National Skills Development Policy-2011: Review process and recommendations

Feature | Dhaka | 07 March 2021

Policy context is ever changing and dynamic. Since the adoption of National Skill Development Policy in 2011, the policy context of Bangladesh has changed to a great extent. The government of Bangladesh has committed itself to several national strategies and global development goals including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2nd Perspective Plan (2022-2041), 8th Five Year Plan and Vision 2041. It is crucial that skills policy remains relevant, valid, and addresses the current and future development goals and targets of the country. Thus, there is a strong case for revision and updating of the national skills development policy. The NSDP 2011 itself also envisages a review after every five years “to take account of progress in implementation and emerging trends in the national and international environment” (NSDP 2011, p 37).

As the apex national body responsible for the skills development of the country, National Skill Development Authority has undertaken the responsibility of reviewing NSDP 2011. Skills 21 project of ILO, with support from the European Union has been providing technical support to NSDA for the NSDP review process.

NSDP review process
The NSDP review has taken place after 8 years of the policy approval. Considering its impact on the development plan of the country, the policy review process entailed most of the steps followed in a typical policy cycle . The multi-disciplinary actions undertaken as part of the review included policy review through extensive desk research, policy issues identification through capacity building programs on policy review and analysis for TVET officials, consultations in the form of policy dialogues across the country engaging range of stakeholders, coordination with local government and grassroots level as well as among development partners through DP-SDWG platform, communicating the issues through knowledge products and documentation of public and stakeholder opinion through policy recommendation documents are the major ones.

a) Technical review through desk research
Extensive technical reviews were conducted by ILO prior to initiating the review process in collaboration with NSDA. Two separate reports were produced by experts from Bangladesh and India based on desk research, their experiences of working in skills development sector and series of consultations with stakeholders from the government, development partners and practitioners. These reports laid the foundation and made a strong case for the review and revision of the NSDP 2011.

b) Sectoral, Divisional and National workshop
Four sectoral and seven divisional workshops were conducted to take stakeholder perceptions on NSDP 2011 and on the policy level changes required for the sector. Sectoral workshops were designed for private sector, NGOs and civil society; workers and employers organizations; development partners and international organizations; and government agencies and departments related to skills development. All four workshops were conducted in NSDA chaired by the Executive Chairman of NSDA. Key features, policy impact, implementation challenges of NSDP 2011and recommendations for policy review were discussed thoroughly in sectoral workshops. Divisional workshops were conducted in Rajshahi, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Barishal, Rangpur and Mymensingh. Due to the global pandemic situation, these workshops had to be organised online. The workshops were attended by local government representatives, principals and teachers from the local Technical Teacher Training Centres (TTCs) and TVET institutions, local industry representatives, NGO staffs, NSDA and ILO representatives among others. Recommendations coming from these workshops have been documented in the form of an event report and reviewed by NSDA and ILO for feasibility of inclusion in the reviewed policy. Several sector experts have also been interviewed to understand their perception on NSDP 2011 and get their expert opinion on different policy related issues. Finally, once the draft policy was ready, a national workshop was organized on draft NSDP 2020 including all relevant stakeholders chaired by the Principal Secretary of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to validate the revised policy.

c) Capacity building of stakeholders on policy dialogues, policy analysis and review
To ensure meaningful engagement of grassroots level in the review of NSDP 2011, capacity building initiatives were undertaken for TVET officials by Skills 21 project throughout the country in 2019 and 2020. Initially 100 TVET officials under DTE received a 5 day-long capacity building training on conducting policy dialogues. This prepared them with the capacity to conduct policy dialogues at their localities and collect public opinion on policy review. 40 among these 100 officials were further trained on policy review and analysis where they reviewed different issues of NSDP 2011 and shared their views. Thematic policy recommendation documents were produced based on their views shared in capacity development training.

d) Policy dialogues with stakeholders
Eight policy dialogue workshops in selected eight TVET institutes and four policy dialogues were organized by the TVET institutes with the support of Skills 21 project throughout 2019 and 2020. The objective of organizing such policy dialogues was to engage the voice and thoughts of the relevant stakeholders in the formulation of revised National Skills Development Policy. Discussion on critical policy issues and implementation challenges on NSDP 2011 and orientation on policy dialogue took place in policy dialogue workshops and policy dialogues.

e) Development of Policy Advocacy tools
Documentation of policy related public opinion can be used as effective policy advocacy tools. Six policy recommendation documents were developed as policy advocacy tools containing the policy recommendations coming from the grassroots level policy dialogues. These policy briefs covered important issues relevant to the NSDP 2011 including gender perspective to the policy, engaging industries, overseas employment and institutional capacity of TVET institutes among others.

