Hiren Pandit: According to a study by Oxford University, 47 percent of human jobs may be automated by artificial intelligence machines in the next two decades. Now is the time to prepare our young generation for the new high-skill labor market that will be created as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will eliminate labor-intensive and relatively low-skill jobs. Bangladesh is better suited than many other countries to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by harnessing the demographic dividend if it can prepare skilled manpower.
Japan can be the best example for us in this regard. From a fragile economy after World War II to today’s second-largest economy, Japan has shown the world that the economy and overall quality of life can be transformed by using only human resources. Japan’s natural resources are impoverished and only 15% of arable land is arable.
Japan overcame all natural odds by converting its population into skilled manpower. This example from Japan is most relevant to us. If we can convert the vast youth population of Bangladesh into public resources, we can become a developed economy country.
Our curriculum is not very coherent with what kind of knowledge and skills are required in industry. The education system will also need to be revamped to face the fourth industrial revolution. Bangladesh is still far behind in artificial intelligence, IoT, and blockchain technology. The scope of working in various fields such as traffic management, product supply, medicine, industry, banking, agriculture, and education is still wide open by using these technologies.
The inefficiency of our workers at work is the reason for this huge gap in their income. For good reason, we should put more emphasis on technical skills. It is very important to bring changes in our education system in keeping with the times. Industry institutions and academia should come forward in the field of education and research hand-in-hand through collaboration.
We should prepare action plans keeping in mind the technology of the fourth industrial revolution to speed up their work in all departments and sectors. Then everyone has to work together to prepare a national action plan by coordinating the action plans of all sectors.
Hopefully, the government is giving importance to three things as the basis of the industrial revolution. These are – the development of the industry through the innovation of modern technology, the creation of a trained workforce, and the conservation of the environment. The implementation of this announcement by the Prime Minister requires massive public-private joint ventures. So, we all have to move forward with a good plan from now on. Only then we will be able to reach our desired goal, we will be able to build the Sonar Bangla of Bangabandhu’s dream.
Not only limited to planning but also infrastructural development, we also need to properly prepare our human resources for this change. Bangladesh is still relatively behind in artificial intelligence, IoT, and blockchain technology. The scope of working in various fields including traffic management, product supply, medical, industry, banking, agriculture, and education is still wide open by using these technologies. Since the benefits of the third industrial revolution have not reached everyone, we need to think more deeply about how well we are prepared to face the fourth revolution. This can be done through a comprehensive integrated action plan and the establishment of necessary infrastructure.
Not only in the country, those who are working abroad should also be sent abroad with proper training. Our 1 crore 22 lakh 13 thousand 915 workers abroad earn 15 billion dollars. On the other hand, India’s 13 million workers earn 68 billion dollars. The inefficiency of our workers at work is the reason for this huge gap in their income. For related reasons, we should put more emphasis on technical skills.
It is very important to bring changes in our education system in keeping with the times. The way to build a creative, thoughtful, problem-solving population of tomorrow is to design the education system in such a way that these skills are imparted to the students, and to do this, every university needs to establish teaching and learning centers to train teachers.
Our technical education and world readiness can be seen in Germany in 1969, Singapore in 1960 and Bangladesh in 1967. While other countries have progressed rapidly, we lag far behind others in terms of the rate and quality of technical education in various statistics. According to the Technical Education Board, there are currently 8,675 technical education institutions in our country. Currently, about 12 lakh students are studying in technical education.
Bangladesh is far behind in the technical education rate. Only 14% of our students are taking technical education whereas currently, the technical education rate is 73 percent in Germany, Japan at 66 percent, Singapore at 65 percent, Australia at 60 percent, China at 55 percent, South Korea at 50 percent, and Malaysia at 46 percent. However, our current government has set a long-term target for the development of technical education which is to increase the rate of technical education to 20% in 2020, 30% in 2030, and 50% by 2050. The government of Bangladesh is taking various plans to achieve this target.
Almost all of the skills that people need to acquire to face the fourth industrial revolution will depend on our education system. The curriculum is its own socio-economic, and cultural; At the same time, a specific, well-planned, and comprehensive guide to implement the goals and objectives and reach the educational goals in light of international needs. The educational program also has the direction to build people who are capable of solving problems creatively and according to the situation of the future.
