Bangladesh is only ahead of three African countries – Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – in providing its youth with skill-based education, according to the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2019.
In the index of 50 emerging nations published recently by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Bangladesh ranks 47th, falling from its previous position 45th, with an overall score of 36.6 out of 100.
Besides, the country lags far behind India (35th) and slightly behind Pakistan (45th) among the three South Asian nations covered in the index. The country performed poorly in education although it was one of the fastest growing economies last year with an 8.15 percent growth.
An insufficient and outdated education policy coupled with bad political practice are to blame for Bangladesh's poor performance in the global index, according to experts and educationists.
They underscored the need for immediately implementing the good policies of the country's latest education policy.
The global ranking concentrates on countries' performance on three categories of educational environment – policy, teaching and socio-economic. It ranks countries based on their abilities to equip students aged 15-24 with skill-based education.
The report analyses education system from the perspective of skill-based education "in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship, as well as digital and technical skills."
Although Bangladesh dropped by two steps in global ranking, the country's performance in teaching and socio-economic environment improved significantly than that in 2018, with a score of 43.6 and 42.2 respectively. In 2018, the country scored only 26.3 and 28.9 in both the sub-indices.
However, the improvement in Bangladesh's performance is little reflected because of an average 11-percent increase in the overall score (59.8) of the 50 countries. In 2018, all 50 countries scored 54.1 on an average.
"The education policy we have is not sufficient as per the present needs while it also needs modernisation," said eminent educationist Serajul Islam Choudhury.
"The situation is really the worst. Besides, most of the good policies remained unimplemented in the education sector," Serajul Islam, a former professor of English at Dhaka University, further said.
According to him, the existing political structure is mainly responsible for the overall degradation in the country's education system.
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammad Kaykobad, a former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said skilled-based education is still a far cry for Bangladesh.
He expressed concerns about the growing unemployment rate among educated youths although a good number of foreigners are working in Bangladesh and remitting a handsome amount of money to their countries.
"Every year, foreigners send crores of taka to their countries [from Bangladesh]. Besides, a large unemployment rate among the educated graduates is a sad reality here," he said.
Also, teachers do not get proper training while a huge amount of money is wasted in the name of overseas scholarships for higher education that does not yield so much benefit to the country, according to Prof Kaykobad.
Policy change in education
Governments in most index economies now acknowledge the importance of future skills development in national education strategies. That is why, the overall score in the index increased by 11 percent this year, reads the report.
Bangladesh scored 21.2 out of 100 policy environment to be ranked 48th, only ahead of Congo and Nigeria. In 2018, it scored 30.8.
This performance indicates that "in the future, universities will need to provide a learning experience for students that is fundamentally different from what exists today," according to the report.
Anthony Salcito, vice-president of worldwide education at Microsoft, sees such a wide-scale policy recognition as a major step forward for future skills development globally.
"There's increasingly a connection at government, senior policy and education leader level on the need for future-oriented skills to become a core element of learning," he says.
Europe does the magic
European countries dominate in the ranking as three of the top five nations are from that continent. Finland appeared at the top with a score of 84.8, closely followed by Sweden (84.3). The other European nation is the Netherlands (5th).
New Zealand and Singapore appeared as third and fourth respectively in the ranking.
According to the report, the need to develop future skills has become more vital than ever, given the advances in technology and artificial intelligence.
Several countries, including Finland, Sweden and New Zealand, are embracing this challenge by formulating comprehensive policies, providing well-trained teachers and strongly assessing their frameworks to test for future skills.