As I prepare to graduate and arguably enter the ‘real’ world, I can’t help asking myself, “Am I prepared to enter the hyper competitive world with the skills I currently have?” I know after 12 years studying at an English medium school, four years at a public university, and passing all levels of academic certification successfully, I am expected to say ‘yes’. I should technically feel confident about my preparedness, yet I feel unsure. Completing an internship at Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center recently helped me realise that I lacked a few significant skills and abilities required in the workplace which never got the deserved focus while at school and university.
WE WERE NOT TAUGHT HOW TO LEARN
Throughout our time at school, we are taught how to acquire good grades and ace our exams. But, I feel we are not encouraged to learn in order to expand our horizons. Our society, education system, and parents have pushed us to run after things that give us instant rewards such as high grades and discouraged us from investing in areas that help us grow as curious human beings. A pervasive culture of rote memorisation has resulted in generations who are not critical or creative thinkers. The lack of passion to learn has broader implications in our society and the country. For example, according to a new study by the World Bank, unemployment in Bangladesh is more than 10%. In 2017, there were 260,000 jobless youth, however, employers have indicated they can’t find suitable candidates with right skills. Despite graduating with the right academic degrees employees are not equipped with the right creative thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, that are necessary for graduates to succeed in the job market. Unless we encourage our students to love learning and develop the ability to learn new things, instead of running after grades, it is very possible that we wouldn’t be able to move forward towards a better society.
FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION
The social norm we have come to accept is that we are rewarded when we succeed and penalised when we fail. In most educational institutions students’ achievements are celebrated and failures condemned. As a result, failure is associated with embarrassment, shame, and guilt and dealing with it becomes an added challenge that students don’t know handle. With rising expectations from society to compete and be better than others, most students are incapable of dealing with failure and rejection, resorting to antisocial behavior such as cheating, or in extreme cases taking their own lives. Rejection and failure are the most important learning tools as they reveal various truths about us that assist in handling future situations. Incidents of failures throughout our academic careers should be revered and examined as learning moments so that students are not scared of failing but use them as lessons to grow and develop.
MENTAL HEALTH WAS NOT A PRIORITY
The importance of physical health is often emphasised throughout our lives, but our mental wellbeing is often overlooked. According to WHO-AIMS in 2006, mental health expenditure from the government’s health ministry of Bangladesh is less than 0.5% of the total healthcare expenditure. This statistic clearly indicates what a low priority mental health is in Bangladesh. In schools, things like depression, stress, anxiety, and emotions are almost never discussed with students even though many young people suffer from these. A social stigma regarding these issues persist in our society which discourages a lot of individuals from seeking help. From my own experiences many in my generation face these problems yet do not seek help because of the fear or shame of being laughed at. Educational institutions have the potential to change that by creating safe environments where students are encouraged to openly talk about issues of mental health.
Our education system, despite teaching us immensely throughout the course of our lives, ignores a few important aspects of our development. If our education system does not reform, it runs the risk of being outdated in the face of the changing dynamics of the modern world. I hope the our government and education institutions start to bring focus on the above mentioned issues so that we, the country’s youth, can have the opportunity to learn, grow and build a better Bangladesh.
This article was first published in “The Daily Star” on July 12, 2018