Carried on the back of its competitive apparel industry and large pool of migrant remittances, Bangladesh’s strong and admirable growth in recent years is the product of multiple factors. However, behind this picture lies another story not talked about nearly as much–the role of education in enabling this transformation.
As the economy matures, the engines of growth take on more complex forms. With Vision 2041 looming ahead, the need to equip the nation with a strong information technology-enabled services industries remains pertinent. Despite being the foundation for future growth, the sector is currently falling short of expectations. In order to enable this sector to thrive and produce the results needed from it, access to quality tertiary education is vital in creating future industry leaders.
LightCastle Partners co-authored The Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s latest publication titled, “Bangladesh: Computer and Software Engineering Tertiary Education in 2018.” which hopes to improve labor market outcomes for graduates of computer science engineering and information technology.
Ryotaro Hayashi, social sector economist of the South Asia Department from the Asian Development Bank, and LightCastle Partners co-authored the report.
Nine universities were surveyed for this paper: Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), University of Dhaka (DU), Jessore University of Science and Technology (JUST), Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST), BRAC University (BRACU), Daffodil International University (DIU), East West University (EWU), and Islamic University of Technology (IUT). This article summarizes the key takeaways of the study.
The Study Reveals 3 Broad Findings
University, Gender and Year of Graduation Affected Job Placement Status
Overall, the job placement rate for CSE/IIT graduates stood at 77.1 percent while the remaining 22.9 percent either did not find jobs or were not looking for jobs.1 20.4 percent of graduates found jobs within 1-3 months of graduation, while a substantial 35.5 percent of graduates found jobs more than one year after graduation. Overall employment rate after graduation stood at 86.2 percent.
The ADB tracer study defined job placement rates as the number of people currently employed out of the total sample.
The tracer study defined job placement rate as the proportion of people currently employed out of the total sample.
Job Placement Rate = (Currently Employed)/(All Sample)
The study found that job placement rates varied across 3 major factors: university, gender and year of graduation.
Job placement after CSE/IIT graduation was 77.1% with large variations across universities.
Islamic University of Technology (IUT) graduates’ job placement topped the chart at 92.4 percent, followed by BUET at 91.1 percent. BRACU graduates secured a job placement rate of 87.1 percent. BUET graduates secured the highest employment rates of 97.9 percent with BRACU trailing close behind at 96.8 percent. IUT graduates experienced the third-highest employment rate at 94.4%.
Females experienced lower job placement rates than males
Job placement amongst female CSE/IIT graduates was lower than that of men. This suggests that there exists stark gender disparities within the IT/ITES industry. According to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), the overall employment rate for women was 18.4 percent lower than that of males. This gap arises out of women’s family commitments which include being a homemaker, and their inability to travel abroad. Employers were also concerned about security reasons when considering the employment females. Working location, family constraints, lack of proper professional and vocational skills, maternity leave, high turnover rates, reluctances to take on challenges, and absenteeism were also major factors in the decision-making process for employers.
Job Placement Increased the More Time Passed Since Graduation
Job placement rates increase as more time elapses since the day of graduation. As of 2018, graduates who graduated in 2015 experienced a job placement rate of 86.2 percent, while those from the years 2016 and 2017 experienced lower job placement rates of 74.3 percent and 70.1 percent respectively. In 2017, 13.8 percent of employers indicated that first-time job-seekers coming from university were not well-prepared for the job they were applying to. 62.0 percent of employers stated that fresh graduates lacked the appropriate job-specific skills and competencies. Additionally, only a quarter of graduates found employment within 6 months of graduation.
Interest in CSE/IT, Scholarship Opportunities, and Salary Affected Access to Education and Employment
There are multiple reasons as to why access to education and employment in CSE/IT sector differed. Among them, 3 important factors were:
- Interest in computer science engineering.
- Availability of scholarship at universities.
- Salary offered upon graduation.
Most graduates were engaged due to their interest in CSE.
