The most important factor for sustainable progress of a country is how the graduates are equipped with the skills required for jobs today and also tomorrow. Solid bridges between skills learned at universities and skills needed for the practical purposes make sure that educated workforce will learn the "right" skills to meet the changing demand in the corporate world and in different other industries.
The gap between the education system in our country and the world of work is very wide. The former is often classroom and theory-based while the latter is dominated by the demand for practical experience about production processes, deadlines and challenges of the twenty-first century. Due to the rapid change of technology, the consumer demand is changing very fast. Keeping up with this pace of change is a continuing challenge for universities. The active participation of employers' and workers' representatives in universities is essential for bridging this divide.
During his stints with business schools of five leading universities this scribe has seen that ten years old things are being taught. Universities neither seek to take the input from corporate houses nor do the market research on which skills are in high demand right now and what the requirements will be in near future. Besides, at least five years old editions of books are referred to by the faculty members. They are not regularly updating themselves. As a result, our graduates are being deprived of updated education which is badly needed to take the challenges of the twenty-first century. Another disappointing fact is that there is no facility at the universities to take a career forward, as the curriculum for obtaining an Executive Master's in Business Administration (EMBA) is just a clone of the MBA programme.
For implementation of a better education system, active participation of five stakeholders are very much important: Government, board of trustees, faculty members, students and employers. Without the support of all these it is not possible to provide world class education.We have an unplanned and poor education policy. Quality basic education is closely correlated with higher education. Such education is a foundation for further skill development for jobs both initially and throughout adult life. However, it has been made easier for one to pass SSC and HSC exams. So students are interested in passing the exams by putting least efforts. Besides, proper corporate governance is not practised in most of the companies. As qualification does not always play a vital role in promotion, graduates only go for networking. They participate in the soft skill development programmes ignoring the hard skill requirement. Amid this, our graduates are not preparing themselves for higher positions in the corporate world and the majority of these positions are occupied by foreigners, especially Indians. In this situation, our graduates are growing up without any big dream settling themselves for very less. On the other hand, qualified and talented workforces are leaving the country, which is a massive brain drain.
If we turn our attention to the boards of trustees of private universities, we will find that the majority of them are being run like other businesses. A good number of universities are operating without any mission and vision. There is a persistent gap between the kind of knowledge and skills that are most in demand in the workplace and those that the education system continues to provide. The main objective of the universities is just to produce graduates and leave them in the market. So it is not surprising to note that they are not developing and maintaining well-managed relationships with the alumni. In some cases, the board of trustees plays a vital role for all the activities including recruitment of faculty members. A big question remains there over whether it is a good or bad sign.
Now let us focus on the faculty members. It is often found in many cases that the teachers are entering this profession because of flexibility. It is not considered a noble profession anymore. As a result, passion is missing among the faculty members. In some universities, foreign degree holders are given priority to be selected as faculty members and a good number of faculty members are exploiting this opportunity by getting degrees from low-grade foreign universities. Majority of them are not competent faculty members but they are driving out the potential good faculty members who have local degrees. The bad aspect of it is that the faculty members are not qualified enough to groom good graduates. Unfortunately, we will not find any competent or expert person in any field from the faculty pool we have. However, in a developed country companies or the government seeks help of the professors, when they are in a crisis.
At present the main objective of the universities is to help the students cross just another threshold like SSC or HSC. There is no analysis on how the graduates will be produced or how they will perform. As a result, foreigners are taking home a big amount of remittance from our country in the form of fat salary packages. There is a big economic transformation. Agriculture is no more in the top position. Manufacturing and service sectors have elbowed it out. Apart from this, other changes are also prevalent there. For example, we are moving from more labour-intensive manufacturing to higher value-added manufacturing. All these demand a new set of skill requirements. It is a continuing challenge to adjust the skills of the workforce to these changing requirements and it is everywhere. Rapid innovation will remain a normal phenomenon in characterising investments as enterprises go for expansion to produce new products and services. Although this pace of change is much faster in emerging economies, more advanced countries will invest heavily in innovation to keep their competitive edge. In all countries the implications for skills development are momentous.
Many of the jobs that will be generated over the next two decades do not exist today. This is high time we should focus on this issue as a whole. We must take a holistic approach to drawing up a plan taking all the stakeholders into consideration. Only then it will be possible to impart quality education on our way to turning the country into a prosperous nation.
S.M. Arifuzzaman is an Adviser of English Olympiad. He is now serving as Associate Professor and Head of the School of Business at the Canadian University of Bangladesh.
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