Bangladesh has set an ambitious goal to become a middle-income country by 2021—the year it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence. Equally important to achieving the coveted middle income status is making sure that all Bangladeshis share in the accelerated growth required to achieve this goal, particularly the poor. The Government of Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 and the associated Perspective Plan 2010-2021 lay out a series of development targets that must be achieved if Bangladesh wants to transform itself to a middle income country. Among the core targets used to monitor the progress towards this objective is attaining a poverty head-count rate of 14 percent by 2021. Assuming population growth continues to decline at the same rate as during the 2000-2010 period, achieving this poverty target implies lifting approximately 15 million people out of poverty in the next 8 years. Can Bangladesh achieve this target? Not necessarily so. A simple continuation of the policies and programs that have proven successful in delivering steady growth and poverty reduction in the past decade will not be sufficient to achieve the poverty target set for 2021.
Limited opportunities for teacher training has been a formidable obstacle in the path of building capacity for the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in Bangladesh. How can we train the trainers of vocational training institutions when there is an acute shortage of highly skilled workers, let alone trainers of trainers?
Most vocational trainers join training institutions after spending several years in their professional practices. For them, however, the opportunity of in-service training to keep up with latest technologies and learn modern pedagogical skills as part of continuous professional development is scarce, if at all. Over time, this creates serious gaps between what trainers can teach and what are really required of graduates by the industries, raising troubling questions about the quality and relevance of TVET. Trainers need to be trained for advanced technological knowledge and pedagogical skills. The component for institutional support under Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), funded by the World Bank and Canada, was designed to provide teacher training opportunities for trainers of polytechnic institutions. However, major challenges arose when the institutions themselves were found to be lacking the capacity, for various reasons, to organize effective teacher trainings.
I’m on my way to the 7th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) in New Delhi, India. The summit* brings together leading analysts, academics, policymakers, the private sector and civil society from across the region and beyond, who meet to suggest solutions to South Asia’s economic issues and learn from each other’s experiences.
This year’s SAES takes place at a very opportune time. Regional cooperation momentum has been on an upswing. The theme of the summit, “Towards South Asian Economic Union” captures the renewed optimism of moving forward on the regional agenda and generating shared prosperity. Apart from that, the SAES is held between November 7 – 8, only two weeks before the 18th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit, where heads of state from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka will meet in Kathmandu, Nepal.
A number of incidents this year have highlighted the challenging circumstances in which girls attend school in developing countries. Nearly 300 adolescent school girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram group. Frequent attacks on schools have forced many parents to withdraw girls from education.
Development practitioners and donors are more convinced than ever that increasing opportunities, skills and resources for women and girls will lead to measurable improvements across a wide range of development indicators for all people, irrespective of their gender. The running assumption is that supporting adolescent girls is one of the most effective strategies available to achieve wider developmental outcomes.
The World Bank’s report, Voice and Agency: Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity launched two weeks ago, highlighted the close relation between female education and child marriage, noting, in particular, that girls with no education were six times more likely to enter into a child marriage compared to girls with high school education in 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriages. However, the case of Bangladesh shows that improvements in female education are not a sufficient condition for reducing child marriage among women: two out of every three girls marry before age 18 in spite of a big jump in secondary school enrollment and a sharp decline in fertility rate in the last twenty years.
Faced with pressure of an increasing number of students, education quality has been a central concern for the universities and society at large in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been a shining example in increase access and quality to primary and secondary education, but similar progress has not yet been seen at the tertiary level. Educationists are concerned that higher education, in its current form, may not be able to supply sufficient numbers of highly trained and motivated individuals to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Such worries are not completely groundless. At many universities, facilities and equipment such as laboratories, libraries, equipment, journals etc. were often in short supply or outdated.
The Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) initiative under Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP), is helping universities to overcome such challenges. A number of faculties have already taken advantage of the opportunity to bring about improvements in teaching, learning, and facilities.
If the deluge of trend pieces tell us anything, it’s that the millennials are the most fussed over demographic in history. But behind the hype, there is real a tectonic shift. We are now witnessing the largest youth bulge in history. Over half the world’s population is now under thirty, with the majority living in developing and middle-income countries.
A youthful population can be source of creativity, innovation and growth –but only if employed and engaged in their societies. Unfortunately, for much of the world’s young people, reality is very different.
A number of hurdles prevent young people from contributing as productive, socially responsible citizens. As Emma Murphy of Durham University notes, “Poor education limits their skills, poor employment limits their transition to adulthood and political obstacles limit their voice and participation.”
The longer young people are excluded from participating in their economic and political systems, the further we are from realizing the ‘demographic dividend’.
It’s a no-brainer. A youth agenda, focusing on the issues that affect young people, must be a critical piece of any post-2015 framework. Where do we start?