The role of youths in the advancement of a nation is perhaps more pronounced these than ever before. However, despite constitutional guarantees and impressive economic growth and development, Bangladeshi youths face formidable challenges in accessing quality education, employment as well as equal opportunities.
In recent years, the United Nations (UN) has been highlighting the urgent need for positive development of the youths. The UN observes the International Youth Day (IYD) on August 12 to create awareness on vital cultural, educational and legal issues that confront the young population. The UN declared the IYD in 1999 with the adoption of its resolution No. 54/120.
The International Youth Day was observed for the first time in the year 2000. The 2019 theme was: "Transforming education." It emphasises determined and organised efforts to make education and learning more inclusive and equitable to all the youths of the world.
Inclusive education is a process to providing quality education and support to every person -- a basic right and premise of development. For that, adequate financial investment in education is urgently needed in developing and the least developed countries to produce productive and educated young people for sustainable development.
The IYD 2019 resolves to transforming education as a "powerful tool" to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In fact, inclusive and accessible education is essential for achieving development, conflict prevention and social justice etc.
The UN reflects that "education is a 'development multiplier' as it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or peaceful societies."
Scholars point out several methods for healthy and positive development of young people. Positive Youth Development (PYD) is usually defined as the Five Cs of competence, confidence, character, connection, and caring, leading to youth contributions (Lerner et al., 2005).
At present, total youth population in the world is about 1.8 billion. In Bangladesh, youths constitute about 36 per cent of the entire population. The Department of Youth Development (DYD) was established by the government of Bangladesh in 1978 to provide skills development, training and employment.
The first National Youth Policy of Bangladesh was formulated in 2003 and later revised in 2017 to help build a strong premise for the country's young population. It defined the vision of the government to "develop youth into righteous, progressive, self-respecting and positive human beings." In fact, an educated and skilled workforce is vital for long-term sustainable development.
Unfortunately, the current public investment in education and health in Bangladesh is a meagre 2.09 per cent and 0.92 per cent of the gross domestic product (Centre for Policy Research, 2018).
In its Labour Force Survey 2016-17, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) found that youth unemployment rate in the country is as high as 10.6 per cent. What's more disturbing is that about 29.8 per cent young people are not pursuing education, employment or job training.
Also, the unemployment rate among the young grown-ups with advanced level of education is around 13.4 per cent. An estimated 2 million young people enter the job market in Bangladesh every year (World Bank, 2018).Therefore, providing training and employment to the youth remains a big challenge for the government.
Due to lack of quality educational facilities in remote rural Bangladesh, rural learners are disadvantaged and lagging behind. They face numerous problems such as resource constraints, trained teachers, and quality learning materials. Hence, it is imperative to reduce rural-urban gap in education, and ensure equal opportunities in education, training and employment.
Mostly due to financial constraints and gender preference, many young girls in rural areas are out of high schools. A newspaper reported that1out of 5 children dropped out in Bangladesh in 2018 mainly due to economic problems and child marriage.
Youth development is indispensable and crucial for sustainable development and inclusive growth. Besides monitoring of youth development strategy, adequate government and private investments are urgently needed for their secured future. Unquestionably, Bangladesh's economic and social development and competitiveness in the world depends upon educated, committed, and hardworking young people.
Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed is a former Professor and Chairman, Department of Political Science, University of Dhaka. [email protected]