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The educational system in Bangladesh is three-tiered and highly subsidized. The government of Bangladeshmarker operates many schools in the primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. It also subsidizes parts of the funding for many private schools. In the tertiary education sector, the government also funds more than 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.

Bangladesh conforms fully to the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.


Education in Bangladesh has evolved in terms of languages of instruction, governance of schools and pedagogical methods. Early education in Bengalmarker was once intertwined with Indian and Islamic Madrasah education. Major changes coincided with the onset of British rule, the creation of Pakistanmarker and the establishment of an independent Bangladesh.

Under the British East India Company from 1758 and the British Raj from 1858, education was mainly reserved for the wealthy class. The language of pedagogy was English, as nuns and other British administrators ran the schools. The few natives who were fortunate to receive an education were either from wealthy families (Nawabs) or families with ties to the British governing body. To receive higher education, such as a university degree, one had to attend schools in England. For example, Mahatma Gandhi travelled to London to study law. As native people were treated as second-class citizens, education was largely withheld from the general population.

In 1947, the British left the Indian subcontinent and the territory currently known as Bangladesh came under Pakistani rule as the state of East Pakistan. Education during this period was still very scarce but those who had the means of acquiring it were no longer considered second-class citizens. Although the state language of Pakistan was Urdu and the native language of East Pakistan was Bengali, schools largely continued to function in English. Some schools and colleges such as the Catholic Holy Cross were still taught by Christian missionaries.

After the liberation of Bangladesh a national education commission led by Dr. Muhammad Qudrat-i-Khuda was formed in 1972. The commission, popularly knows as 'Qudrat-i-Khuda Education Commission-1972', produced a report in May, 1974. A committee was formed in 1976 for developing national curricula & syllabuses in conformance with the recommendations of the report.The second education commission was formed in 1979 with Dr. Mofiz Uddin as chair. 'Mofiz Uddin Education Commission' submitted a report in 1988. In 1997, a 56-member committee was formed to update the education system. This committee, known as 'Shamsul Haque Education Committee', submitted an education policy report to the National Assembly. This report took into consideration environment, globalization and gender issues for the first time. 'Mohammad Moniruzzaman Mia Commission-2003' submitted its report in March 2004 and made 880 recommendations on all of the education sub-sectors.

Provision of education is listed as one of the fundamental responsibilities of the state in the constitution of Bangladesh. Education-related directives are narrated in articles 15, 16, 17, 19, 28 and 41 of the constitution.

Education system

Bangladesh education system in brief

The three main educational systems in Bangladesh, ordered by decreasing student numbers, are:
  • General Education System
  • Madrasah Education System
  • Technical - Vocational Education System

Other systems include a Professional Education System.

Each of these three main systems is divided into four levels:
  • Primary Level (years 1 to 5)
  • Secondary Level (years 6 to 10)
  • Higher Secondary Level (years 11 and 12)
  • Tertiary Level
Tertiary education in Bangladesh takes place at 11 government and 20 private universities. Students can choose to further their studies in engineering, technology, agriculture and medicine at a variety of universities and colleges.

At all levels of schooling, students can choose to receive their education in English or Bengali. Private schools tend to make use of English-based study media while government-sponsored schools use Bengali.
Cadets in class room
Cadet colleges are important in the education system of Bangladesh. A cadet college is a special type of school-cum-college established in East Pakistan on the model of English public schools. Military education is compulsory at cadet college. The government of Pakistan established the first residential cadet college in the Punjabmarker in 1954. Faujdarhat cadet college was the first cadet college in East Pakistan (Bangladesh), established in 1958 over an area of 185 acres of land at Faujdarhat in the district of Chittagongmarker. At present there are 12 cadet colleges in Bangladesh.

The Madrasah Education System focuses on religious education, teaching all the basics of education in a religious environment. Islamic teachings are compulsory. Religious studies are taught in Arabic and the children also usually serve the related mosques. Students also study some or all of the courses from the General Education System. Madrasahs take in many homeless children and provide them with food, shelter and education.

The Technical and Vocational Education System provides courses related to various applied and practical areas of science, technology and engineering, or focuses on a specific specialized area. Course duration ranges from one month to four years.

Pre-primary and primary education

Following the EFA, the government of Bangladesh made primary education compulsory for all children between the ages of six and ten. This has had a major impact on the system and the overall enrollment rate has increased since from 75% to 95% by 1996. In 1997 the government adopted a five-year Primary Education Development Program (PEDP1). Nineteen separate projects were implemented to achieve the goals of the program. But lack of co-ordination among the projects reduced the effectiveness of the program. In September, 2003 the concept paper of 'Second Primary Education Development Program' (PEDP2) was approved.

Bangladesh has 18 million children in 62,000 primary schools; this is one of the largest primary systems in the world. Over 65% of the primary schools are government primary schools; the rest are registered non-governmental schools but assisted by the government. The government of Bangladesh distributes free books and education kits to the students of primary schools. There are private schools; however, the number of students enrolled in private schools is much fewer, and these schools largely cater to the social elite. Many schools in the secondary level also have primary sections.

The primary education level is from year 1 to year 5. The primary curriculum is a competency based curriculum developed by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB). The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) implements the curriculum and also manages the system of primary education. There is no nationwide examination at the end of the fifth year. However, the government education boards conduct a scholarship examination at the end of year 5.

Secondary and higher secondary education

The secondary and higher secondary level is between year 6 and year 12. This level is further divided into two sub-levels - the secondary and the higher secondary. The schools in the lower secondary levels have students from year 6 to year 10. The schools in the higher secondary level are called "colleges".

There are two nationwide public examinations in this level. The first one is the Secondary School Certificate examination, conducted at the end of year 10. The other is the Higher Secondary Certificate examination, conducted at the end of year 12. These examinations are conducted by the seven education boards located in Barisalmarker, Chittagongmarker, Comillamarker, Dhakamarker, Jessoremarker, Rajshahimarker, and Sylhet.

Secondary education

On completion of primary education, students (11+) enroll for junior secondary education that spans 3 years. At the end of this phase of education, some students branch out to join the vocational stream, offered at Vocational Training Institutes (VTI) and Technical Training Centres (TTC) run by the Ministry of Education (MOE), and the Ministry of Labour and Employment respectively. Students in the mainstream continue in government and non-government secondary schools for a two-year secondary education in their respective areas of specialization (e.g. humanities, science, commerce etc.) At the end of their secondary education, the students sit for their first public examination (SSC) (10th Grade) under the supervision of the six education boards.

The students of "Madrasah Education System" stream also sit for their respective public examinations, Dakhil level (10th Grade), conducted by the Madrasah Education Board.

The students of general education system's English medium streams also sit for their respective public examinations, 'O' level, conducted by London/Cambridge University, facilitated by the British Council.

Students of technical & vocational stream also sit for their public examination, SSC (vocational) (10th Grade) after a two-year period of study, conducted by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board.

Higher secondary education

After 10 years of schooling at primary and secondary level, students (16+) who succeed in passing the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination have the option of tither joining a college for a two-year higher secondary education in their respective areas of specialization, or enrolling in the Technical Education System for a four-year long course in their respective areas of technological study, to obtain a "Diploma-in-Engineering" degree. In the General Education System, after a two-year higher secondary education, the student has to sit for another public examination called the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) Examination to obtain HSC certificate to qualify for further education.

Students in the Madrasah Education System and English-speaking schools also sit for their respective public examinations, called 'Alim' and 'A' level (12th Grade). These exams are conducted by the Madrasah Education Board and Cambridge University respectively, to qualify for further education.

In the Technical Education System, those who enrolled for regular or trade diploma certificate courses, which are usually one year or less long, must take examinations conducted by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB). Those who passed the SSC (vocational), or SSC (general education system) can enroll into a two-year vocational or trade certificate course, and sit for examinations after that period of study. These examinations are conducted by the BTEB, and result in obtaining a HSC (vocational) (12th Grade) certificate degree. The students who enrolled for the Diploma-in-Engineering courses sit for the final public examination conducted by BTEB after a four-year long study period, and obtain a "Diploma-in-Engineering" diploma degree (14th Grade), to qualify for further education.

Tertiary education in General Education System

Bangladeshi universities turn out almost 450,000 skilled graduates annually.

Undergraduate education

Undergraduate education of various duration (two to four years) is offered to students aged 18+ at a number of public and private universities, degree and honors colleges, technical colleges, and specialized institutions. Successful completion of a degree course is a prerequisite for appointment to a white-collar civilian job. Students can enroll in such colleges or Universities for obtaining a formal 'pass' Bachelor degree (15th Grade) which is a Three-year long course, or they can obtain a formal 'honours' Bachelor degree (16th Grade) which is a four-year long course. Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University

Post-graduate education

Post-graduate education, normally of a one- to two-year duration, is provided at universities and affiliated colleges and institutions under National University.ᾎ

Tertiary education in Madrasah Education System

In Madrasah Education System, after passing 'Alim' (12th Grade), student can enroll in for 2 years long study, for obtaining a 'Fazil' level (14th Grade)as well as they can go for further general education like earning all over the universities degree, And after passing successfully they can further enroll into another 2 years long study system to obtain a 'Kamil' level (16th Grade) degree.

Tertiary education in Technical Education System

In the Technical Education System, students can further pursue their educational carrier for obtaining a Bachelor degree from Engineering & Technology Universities, which offer two and a half to three year long courses for students with a Diploma-in-Engineering degree, to obtain a Bachelor degree (undergraduate degree) (16th Grade) in Engineering. Then they can enroll into post-graduate studies.

Educational management

The overall responsibility of management of primary education lies with the Primary and Mass Education Division (PMED), set up as a separate division with the status of a Ministry in 1992. While the PMED is involved in formulation of policies, the responsibility of implementation rests with the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) headed by a Director General.

The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) and its subordinate offices in the district and upazila are solely responsible for management and supervision of primary education. Their responsibilities include recruitment, posting, and transfer of teachers and other staff; arranging in-service training of teachers; distribution of free textbooks; and supervision of schools. The responsibility of school construction, repair and supply of school furniture lies with the Facilities Department (FD) and Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) are responsible for the development of curriculum and production of textbooks. While the Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for formulation of policies, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) under the Ministry of Education is responsible for implementing the same at secondary and higher education levels. The NCTB is responsible for developing curriculum and publishing standard textbooks.

Primary and secondary level management

The primary and secondary levels of education are controlled by the six General Education Boards, each covering a region. The boards' headquarters are located in Barisalmarker,Comillamarker Chittagongmarker, Dhakamarker, Jessoremarker, Rajshahimarker and Sylhet . In addition, the Madrasah Education Board covers religious education in government-registered Madrasahs, and the Technical Education Board controls technical and vocational training in the secondary level.

Six region-based Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) are responsible for conducting the two public examinations, SSC and HSC, in addition to granting recognition to non-government secondary schools.

At the school level, in the case of non-government secondary schools, School Management Committees (SMC), and at the intermediate college level, in the case of non-government colleges, Governing Bodies (GB), formed as per government directives, are responsible for mobilizing resources, approving budgets, controlling expenditures, and appointing and disciplining staff. While teachers of non-government secondary schools are recruited by concerned SMCs observing relevant government rules, teachers of government secondary schools are recruited centrally by the DSHE through a competitive examination.

In government secondary schools, there is not an SMC. The headmaster is solely responsible for running the school and is supervised by the deputy director of the respective zone. Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), however, exist to ensure a better teaching and learning environment.

Tertiary education management

At the tertiary level, universities are regulated by the University Grants Commission. The colleges providing tertiary education are under the National University. Each of the medical colleges is affiliated with a public university. Universities in Bangladesh are autonomous bodies administered by statutory bodies such as Syndicate, Senate, Academic Council, etc. in accordance with provisions laid down in their respective acts.

Technical and Vocational education management

The Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of technical and vocational education in the country. Curriculum is implemented by BTEB.

Non-formal primary education

There exists a substantial number of NGO-run non-formal schools, catering mainly to the drop-outs of the government and non-government primary schools. Very few NGOs, however, impart education for the full five-year primary education cycle. Because of this, on completion of their two-to three-year non-formal primary education in NGO-run schools, students normally re-enter into government/non-government primary schools at higher classes.

There are Non-Governmental Schools (NGO) and Non-Formal Education Centers (NFE) and many of these are funded by the government. The largest NFE program is the much reputed BRAC program. However, all NFE graduates do not continue on to secondary school.

NGO-run schools differ from other non-government private schools. While the private schools operate like private enterprises often guided by commercial interests, NGO schools operate mainly in areas not served either by the government or private schools, essentially to meet the educational needs of vulnerable groups in the society. They usually follow an informal approach to suit the special needs of children from these vulnerable groups.

Similarly, in NGO-run schools there does not exist any SMC. The style of management differs depending upon differences in policies pursued by different NGOs. Some are centrally managed within a highly bureaucratic set-up, while others enjoy considerable autonomy.

Different NGOs pursue different policies regarding recruitment of teachers. Some prepare a panel of prospective teachers on the basis of a rigorous test and recruit teachers from this panel. Other NGOs recruit teachers rather informally from locally available interested persons.

Current status

Current government projects to promote the education of children in Bangladesh include compulsory primary education for all, free education for girls up to grade 10, stipends for female students, a nationwide integrated education system and a food-for-education literacy movement. A large section of the country’s national budget is set aside to help put these programs into action and to promote education and make it more accessible. Recent years have seen these efforts pay off and the Bangladesh education system is strides ahead of what it was only a few short years ago.


The educational system of Bangladesh faces several problems. In the past, Bangladesh education was primarily a British-controlled, upper-class affair with all courses given in English and very little being done for the common people. The Bangladesh education board has taken steps to leave such practices in the past and is looking forward to education as a way to provide a somewhat poverty-stricken nation with a brighter future. Bangladesh has one of the lowest literacy rates in South Asia. One study found a 15.5% primary school teacher absence rate.

The low performance in primary education is also matter of concern. School drop-out rates and grade repetition rates are high.. Poor school attendance and low contact time in school are factors contributing to low level of learning achievement. Further, the system lacks a sound Human Resource Development and deployment system and this has demoralized the primary education sector personnel, including teachers, and contributes to poor performance. Poverty is a big threat to primary education.


  1. Ministry of Education, Bangladesh-Education Commissions
  2. Abdul Maleque, Mariam Begum, Fakrul Islam and Sheikh Shahbaz Riad, Shikkha Bigyan o Bangladeshe Shikkha, University Grants Commission, Bangladesh, Feb. 2009. ISBN-984-809-037-1
  3. Constitution of Bangladesh
  4. Sedere Upali M, (1996), General Education Project (CR2118BD) Report, the World Bank.
  5. UNESCO Institute for Statistics Data 2007
  6. Sedere Upali M, (2000), Institutional Capacity Building Through Human Resource Development, Directorate of Primary Education/PEDPQI Project of NORAD, Bangladesh.

Further reading

External links

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