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Saturday, December 15, 2018 11:20:27 PM
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Higher education, higher unemployment

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Farook Ahmed :
Within the next decade we will have the largest number of higher educated unemployed youths in the world. It can be said without a shadow of doubt that the outcome of such large-scale unemployment would be disastrous for us.
Our policy makers seem to be either blind or nonchalant to such a grave impending disaster. We have no concrete and realistic education policy. This has made the situation more parlous. Our innocent students do not know what is in store for them in future. Neither their parents know whether their hard-earned money spent on their children's' higher education could be recouped ever.
The alarming rise of private universities like grocery shops has tainted the sanctity of higher education. These private universities churn out thousands of so-called higher educated youngsters faster than popcorn fryer machines. Their products have no demand in the job markets and the certificates which these institutions provide to the students prove to be like demonetized bank notes.
We have so many private and public universities that Thailand, Singapore, Nepal and Malaysia combined do not have equal number of universities like us. Japan, China and Singapore have not yet made higher education open for everybody. These countries put emphasis on technical education and only the exceptionally meritorious students can reach the door of university.
But the situation in our country is quite the reverse. We discourage technical education and encourage higher education.
This flawed and prejudicial education policy is decimating the future of our students. Survey reveals that 85% of our university students come from middle and lower middle class families.
Their parents find it back-breaking to defray the costs of their wards' tuition and other fees. The private universities extract exorbitant tuition fees from the students. When poor parents find that their sons and daughters despite having university degrees are jobless, then their hopes are vanished and their dreams are dashed.
Their higher educated sons become a double burden on them. Now every household has at least one or two higher educated unemployed member.
Being a poor country we cannot afford to bear the burdens of so many higher educated unemployed young persons.
Government needs to take due diligence to erase the blight of all-pervasive unemployment scar from the face of our country.
We cannot deny the fact that our private universities are squarely responsible for creating this wide-ranging unemployment in the country. These private universities' only goal is to make money by fair or foul means.
They do not impart quality education to their students. Hence we see that most of the students of private universities are either half-educated or ill-educated. So they naturally become misfits for any job. Government should not have permitted so many private universities to come into being.
The university grants commission should bring all existing private universities under its rigorous oversight. This may compel the private universities to maintain at least minimum standard.
It would be certainly better for us if we like China, Japan and Singapore make higher education not open for everybody. Our survey reveals that half of the existing private universities can be easily converted into technical institutions.
Government may form a body to examine the possibility and viability of this proposal.
Sociologists are afraid that our acute and ever mounting unemployment may cause serious imbalance in our society. If our youngsters do not find any job in sync with their qualifications they will plunge into dire despondence and many will resort to criminal activities for a living.
We have found that sizable number of unemployed young persons have become drug addict out of sheer frustration.  This epidemical unemployment issue has already pushed us into deep crisis. We cannot allow this crisis to deepen further. This is our national crisis. It demands concerted and well-planned efforts to effectively tackle it.  
Time has come to ponder over why we have so many unmarried girls in our society. We have so many unmarried girls because of so many unemployed boys. If a man gets employment, a woman gets a husband.
We cannot dispute the fact that our so-called higher education is inextricably complicating our unemployment problem.
If we really want to disentangle us from the bear hug of unemployment, we must disenchant our young generation from the lure of higher education. We need to create ample opportunities for vocational and technical education.
Theoretical education has little value in this highly tech and digital age and that is why our education policies should be overhauled root and branch to cope with the demand of the prevailing situation.  
We propose that government may urgently consider setting up at least one vocational cum technical institution at each district. This measure will facilitate our youths to learn technical knowledge at their own locality.
Education ministry may embark upon vigorous campaign to emphasize on the importance and usefulness of vocational and technical education instead of traditional higher education. We have long been observing that most of our public universities are plagued with session jam which takes away extra two or three years from the life of every student.
So when the students finally leave their universities, they become age-barred for entry into government service. Currently a person who is above thirty years can not apply for government jobs. Hence the cut-off age limit for entry into government service may be increased from 30yr to 35yr.
This step if taken will obviously conduce to many job-seekers to find a most coveted government job. A country like ours cannot move forward with such load of huge number of educated unemployed young people. The unemployment issue is exponentially turning into explosive situation.
We should not pretend to forget that we are sitting on a veritable time-bomb. If we do not act now, we are likely to be caught flat-footed.

(The writer is a freelance contributor).

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