Bangladesh has changed curriculums for educational institutions, especially for primary and secondary levels, several times after independence, but it has failed to produce skilled manpower to meet the demand of the country's job market.
To address the crisis, the government has planned to introduce a new curriculum with a focus on creating skilled manpower.
The education ministry is working to implement the competency-based education from January 2022. The ministry needs to train officers and teachers, and print new books to introduce the new system.
However, experts think that the government has to ensure a good environment, sufficient budget, standard evaluation process and good management to make the new curriculum successful.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed told The Business Standard that the existing curriculum is not sub-standard. But it lacks plans and initiatives to implement the curriculum properly. That is why the country is suffering from a crisis of skilled manpower.
"This is a good initiative from the government to reshuffle the existing curriculum. But I do not know how the government will implement it with untrained teachers. The number of teachers is also short. There is a lack of good environment and good management in educational institutions," he said.
He also suggested appointing skilled teachers for mathematics, English, ICT and science to implement the new curriculum.
The lack of skilled manpower has been felt severely in recent times in the country as industries have to hike people from abroad.
Bangladesh has to import skilled manpower from abroad paying huge salaries to work in the top levels of different job sectors.
The education ministry also admits the claim of the private sector entrepreneurs and recently it has taken initiative to reshuffle the curriculum from primary to secondary level.
The curriculum has so far been revised four times – in 1973, 1984, 1995 and 2012 – after the independence. But these curriculums have failed to generate skilled manpower for industries and meet the demand of private sectors.
The country has a lack of skilled manpower to meet the demand of the fourth industrial revolution which the world has entered with the latest developments in information and technology.
The industries in Bangladesh have to import about five lakh skilled workers from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and several other countries as the Bangladeshi educational institutions cannot provide skilled manpower.
A report of the World Bank titled "Bangladesh Development Update October 2019: Tertiary Education and Job Skills" showed that prolonged unemployment among graduates raises concerns about the job readiness and relevance of skills that tertiary educational institutions in Bangladesh impart to their students.
Labour market surveys have consistently demonstrated that employers struggle to fill job vacancies for highly-skilled positions such as top professionals, technicians and managers. Around 69 percent of employers reported a shortage of skilled applicants for these positions.
Professor Siddiqur Rahman, former director of Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, said, "The government could not achieve the desired goal because of the untrained teachers. The new curriculum will not bring a good result if the government wants to implement it with existing structure."
"We have proposed in the National Education Policy to form an Education Service Commission like the Public Service Commission to appoint quality teachers in 2010. The proposal had also been sent from the Prime Minister's Office to the Education Ministry. But it did not come to light as the then education bosses were against it," he said.
According to a 2019 report of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), over 56% of the teachers at the secondary school level in Bangladesh cannot prepare question papers for exams on their own. Of them, 36.8% teachers buy question papers from associations while 14.4% from the open market."
There are about 12 lakh teachers from pre-primary to higher secondary level in the country. Of them, about seven lakh teachers are working at pre-primary level, about four lakh at secondary to higher secondary level and one lakh at madrasa.
Dr Syed Anwar Husain, noted educationist and former professor of history at Dhaka University, said, "The education system is running through anarchy. The government must take a plan centrally to implement the new curriculum."
"A good teacher is important for building a good nation. How can we expect good result, if we have a lack of good teachers?" he asked.
Professor Md Moshiuzzaman, member (Curriculum) at National Curriculum and Textbook Board, Bangladesh, told The Business Standard that the industries have expanded in the country rapidly but the education and curriculum have failed to realise the change.
"We are now preparing the curriculum to build the future generation to adapt to any critical and changing situation in the world," he said.