A random survey carried out by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, a government research agency, has come up with disquieting revelation. According to its survey, as high as 66 per cent of graduates including those who pursued and completed honours courses and post-graduates from 2,154 public and private colleges affiliated with the National University (NU) by 2017 have remained unemployed. Conducted between February and June this year, the survey, however, gives an insight into the inherent weaknesses or lapses in the NU curricula. According to it, of those who are unemployed, the overwhelming majority -- 62 per cent to be exact -- are from departments other than the business administration. This means that there is at least one department that produces graduates and post-graduates who have demands in the employment market. The 21 per cent who could manage a job has an average salary of Tk 30,000. Then seven per cent are still pursuing post-graduate studies in another subject or technical education in order to enhance their employability. Only three per cent are trying their luck at self-employment or entrepreneurship.
This is fairly representative of the 2.0 million students studying at colleges under the NU. The coordinator of the survey concludes that the reason behind such large-scale unemployment is a lack of quality education. He suggests that students have to be proficient in information technology. Both observations ask for qualification and elaboration. Higher studies offered in many subjects have long lost their relevance. The problem lies with the ubiquitous colleges offering honours courses although they have no qualified teachers to do justice to the subjects. Also students enrolled with such colleges are mostly below par because the more talented ones go to medical colleges and universities including those of engineering and technology. Better it would have been if these students were given the option of pursuing vocational and technical education equal to building a decent career in different industrial and service sectors.
At a time when their peers with better academic records coming out from reputed public and private universities to compete for jobs, the graduates from colleges under the NU are sure to be at a disadvantage. It is a mistake to produce poor quality graduates and post-graduates. Their teachers are often substandard and offer poor education for them to pursue a well-paid career. The need is to bring about a radical change in the system of higher education. There is no alternative to being rigorously selective in terms of higher education. The process has to begin from the secondary level.
Happily, an initiative has already been taken in this direction. The National Technical and Vocational Qualification Framework (NTVQF), developed by the government of Bangladesh in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the European Union, may be equal to the task. Its ultimate goal is to put in place what is called the Bangladesh National Qualifications Framework (BNQF). It is likely to meet the requirement of local industries such as the readymade garments (RMG) where the presence of foreigners at the technical level is overwhelming. At the same time their skills will correspond to the standards of other countries in the world, ensuring their jobs abroad. Now the need is to synchronise the standard of BNFQ with higher education.