The policy recommendation documents were uploaded in ILO website for public access and sharing as well as shared with NSDA for wider dissemination and review of the recommendations. This ensured that the policymakers as well as those involved in the review process are well informed of the major concerns of relevant stakeholders and practitioners in the grassroots level.

f) Engaging Development Partners through DP-SDWG platform
ILO also mobilized Development Partners (DPs) to ensure the issues raised through this policy review process are acknowledged and echoed by the DPs. The Development Partners’ Skills Development Working Group (DP-SDWG) platform conducted multiple closed group meetings with members including the EU, ADB, World Bank and UNICEF. A position paper was developed and jointly submitted to the EC of NSDA for their consideration. The position paper consisted of common suggestions to improve upon the draft NSDP 2020 on issues like including lessons learnt from NSDP 2011, more emphasis on industry engagement in TVET delivery, a unified qualification framework and wider and further consultation with the DPs prior to the finalization of the review process.

Key recommendations from the review

A number of recommendations came from NSDP 2011 review, policy dialogues and stakeholder consultation workshops for inclusion and in many cases better articulation in revised NSDP 2020. Some of these include: awareness on policy both at local and national level, incentives for industries, popularization of NTVQF certification, industry participation for recognition of prior learning, skills for emerging technologies and climate change, strengthen and mainstream lifelong opportunities, introduction of dual training system, introduction of entrepreneurial skills training, promotion of mutual recognition of skills, support to informal sector for rural & marginalized people, broader outreach to cater to small & micro enterprises & area-based skill demand, sustainable funding modalities through NHRDF, focus on innovation and research, introduction of soft skills training, modification in recruitment rules for skilled workforce, and clarification of the role of NSDA and BTEB. Some of the recommendations among these finally took place in the draft version of the NSDP 2020.

Some key recommendations are explained further as follows:

a) Definition of Skills and Skills Development:
NSDP 2011 defines Skills development (SD) “as the full range of formal and non-formal vocational, technical and skills based education and training for employment and or self- employment”. Skills development should ideally include its broad definition comprising all three components. UNESCO (2012), while discussing putting education to work, rightly identifies three categories of “skills”: a. foundational skills, associated with literacy and numeracy (cognitive skills); b. transferable skills (sometimes also known as soft skills or life or non-cognitive skills), including problem-solving and the ability to transform and adapt knowledge and skills in varying work contexts; and c. technical and vocational skills, associated with specific occupations (p. 171). It was recommended to clearly specify the definition of skill development in the NSDP 2020.

b) Institutional management:
Practice of innovative management ideas requires financial resources to support and implement it at the institute level initially. Deliberating on the potentials of the TVET institutes in terms of financial sustainability of the institutes, the revised NSDP should suggest the idea of introducing income generating business model for TVET institutes. This will serve threefold purposes of transforming students’ theoretical knowledge into practical, help the local market grow while generating fund for regular operation and sustainability of TVET institutes.
Financial autonomy of TVET institutes can support the independent and more responsible operation of the institutes. The extent and modality of financial autonomy has to be clearly mentioned in the NSDP 2020 for clearer understanding, corresponding action as well as having audit clearance on part of the institutes. The participants further emphasized on capacity development of TVET officials for managing financial autonomy and improved monitoring of the institutes’ performance.

