Hiren Pandit: It is important to speed up technical education to ensure proper participation of technical education in the current government’s commitment to change. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening with technologies like Robots, virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT). Now technology is taking over every human activity. Robots and virtual reality must be able to stand face to face. One remote control will turn the wheel of daily activities. Unskilled manpower without technology knowledge may become unemployed. Therefore, if the future generation of the country can be transformed into skilled human resources by making technical education up-to-date and international standards in order to deal with the global society in the fourth industrial revolution, it will undoubtedly help in eradicating unemployment and poverty in Bangladesh in the future.
Today, the fourth industrial revolution is knocking on our doorstep through the continuous development efforts and hard work of people’s talent and past industrial experience. The technology-based digital revolution is called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. In simple words, what we usually mean by ‘digital revolution’ is the fourth industrial revolution.
It is an industrial revolution with a focus on mental skills and digital systems. The concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was first formally presented at the World Economic Forum in Germany in April 2013. Skilled manpower is required to exploit this advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. 58.5% of our total population is economically active and only 5.3% of them are educated up to the university level. The Information and Communication Technology sector accounted for only 0.3% of our employment. Many new employment opportunities are being created. A lot of tech-educated youth are needed to exploit this space.
To exploit this potential, we need quality and standard IT and technical education institutions. One cannot improve his skills by himself, proper technical education and training is required. The greatest asset of the 21st century is artificial intelligence. Everything is marketable here. By now we all know Uber doesn’t have its own cars, Facebook doesn’t have its own content, and Ali Baba doesn’t have a warehouse. It’s all about putting human needs within reach with artificial intelligence.
The fourth industrial revolution is literally turning the world into a rural village. Incomprehensibly advanced technological dependence is being added to the communication system. International trade will be at your fingertips, buying and selling can be done easily. Future Bangladesh will advance by adopting all advanced technologies of the world.
Although the development of technical education is necessary for the development of skilled human resources as a supporting force for the socio-economic progress of Bangladesh, it has become largely unimportant. Although the importance of technical education in the education system has been repeatedly mentioned, it has been observed by experts that government initiatives are not sufficient in practice. Even the number of students taking technical education in the entire education system is very less compared to the developed world. But everyone admits that there is no alternative to human resource development to survive in the competition of a science and technology-dependent world. Through technology-based education, it is possible to transform a large population into skilled human resources in a short period of time. As a preparation for the fourth industrial revolution, various developed and developing countries of the world have already given utmost importance to technology-based education with the aim of transforming the large population into skilled human resources and those countries are moving towards rapid prosperity. Various studies show that the higher the rate of technical education in a country, the higher the per capita income of that country. For example, countries like the UK, USA, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore have a large number of skilled manpower and the annual per capita income of people there is very high. In all the development activities of Bangladesh, the educated population is most involved in technological education. Their participation in service emergency work is also particularly significant. Even a portion of the skilled manpower working abroad is a technologically educated population. They have been working in the Middle East, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and various countries in Africa earning huge amounts of foreign exchange for the country. The quality and speed of the development work of the country depends on the professional knowledge and efficiency of the technicians. Even their active role builds the socio-economic prosperity of the country.
The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 50 percent of the workforce will need upskilling or reskilling due to the adoption of new technologies. One-third of the skills required at this time will consist of technical skills, which are not yet considered important for today’s jobs. South Korea has provided formal technical and vocational education to 95 percent of its workforce between the ages of 19 and 24 to capitalize on the opportunities gained by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to meet potential future challenges. In Germany this rate is 75 percent and in the United States 52 percent. However technical education in Bangladesh still remains low at 20 percent, even though the government has set a target of 30 percent student enrollment in technical education by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. Due to the neglect of technical education in Bangladesh, there is a gradual deficit in the development of skilled human resources, and the unemployment rate is increasing. Potential youth of the country are being deprived of self-employment opportunities.
There are more than 500 public and private technical educational institutions in the country. Out of these 49 are government polytechnic institutes. Apart from this there are around 220 private polytechnics which are conducting classes in rented buildings without any buildings of their own. Most of these institutes do not have proper laboratory facilities and workshops for conducting practical classes. In 2017, the Board of Technical Education ordered 184 institutions to shift to permanent campuses, but it has not been implemented so far. There are questions about the quality of education in these institutions. The Technical Education Department needs strict supervision and control to ensure quality education in private polytechnic institutes. Because without practical knowledge, the entire country and nation have to suffer the negative consequences of entering the workplace with only paper certificates. Although 60 percent of practical education is included in the engineering curriculum, the lack of necessary equipment and raw materials is adversely affecting the conduct of practical classes. As a result, students enter real life with an engineering diploma certificate without sufficient practical knowledge and face various problems in the workplace. It has a negative impact on the development of the country.
Technical education institutes have not been able to develop as expected due to a lack of teachers, inadequate and old equipment, and substandard textbooks. As a result, the possibility of developing skilled human resources is gradually becoming hopeless, and the development activities of the country are being disrupted. Graduate engineers as well as intermediate-level technical education diploma engineers and skilled manpower are specially required to manage the development trend of the country properly.