Graduates in CSE/IT were primarily engaged in the discipline due to their genuine interest in the field. In addition to this interest, they also believed that there existed good employment opportunities in this sector. With prospects of career advancement, the potential to earn a good salary also featured amongst graduates’ reasons for choosing their courses.
65.3% of universities offered no scholarship opportunities.
Of all universities surveyed, IUT graduates (70.7 percent) received the most scholarships, followed by Jahangirnagar University graduates (62.0 percent), and graduates of BUET followed behind with 43.4 percent graduates receiving some kind of scholarship or stipend support. Of those who did not receive any kind of scholarship or stipend, 65.3 percent stated that there was no scholarship/stipend support program at their university. 14.0 percent could not meet the scholarship criteria, 16.5 percent of graduates said their parents could afford to pay for them, while only 4.2 percent of graduates said they could make a living through their part-time job.
69.8% of unemployed graduates cited “low salary” as the chief reason for not accepting a job offer.
Among the unemployed graduates, 78.0 percent considered it very important to find a job. However, 69.8 percent of graduates cited low salary as the premier reason for not accepting a job offer. 46.2 percent of graduates cited poor working conditions as the second most important reason behind their decision to not accept a job offer.
The Internet was the Most Popular Job Search Method
The vast majority of graduate job-seekers look for employment on online job-matching sites (36.7 percent). The problem with this approach is that most employers don’t rely much on the internet for recruitment purposes. Most employers in the IT sector use private employment services and job fairs to recruit employees.
The Majority of Graduates in CSE/IT Believe Better Facilities are Necessary
Generally, most graduates were satisfied with the quality of education they received at their respective universities, however, they believed that the education needed to be adjusted to teach a more proper level of hands-on skills for the job market. Room for improvement still exists and according to the study, most graduates believe their universities needed to improve their facilities. 87.5 percent of Jessore University of Science and Technology graduates, 82.9 percent Dhaka University graduates and 71.1 percent of Jahangirnagar University graduates believed there was a strong need to improve university facilities.
ICT and Problem Solving Skills are the Areas Where Universities Should Focus Most
The use of ICT (51.1 percent) and problem-solving skills (49.6 percent) rank top on the list that graduates believe universities need to focus more on. Among graduates of the universities surveyed, most respondents believed that soft skill training needed to be improved.
Universities Need to Provide Quality Internship Programs
84.5 percent of CSE/IIT graduates from Jessore University of Science and Technology (JUST), 64.3 percent of graduates from Daffodil International University, and 60.0 percent of graduates from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology said that it was necessary to improve the quality of internships available. Only 19.7 percent of universities provided internships which lasted 4 months. Amongst those who availed these internships, 92.5 percent of graduates found internships useful for work interviews.
The proper development of the IT sector is a fundamental ingredient in the recipe for Bangladesh’s future. The sector’s growing importance backed on the heels of equitable and quality-oriented CSE/IIT university education will enable Bangladesh to lay the foundation to power the future engines of economic growth. Improving industry infrastructure, smoothing discrepancies over access to education and employment across gender, university and year of graduation, and developing a market-responsive and skills-oriented curriculum will establish the foundation to empower the IT sector’s growing relevance in the local economy.
Particularly crucial steps towards success revolves around 3 actions. Firstly, access to CSE/IT programs needs to be expanded, particularly towards women to bridge gender disparities. Secondly, the quality and relevance of CSE/IT programs need to be upgraded through greater hands-on experience, more practice, improved career guidance and quality internship programs. Third and lastly, universities need to strengthen support for start-ups in an effort to raise the number of high tech entrepreneurs.
If these fundamentals are tackled swiftly, it is appropriate to hope that Bangladesh will be well-poised to deal with the challenges of a more complex and technologically-oriented global economy. The task then falls to the hands of university authorities, employers, and policymakers to synthesize the way forward.
- 1. Bangladesh: Computer and Software Engineering Tertiary Education in 2018 – Asian Development Bank
- 2. Tracer Study of Graduates of Universities in Bangladesh – Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
- 3. University education and labour market linkages – The Financial Express
- 4. Survey on ICT Job Market in Bangladesh – Daffodil International University