Investment in education is always most welcome because it pays what is euphemistically called in spades. The Asian Development Bank's investment plan of $2.0 billion in Bangladesh's education sector over the next three years comes as a great support to the cash-strapped important area. That the country's education sector has ever remained under-invested is indisputable. Even among the South Asian nations, Bangladesh's allocation for education proportionate to gross domestic product (GDP) is the lowest. But this cannot be the only criterion for aid agencies and development partners to come forward with funds for education. They do so only when they consider the recipient country worthy of the support and the exercise is investment's worth. A small country, Bangladesh with an overwhelming majority of young age-group people certainly has a crying need for massive investment in development of its human resources.
It is universally recognised that investment in young people makes sense more than in the middle aged and senior people so far as human resource development is concerned. Bangladesh has not been able to get its priority in the education sector right. Its education needs a massive overhaul in order to prepare its young generation for the challenges ahead, particularly when the world is about to step into the age of fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The country's education system at the primary and secondary level could not be given the start it so badly needed because of dilly dallying over the implementation of reforms suggested by the country's eminent educationists. Predominance of bureaucratic wrangles and backward or revisionist outlooks over modern and time-befitting restructuring has held back education here. Notwithstanding such constraints, the highly talented and the prodigious have been proving their worth when they get the right environment, particularly in renowned foreign universities. The need is to nurture such talents at home.
However the average students should be given the break they need compatible with their capacity to learn and apply the knowledge and training they receive. In short, career building for them is what matters most. The point, in other words, is to make the young people as much productive as is possible. Only then does it translate into reaping the demographic dividends. Bangladesh has so far failed to reap this dividend and the time is fast running out for it. It may have another 30 or 40 years before its population is left with more aged citizens than youths.
This fact makes it incumbent on the country's policymakers to put in place a comprehensive plan for the working force of the population that will be emerging in the next three or four decades. Even massive investment alone is no solution unless the plan is right and the fund is properly used for the purpose. Education should be the first priority area. But education does not mean only theoretical knowledge, it has to be proportionately participatory by way of practical classes at the primary, secondary and higher secondary level so that at the tertiary level, scholars can undertake research and experiments for innovation. In this connection, an exclusive programme --- well devised and seriously pursued --- should be taken up for addressing the learning losses suffered by students during the lockdown period of the pandemic.