Education sector in Bangladesh

International collaboration is required to help educate Bangladesh’s student population which is around 29 million, approximately 20% of the total population.

Market overview

For Bangladesh, the key to achieving high rates of economic growth and at the same time ensuring that the fruits of economic growth are equitably shared by the population lies in development and utilisation of human resources. Education therefore has been recognised as a priority sector by all Governments since independence.

The education system in Bangladesh is characterised by co-existence of three separate streams:

  • mainstream is a vernacular based secular education system carried over from the colonial past

  • religious system of education

  • British based education system with English as the medium of instruction using the same curriculum which has rapidly grown in the metropolitan cities of Bangladesh

Structure of the education system

Education in Bangladesh has three major stages – primary, secondary and higher educations.

Primary education: The primary education system in Bangladesh is one of the largest centralised authorities in the world. Over 17 million students are taught by around 400,000 teachers, in almost 79,000 schools.

Secondary: High schools are managed either by government or private individuals or organizations. Most of the privately managed secondary schools provide co-education.

Students of English Medium streams also sit for their respective public examinations conducted by Edexcel Pearson/ London/Cambridge University to qualify for further education.

Higher Secondary: Higher secondary is followed by graduate level education in general, technical, engineering, agriculture, business studies, and medical streams requiring 5-6 years to obtain a Masters Degree. Higher education in the technical area also starts after higher secondary level. Engineering, agriculture, business, medical and information & communication technology are the major technical and technological education areas. In each of the courses of study, except for medical education, a 5-year course of study is required for the first Degree.

Different Streams in Education

  • Primary level education is provided under two major institutional arrangements (stream) – general and Madrasha,

  • Secondary education has three major streams: general, technical-vocational and Madrasha.

  • Higher education, likewise, has 3 streams: general (inclusive of pure and applied science, arts, business and social science), Madrasha and technology education.

Madrashas (Arabic for educational institution), functional parallel to the three major stages, have similar core courses as in the general stream (primary, secondary and post-secondary) but have additional emphasis on religious studies.

Vocational and Technical Education:

Bangladesh will need to create at least 2.25 million jobs per year to accommodate a near doubling of the labour force from its present size. Many existing institutions do not have adequate resources to provide education/training of proper quality.

The government has put more emphasis on vocational and technical education in the new National Education Policy 2010. This is to meet the local skill requirement, but also for the fact that overseas employment has become a significant source of employment with migrant workers now numbering some 3 million. The jobs that these people are required to do in SE Asia or the Middle East are more skilled than in the past – there is a need to develop these required skills locally.

Given this, improving the market relevance of education, and specifically vocational education and training will require significant reforms.

Education Statistics in Bangladesh

  • Total size of student population is around 29 million (approx 20% of total population)

  • Percentage of primary school going students is 55.95% (around 17 million)

  • percentage of secondary school going students is 25.5% (around 7.4 million)

  • Approx 2.5% of students go to public colleges/universities/FE colleges in all streams (around 720,000)

  • Approx 16% of students go to private colleges/universities/FE colleges (around 4.6 million)

  • 0.05 % (approx 15,000) of the total student population go overseas to study each year.

Education Budget

Education in Bangladesh is basically state financed.

Development in the education sector has been strongly supported by the donor community. Donors have given a high priority to primary education and increasing access for girls. Besides EU countries, multilateral institutions like ADB, WB and UNICEF have helped fund and redefine the orientation of the education sector programs. Cooperation with external development partners will continue to be a key element of educational progress in Bangladesh.

The scale and diversity of the education system is striking with public, private institutions, NGOs, faith based schools and community learning centres active in education.

Key opportunities

The 2013 UN Human Development Report placed Bangladesh 146th out of 187 countries in terms of education, health and inequality. Significant development is needed in the area of skill development and capacity building. International cooperation in educational development is needed in following areas:

  • A sector-wide review needed to identify gaps and mismatches and remedies in government and stakeholder policies, strategies and programs.

  • Support to piloting models of effective decentralization in a few districts in Bangladesh through establishing district education authorities and effective functioning of upazila and school level planning and management.

  • Support capacity building with the development and creation of a system and institutions for training and deploying a cadre of professional managers

  • IT education, middle-level skill development at the post-primary stage and for secondary level students is a promising area. A related area is systematic and extensive use of IT for education quality improvement at different levels.

  • Capacity development in and support for research linked with development, implementation and assessment of policy would be an important area of cooperation.

  • Teacher education – There is a real capacity issue with a lack of skilled teaches for delivering vocational skills training as well. Worth noting that many employers do not provide vocational training for fear of staff being poached by other companies once trained.

  • Some very good examples of vocational training centres provided by NGOs, e.g. UCEP and Caritas. There are good opportunities for UK institutions to help establish vocational training centres and modules as well.

  • University and specialized institution-based formal programs can be complemented and supplemented by other non-institutional forms of acquiring professional credentials call for studies and a development program.

Some other opportunities for UK to collaborate might be seen as follows:

  • Quality assurance – UK institutions could play a role in helping assist BD institutions develop local capabilities.

  • Faculty development, e.g. teacher exchanges

  • Joint degree programmes

  • Student exchanges

  • Online teaching

  • Joint research programme.

Latest export opportunities in the Education & Skills sector

Latest export opportunities in Bangladesh

Getting into the market

The Aid funded projects and some government projects (very limited number) can be an effective route into the Bangladesh Education market.

Another route to the market can be using agents to source students or partnering with local education providers/universities/ FE colleges.

The Cross Boarder Higher Education Policy is expected to be approved soon. Once the policy is approved Foreign Universities/colleges and other education providers can open their campus in Bangladesh and also go for collaboration/partnership with the local education institutes.

More about doing business in Bangladesh


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Syeda Suraya Jahan, Deputy Director of Trade & Investment, Bangladesh: Tel: +88-02-8822705-9, Ext: 2267#; Email:

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events in Education & Training sector

Other events:

Education UK Exhibition Bangladesh 2014

Dhaka, Chittagong

February 2014

Tel: +880 (0)2 861 8905


Bangladesh Education Fair 2014


Round table discussion on Education & Skills: Opportunities for UK to collaborate

British High Commission, Dhaka

TBC, 2014

Contact: Syeda Suraya Jahan, Deputy Director of Trade & Investment.


Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Education & Training
Countries: Bangladesh
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