What should be the expected curriculum suitable for the fourth industrial revolution, must be seriously considered. In this case, work-based and skill-based education should be given importance out of the textbook-centric curriculum. Instead of memorization, assimilation, analysis, and practical aspects of formulas are emphasized in the curriculum design.
Emphasis should be placed on the new and fundamental achievements of knowledge and science. Reskilling, upskilling, and deskilling methods should be kept in mind. Existing learning programs should be accompanied by other digital-based systems, such as e-learning and online learning systems. That is, educational programs should be designed to develop technically skilled manpower.
As Bangladesh is still in the unskilled category in the export of manpower, the country has to bring people from abroad due to the lack of skilled manpower. For this reason, we have to follow the technical education model of different countries including Germany, Japan, Singapore, Australia, China, South Korea, and Malaysia. The technical education rate in Germany is 73 percent.
It is necessary to adopt a master plan to increase the rate of skill education in the country to at least 60 percent. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, China, and North Korea have developed technical education at the root of their development. In preparation for the fourth industrial revolution, the Bangladesh government is going to include coding education in the school curriculum. Investment in computers and information and communication technology infrastructure in schools has increased under the Digital Bangladesh project. But the reality is that the education system of rural Bangladesh has not yet prepared our children and youth for the third industrial revolution. Education participation and technology use rates have increased but quality has not changed. Lumpy technology investments are difficult to sustain in the context of such a fragile public education system. It will further increase social inequality. Public technology investment in health, education, and trade in all sectors to deal with Corona is pushing the countries of Southeast Asia towards the fourth industrial revolution. Malaysia has been able to achieve great improvement in the field of education in a very short period of technological reforms during the Corona period. All public universities have been included in the universal infrastructure of digital technology through prompt and timely action and policy formulation by the Ministry of Education. All university administrations continue to operate in full swing through technology-enabled digital governance. The university authorities quickly developed a staff tracing app, through which the teachers and staff monitor the daily activities. Bangladesh can also follow Malaysia’s higher education model.
The fourth industrial revolution is opening up hundreds of opportunities as well as challenges. At this time, it is necessary to emphasize on efficient leadership and quality education. Our entire education system needs to be overhauled. We have to give the highest importance to education. The multidimensionality of education will play a role in shaping the leadership of tomorrow. Our students compete with the students of reputed universities in various international competitions. Coordination between university-level research, government, and industry is essential.
More money should be raised for research. Universities should be developed as research centers. We need to increase the thinking capacity of our youth. Diversity in education needs to be increased. As we have to read about mathematics, we have to read about art and culture. It is now essential to have various basic skills including programming. Planning alone will not do it, along with infrastructural development, our human resources must also be properly prepared for this change. But there is hope, recently the five-year plan for the ‘National Artificial Intelligence Strategy’ has been taken up by the government. But without solving the root problem, these plans will not bring much benefit.
Bangladesh has not developed enough human resources with innovative knowledge, high skills, deep thinking, and problem-solving skills. Therefore, the government has to hire experienced and skilled consultants from neighboring and other countries in various development projects and foreign investment areas. According to economists, more than 5 billion dollars is going out of the country due to this cost. Bangladesh’s higher education is not effective, it can be understood from this recent statistical analysis. Bangladesh’s increasing progress and success in socio-economic development are globally recognized. Bangladesh’s agriculture-based economy is gradually changing to an industrial and service-driven economy. On the other hand, the most rapid change is happening in the technology sector.
As a result, industry and service types are also changing. Therefore, thousands of higher education institutions will be of no use if they cannot prepare themselves for the highly competitive market by creating skilled human resources, inventing new strategies, and keeping pace with this change. And millions of students pursuing higher education will remain a burden on the state.
Therefore, our Ministry of Education, National Skill Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority, and Hi-Tech Park should unite and make short, medium, and long-term plans for the development of technical education with the understanding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution wholeheartedly. The government should increase the development budget in this sector. Otherwise, we will lag in the competition and face challenges in attracting foreign investment.
Information technology has brought a new dimension to the economic activities of the country. The convenience of financial transactions as a result of mobile banking has made life easier for common people. Advances in information technology have led to a proliferation of startup culture. Women are also involved in information technology. The presence of women entrepreneurs on social media is increasing. There are about 20,000 Facebook pages for shopping in the country. The work is going on efficiently. However, a more specialized role should be taken in acquiring skills.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher