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Skill Formation Regimes in South Asia

A Comparative Study on the Path-Dependent Development of Technical and Vocational Education and Training for the Garment Industry


Markus Maurer

In the face of accelerated economic globalisation, many of the industries in economically less developed countries have become more technology-intensive. Skill formation processes, both inside and outside firms, are therefore changing. This study scrutinises such transformations by comparing – from the perspective of historical institutionalism – the skill formation regimes of the garment industries in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It sheds light on the differences between the trajectories of the in-firm skill formation regimes of the two countries, and reveals the important part that varying paths of educational development in both countries have played in shaping these trajectories. At the same time, the study shows how, in both countries, state-led skill formation regimes have been transformed not only by market forces and the growing importance of corporate business interests, but also by the social demand for educational credentials.


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PART A THE FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY INTRODUCTION THE PROBLEM Among policy makers, the larger public and most social scientists, there is little debate about the importance of skills for economic development and transformation, both in highly industrialised and less industrialised countries. To remain competitive in the era of globalisation, the assump- tion goes, nation states need to prepare their citizens for the require- ments of the knowledge economy and to increasingly strive for “high skills”.1 In the last decade, these concerns have also been taken up by in- ternational organisations, for instance by the World Bank and by the In- ternational Labour Organization (ILO), by development economists and, subsequently, by governments of many developing countries.2 In this 1 For the concept of high skills, see Philip Brown, Andy Green & Hugh Lauder, High skills: globalization, competitiveness, and skill formation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For elaborations on the knowledge economy from an economic perspective, see Philip Brown, Anthony Hesketh & Sara Williams, “Employability in a Knowledge-driven Economy”, in: Journal of Education and Work 16 (2003), pp. 107-126. See also Dale Neef, Gerald Anthony Siesfield & Cefola Jacquelyn, The economic impact of knowledge (Boston: Butterworth- Heinemann, 1998); Walter W. Powell & Kaisa Snellman, “The Knowledge Econ- omy”, in: Annual Review of Sociology 30 (2004), pp. 199-220. 2 For World Bank publications on the requirements of the knowledge economy, see Ernesto Cuadra & Juan Manuel Moreno, Expanding Opportunities and Building Competencies for Young People. A New Agenda for Secondary Education (Wash- ington DC: World Bank,...

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