as well as the livestock.  The FAO (1997) argues that agricultural research and the invention of modern agricultural machineries  is worthy unless  farmers are skilled enough  to process and handle them  accordingly.  However, Nikiko  (2001)  considers  that  to  prepare  productive  farmers, well‐timed  training  and  education need  to be provided  if  they  are  to  accomplish  such  the professional  objectives.   According  to  the  Bangladesh  Government’s  Fifth  Five  Year  Plan (1997‐2002)  (see, Government of Bangladesh, 1997, p. 57): “Agriculture plays a vital  role  in the  growth  and  stability  of  the  country’s  economy  as  is  indicated  by  its  share  in  GDP, employment  and  export  earnings.”  But Rafique  (1996)  argues  that  agriculture  contributes only 30% of  the GNP, which  is very  low  in comparison with  its work  force because 70% of working people are  involved  in  this  sector.  Figure 8  illustrates  the proportion of different goods  Bangladesh  exported  during  1997‐1998.   From  this  figure  it  can  be  seen  that  the contribution  of  agriculture  is  not  that  high  compared  with  other  sectors,  especially  the garment sector.  Therefore there is almost unlimited scope to expand this sector, especially in the post‐harvest  stage,  and  in  the processing  and preservation  of  food products  and  other agricultural products.

It  is worthwhile  to mention  that  the agricultural work  force does not have basic education about agriculture, because generally  they are school  leavers at secondary level, and so  they are not using modern  technology  in  terms  of using  fertilizer,  chemicals, preparing  soil  for cultivation, making drains and cannels  for  irrigation and pisciculture.  As such workers are not educated, they believe in superstition and use old purification and cultivation techniques, which  may  prevent  modern  practice  of  agricultural  cultivation  and  hinder  the  country’s agricultural performance. Ultimately, this situation restricts the agricultural sector in several ways:

−  Although there are fertile  lands, a  large number of unskilled working people cannot produce necessary food for the vast population;
−  as many farmers believe in superstition, they do not cultivate necessary raw materials (cotton, jute, rubber, etc.) for industrial use; and
−  farmers do not cultivate livestock properly (fisheries, poultry, etc.) due to a lack of knowledge.

Nikiko  (2001)  sums  up  the  situation,  saying  that  if  the  framers  are  trained  properly,  the present  production  of  cultivation  could  be  doubled,  and  they  also  could  cultivate  various crops  and  livestock  because  training  may  helps  them  to  come  out  from  the  previous generation’s superstition meaning  that  the country can meet  its  local demands and  increase exports.  So,  to save us  from above situation, use of modern  technology  in agriculture, and diversity of cultivation are  the urgent need of  the country by creating skilled manpower  in different sectors of agriculture and it will secure proper utilization of a huge labor force.

Garment and Textile Sector

According to the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) (2001),  in  the  year  1999‐2000,  the  country  exported  readymade  garments worth  US$3,592 million.   A  study  in  1993  by  International  Labor  Organization  (ILO)  on  the  Bangladesh garment  industry  reported  an  unusually  rejection  rate  by  the  buyer’s  quality  control authority.   The  BGEMA  also  observed  that  if  this  sector  could  develop  better  quality assurance,  the  total  export  value  could  be  more  than  US$  4,500.   In  2001,  the  garment industry employed more than 2 million people: 71% of them women and who had no formal training  on  garment manufacture  (BGMEA,  2001).   It  is  also worthwhile  to  note  that  the garments industry used approximately 3 billion yards of clothing material, 97% of which was imported.  Thus some 75% of the total value of manufactured garments was spent importing and manufacturing  (BGMEA,  2001).   Smith,  Baston,  Bocock  and  Scoot  (2002)  observe  that Bangladesh  urgently  needs  to  train  employees  in  the  garment  industry  to  improve  their skills, and improve the quality of their work and build the infrastructure of the sector.  Smith et al.  (2002)  suggest  that  to  remove  the  lot of  the garment  sector,  the workers need proper training  so  that  Bangladesh  can  supply  the  orders  on  time.   Smith  et  al.  summarize  the situation, saying that by employing skilled manpower Bangladesh can meet the challenges of an international garment manufacturing business, and that if it fails to do so, then it will lose the business and high unemployment is likely especially for women.  To face the challenge of local  and  global  competition  export‐oriented  industry  the  country  must  make  significant investment in the garment sector in terms of education and training to provide the necessary skilled manpower.

