Basic education in Bangladesh is delivered through both formal and non-formal systems. Both are sub-divided into a number of sub-systems with both private and public providers. The formal system provides education for the majority of children and adolescents while the NFE sector provides opportunities for children and others who have never enrolled or who have dropped out
of formal schools.
Primary education is compulsory and officially free. Normally about 16 years of regular study is required from entry into primary school to completion of a Masters degree for general education or a Bachelors degree for professional education (except for medicine which requires an additional year). Without repetition in any class or loss of any academic year for any reason, a student taking admission in Grade 1 at the age of 6 should complete a Masters degree at about 22 years of age.
Entry into formal technical-vocational education usually takes place after the completion of Grade 8. Students are admitted into professional education courses in engineering, agriculture or medicine after completion of Grade 12.
A parallel system of religious education also exists with similarly advancing levels. The madrasah system is formal and is a well-established Islamic religion-based education stream. Madrasah education comprises five stages, i.e. ebtedayee, dakhil, alim, fazil and kamil levels, the duration of which is five, five, two, two, and two years respectively. For the other religious communities, the numbers are small but there are Sanskrit tols for Hindus, pali tols for Buddhists, and theological colleges for Christians.
In Dhaka and a few other urban areas, there is a small but influential parallel private English
medium system leading to ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. There are also a number of private universities using English as a medium. There is little regulation of the English medium schools and universities and no standardized, government-approved curriculum.
There are about 63,534 primary schools, 13,000 secondary schools, 10 cadet colleges, 1,700 general colleges and 27 government and non-government universities. There are 168 institutions offering technical and engineering education of different types and at different levels. The number of government medical colleges is 13 and there are five private medical colleges. In addition, there are 24 homeopathic, five ayurvedic and 10 unani system of medical colleges and 68 teacher training institutions of different categories. There are also a number of institutions for special types of education, including 239 Sanskrit and pali tols, about 3,000 kindergartens, 8,231 ebtedayee madrasahs and 78,821 mosque-based Maktabs institutions devoted to early years of religious teachings.
There are a variety of non-formal educational programmes in Bangladesh. Many of the NFE programmes cater to the same learning needs as the schools. The participants in NFE programmes are generally children who cannot or do not get enrolled in primary school, drop-outs from schools, and adolescents, young people and adults who have no or insufficient education. The NFE channel provides them with the educational opportunities to meet specific learning needs and/or to enter the formal system. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are providers of 11 NFE, and there are extensive networks throughout Bangladesh covering over one million children and also a number of adolescents, young people and adults. The Government also sponsors NFE projects which are implemented by partner NGOs under the management of the BNFE.