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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.
Sri Lankan youth is a mass of untapped potential. With 12.7% of the country’s labour force comprised of youth, the importance of skilled and educated youth is definitely a resource for the island’s development. Having a labour force participation rate of a mere 35.2% among the youth, unlocking the potential in the rest would mean opening doors to around 2 million young, energetic, enthusiastic and innovative individuals to enter the job market.
I was privileged to attend a leading school in Sri Lanka with high quality education and adequate infrastructure. This however is not the common school in Sri Lanka. The majority of the youth receive less than adequate education, which I believe is crucial for one’s development.
Needless to say, it is this population that blooms into the world not fully equipped to take it over. With the lack of perspectives and exposure to the “real world,” due to narrow minded parents, peer pressure, family responsibilities, fear and poverty, the most youth restrict themselves to the ‘Doctor, Engineer or Lawyer’ mentality as I would like to call it, since they are believed to be the only professions that would extricate a Sri Lankan from poverty. And, mind you, it is not due to the demands in the labour market in Sri Lanka. These is a perception resulting in a bias for white collar jobs vs. ‘blue collar’ jobs which are in market demand but heavily stereotyped as low class jobs even when the pay is high. Most youth opt to work abroad than in Sri Lanka engaged in jobs labelled as ‘blue collar’ work.
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.