Leather Sector

There  is  also  a  real  shortage  of  skilled  person  power  in  the  Bangladesh  leather  industry.  Only  one  college  offers  graduate  course,  and  then  for  few  enrollees  (BANBEIS,  2007).   In 1997‐98, Bangladesh earned more than US$240 million exporting leather and leather products (Bangladesh  Bank,  2004,  see  http://www.bangladesh‐   But  out  of  the  210 million  square  feet  of leather used, some 85% was semi‐furnished.  If 100% leather could be exported in furnished form,  the  earnings  would  more  than  double,  and  if  finished  leather  products  could  be exported,  the earnings would 10  times  the present.  Again  the restricting  factor  is unskilled labor.

Export of Skilled People Power

The  data  which  have  been  used  here  were  collected  in  1993  and  present  a Middle  East perspective there are no more up‐to‐date data available.  During the 17 year period from 1976 to  1992,  person  power  export  increased  by  a  factor  of  31.   Figure  9  shows  the  percentage distribution  of  exported  person  power  (manpower)  by  level  of  skill  (professional,  skilled, semi‐skilled and un‐skilled).  The same Figure also shows the level of remittance, Bangladesh received  from  the exported persons.  The  total person power exported  from Bangladesh  in 1993 was 244,508; of which 46.6% was unskilled, 14%, semi‐skilled, 34.0% skilled, and 5.6% professional (Rafique, 1996).  The UNDP human development report shows that Bangladesh received official remittances from exported person power of US$0.8 billion in 1989, some was 4%  of  GNP,  59%  of  exports,  22%  of  imports  and  43%  of  Overseas  Development Administration  (ODA).  The  country  earned US$  1.01 billion  from  export person power  in 1993, and US$1.20 billion in 1995.  The rise of person power export from 1988 to 1992 during the  five  years  was  thus  376%  but  the  increase  in  remittances  was  141%  (BTEB,  1994). According to a BTEB study, the key reason for not increasing the remittances in proportion to the raising in export of person power is due to the export of a large proportion of unskilled person power  in place of skilled people.  The BBC also says  that  if  the country can prepare different level of computer professional by providing them with appropriate training, it will gain the foreign currency as presently happens in India.


Within  the  scope  of  this  paper,  it  is  not  possible  to  present  a  full  picture  of  TVE  for Bangladesh.  But it was possible to make an argument of the proposed topic.  The following discussion represents some concluding remarks on the topic.

In  the present  circumstances,  it  is  seems  that drop‐out  rate  at  the  secondary  level  is  quite high.  Furthermore, it is clear that inadvertently and haphazardly offering TVE programs not only  increases  the  use  of  scarce  educational  resources,  but  also  raises  questions  about  the achievements of education, and may well make barrier to achieving national and individual educational aims.  In addition to some other factors may be noted:

−  To progress well in the face of increasing global competition, it is essential to provide modern up‐to‐date technological knowledge to students;
−  On  the other hand,  it  is notable  that not all  students have  the academic ability or  interest  to gain technological knowledge; and
−  In  addition  to  the  above  issues,  other professions  such  as  agriculture,  the  garment  industry and  so  on,  can  pay  a  vital  role  in  country’s  developmental  progress. After  all,  a  balanced, skilled workforce can play a separate more holistic role in national development.

Considering  the  above,  few  technical and vocational education  subjects  such  as  agricultural  science  (in  all  its  diversity), computer  science,  information  technology,  garments  and  textile  technology,  fashion  and design, need to be offered especially at the secondary school level, and students should take several  TVE  subjects.   This may  help  the  drop‐out  students  to  become more  skilled  in  a variety  of  tasks,  and  in  addition  provide  a  solid  foundation  to  continue  into  higher education.

It also should be noted that  Bangladesh needs to provide in‐service training programs at different levels, and for different subjects.  This may help employees to cope with changes in TVE,  and help primary‐school‐leavers to cope better with their jobs.   In conclusion,  the following overall recommendation is made.   A  well‐timed  TVE  program may help Bangladesh to improve its economic growth, which may then aid social equity and freedom; the country urgently needs to take substantial steps  (such as,  increasing budgets, preparing a modern course curriculum, etc.) if it wants to develop TVE education.

1Corrupt country index placing according to Transparency International.

2Transparency rating according to Transparency International.

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About the author

Gazi Mahbubul Alam

Gazi Mahbubul Alam

Dr. Gazi mahbubul Alam is a faculty member of the Department of Educational Management, Planning & Policy, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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