Lack of an active role of NSDA as the apex body in monitoring the activities and performances of TVET institutes was raised as an issue of concern. One of the objectives of the formation of National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) was to guide and oversee the functions of TVET institute performances and NSDA needs to be more active in this role. Therefore it is imperative to clarify the specific role of NSDA through NSDP in terms of their area of authority and extent of regulation over DTE run TVET institutions, certifications and monitoring mechanisms among others.

c) Overseas Employment:
Overseas employment is mostly contractual service for 2 to 3 years with extension in some cases. Upon the return of migrant workers after completion of the agreement period, they need to be integrated in the domestic market to benefit the local economy with their skills they acquire or develop in destination countries. The skills and experiences these workers return with, could be widely recognised through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). NSDP 2011 already lays emphasis on RPL provision. However, more emphasis on Certification through RPL will create a greater impact on the economy for absorption of the returnee migrants in the domestic as well as for remigration to other overseas labour market with higher wage. This was particularly identified as crucial during this pandemic period when large number of Bangladeshi migrant workers were losing their jobs and returning to their home country.
d) Introduction of Income generating business model:
Reflecting on the financial sustainability of the institutes, the idea of introducing income generating business model for TVET institutes was suggested to support the students transform their theoretical knowledge into practical one and supporting the local market at the same time. Participants proposed a workable model through the collaboration between institutes and industries where the industries will invest in raw materials and receive products from the institutes.

d) Industry engagement:
It was proposed that revised NSDP 2020 should explicitly state: “Industry should earmark at least 1% of its payroll (including for contract labour) for skill development initiatives in their respective sectors. These funds can be channelized for skill development activities either through respective ISCs or through NHRDF”. The RIC would be applicable to any registered large, medium and small private and public enterprise which employs 10 or more workers.
Another area that needs attention is modernizing the curriculum according to industry demand. Changing the TVET curriculum according to changing industry demands should, thus, be accommodated in the policy through revised curriculum, training delivery methods and corresponding assessment and certification of trainings. The institutes should run industry relevant courses. Participants at different policy dialogues deliberated upon regular visits of the management and instructional staff to the industry as an effective approach in upgrading the course and equipment with the latest technology. For this purpose, introducing ‘industry release’ for trainers and instructors came up as one of the suggestions.
While NSDP 2011 makes no mention of industry attachment for trainees (apart from instructors). Without industry on-the-job work experience, skilling cannot be considered complete. The TVET Institution Census 2015 reveals a worrying situation in respect of industry attachment for different types of TVET institutions by ownership. Thus, of all Government/Semi-Government institutions 72% do not have the facility of industrial attachment. The quality of learning of trainees is impacted by the absence of industry attachment as part of training. Therefore, NSDP 2020 should emphasis apprenticeship and dual training for a comprehensive learning experience of the students.

e) Gender and social inclusion issues:
Gender balance and the share of People with Disability, marginalised and vulnerable groups are critical to ensure greater inclusiveness in the TVET system, as well as less exclusion in the labour market for such groups.
An important policy concern is the social image of TVET sector. In one of the policy dialogues, some of the female students raised the issue that women are very often discouraged to enter into TVET sector for education as public perception of TVET, especially among the people from upazilla level is very negative. This could be linked to the lack of awareness about the prospect of TVET graduates. To address the lack of awareness, many advertising campaigns are conducted in district level from the TVET institutes. However, bringing social campaigning at upazilla level might help change public perception and bring more female students into TVET. The success cases of female TVET graduates can be promoted through these campaigns for changing negative public perception of it. Hearing about female graduates working in the industries and earning on their own could encourage more parents to admit their girl child in TVET institutes for shaping their careers.

As a possible solution to low enrolment of female students due to lack of security, female students and teachers suggested including accommodation provision and transportation facilities during their training in the TVET institutes. BBS (2015) in its path-breaking TVET Institution Census found that a minority of TVET institutions (9% of total) had residential facilities. This would address the family concerns about the female student’s security which often is a barrier to their education in TVET.

Way forward

Policy review is an extensive process that involves series of actions engaging different set of stakeholders. ILO has successfully supported the review process of NSDP 2011 with NSDA and the revised NSDP 2020 is currently in the process of approval by the government. The technical review through desk research, capacity building initiatives for TVET officials, policy dialogues conducted by the same TVET officials across different divisions, knowledge product development and dissemination for public engagement, utilizing platforms like DP SDWG to initiate and consolidate development partner’s views on policy were interconnected activities entailing the policy review process. Such policy influencing cycle that NSDA and ILO have jointly followed can be used as a model for any future policy advocacy irrespective of its relevance to skills development or NSDP as a whole. An action plan is in the process of drafting to implement the policy in a successful manner.