The Department of Technical and Madrasas of the Ministry of Education works on 10 technical education schemes. The objective of the project is to promote vocational education and training by introducing a technical subject, SSC Vocational and Short Training Courses from Class VI to VIII. In 2014, a project was undertaken to establish 100 technical schools and colleges in 100 upazilas in the first phase. 70 institutions have been opened so far with the extension of the project three times. The ‘Capacity Building for Existing 64 Technical Schools and Colleges’ project started in 2019 could not be implemented within the stipulated time of 2021. In 2018, the work of the project undertaken to establish polytechnic institutes in 23 districts was not completed within the stipulated 3 years. The Technical and Madrasah Department of the Ministry of Education has worked on 10 technical education projects, but the upazila-level project of establishing 329 technical schools and colleges in January 2020 has not been selected for two and a half years. According to the current needs of the country and abroad, there is no alternative to introducing modern technology in polytechnic institutes and developing the infrastructure of educational institutions.
Currently, about 15 percent of technical graduates in the country are self-employed. It is necessary to take multifaceted steps to increase the self-employment opportunities of polytechnic graduates. For this purpose, they need to provide loans on easy terms. For them, it is necessary to carry out vigorous activities to create more employment opportunities abroad. According to a 2019 study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), about 7500 to 8000 new technical job opportunities are created in the country every year. Approximately 20,000 new computer science and engineering graduates enter the job market annually. More than 80 percent of them fail to meet recruitment standards set by employers, the study noted. According to the ADB report, the manufacturing industry is forced to hire high-wage technology workers from neighboring countries due to the inability to find domestic talent for mid-level skills such as technical skills, business analysis and project implementation. Outdated and theoretical learning methods, limited lab facilities and limited intern opportunities are not capable of producing the required skilled manpower.
As a preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, expansion and upgrading of technical education is necessary to develop the country’s larger population as a tool for development. The future will see supercomputing driverless cars artificial intelligent robots, neurotechnology brain, and genetic technology. We have to open up new horizons of development for the people of the country by utilizing these possibilities of technology.
The first industrial revolution began with the invention of the steam engine, the second industrial revolution began with the generation of electricity, the third industrial revolution began with the invention of the Internet in 1969, and in the 21st century artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, Internet of Things, biotechnology and automation technology. The fourth industrial revolution has started with the technology. Our education system or workforce needs to be prepared to face this industrial market. Quality education and training are required to enhance skills and competencies. The first phase of this training starts from the beginning of receiving education. Technical education transforms into the workforce and higher education transforms the workforce into a resource. In this case, quality technical education institutions are needed for the education and training of working manpower, and government institutional and private sponsorship is also needed.
Only 14% of our students are taking technical education whereas currently technical education rate is 73% in Germany, 66% in Japan, 65% in Singapore, 60% in Australia, 55% in China, 50% in South Korea, 46% in Malaysia. However, our current government has set a long-term target level 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 level.
Many jobs will be lost and new jobs will be created over the next 10 years due to these technological changes in industrial factories and offices. 800 million workers worldwide will lose their current jobs by 2030 due to automation. Naturally labor dependent economies like ours will be at risk. Our unskilled chartered education system will burden the country and the nation. The increase in the number of educated unemployed informs us of this statement. About 3 lakh highly educated young women are added to the unemployment list every year.
Now we have to realize the importance of technical education and extend technical education to every union. All higher secondary schools now established should be compulsorily reorganized as technical education centers. Otherwise, there will be income inequality in the country’s labor market. A handful of tech-savvy people will earn a lot while the rest of the labor force will have to work hard to make ends meet.
Our Ministry of Education, National Skill Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority and Hi-Tech Park all must understand the fourth industrial revolution wholeheartedly and take short, medium and long-term plans for the development of technical education and the government must increase the development budget in this sector. Otherwise, we will fall behind in the competition and we will face challenges in attracting foreign investment.
Bangladesh’s textile and RMG, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, logistics and warehousing, automotive and some service sectors are already using AI to sustain their competitiveness. In addition, some non-traditional sectors such as; Electrical, electronics, construction, plastics and packaging, FMCG, defense and security, and furniture industries are already using AI-assisted robots.
These sectors are increasingly investing in the use of advanced technology to maintain the quality of their products, reduce time in precision, and repetitive production and maintain competitiveness. Above all export capability and use of advanced technology to comply with buyer’s directives is now very much mandatory for them.
Digital inclusion is paramount to the transformation we are going through and we need reliable and affordable connectivity, which is essential to implement Vision 2041. We need to ensure that we have the capacity to adopt hi-tech and modern technologies. Considering the global demand of the robotics sector, Bangladesh needs to coordinate with the existing training institutions to create skilled human resources, increase the efficiency of universities and other educational institutions and take steps to develop high-end programming technology to focus on the robotics assembling sector.
The smart education system will be completely cloud-based. No hardware required here. The education system can be divided into three levels. First, Schools in the Cloud, second, Community Schools in the Cloud and third, Regional Schools in Cloud. Each of these will be managed through a separate learning management system. This learning management system can also be used as a training tool. Here are the training topics. Teachers and students can learn from here.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher