Primary and Secondary Curriculum in Bangladesh







In the sphere of education, curriculum can be broadly defined as the totality of the experiences that tends to occur in every student’s life in terms of educational process. It specifically refers to a planned set of instructions to be maintained by the students as the institutional goals. The curriculum of Bangladesh has been developed in an effective manner to enhance the educational attainment of students. In Bangladesh, the sphere of education is governed by the Ministry of education along with Ministry of Primary and Mass Education. Mainly, these two governmental bodies are responsible for developing educational framework and policy for Primary education. The state funded schools are the lookout of these boards as well. The system and implemented framework of the curriculum has been influenced by a number of external factors in the course of its development. This study is aiming to capture a brief overview of those factors through which the primary and secondary curriculum Bangladesh has been impacted. Apart from that, the study is intending to explore the latest change in Bangladesh curriculum through highlighting appropriate reasons behind it. On the second part, the study is set to delve deep into the process of small scale curriculum development along with focusing the part of monitoring it and the training methods of teachers.


External influences on curriculum

The constitution of Bangladesh has envisioned the provision of compulsory and free primary education for every children according to Article no 17 (a), (b) and (c). The schooling age of the children has been 6 to 11 years of age and the government has made a responsible step to cater the educational needs of almost 58% of the children. It has been noticed that substantial changes have been made in the part of secondary educational policy and curriculum as well (, 2019). The major fund raiser of Bangladesh education system has been the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Immense support from these external bodies has ensured success of the large development projects. These forums have worked as the development partners since a long time. According to the views of van Leeuwen and Janssen (2019, p.36), there have been a lot of issues pertaining that have made the international organizations step ahead to support Bangladesh for promising a better future and growth to the country specially in regards to educational system. The time period between 1993 and 2013 has experienced an enormous support from ADB in terms of executing six large projects that involve working on curriculum, reforming public examination and student assessment, privatizing the secondary text books and strengthening the part of teachers training along with decentralizing education management. The support from World Bank has also influenced in shaping the secondary education curriculum and framework of Bangladesh.

Years Attempt to reform curriculum
1993-1995 Curriculum revision
1999-2006 Developing a uni-track curiculum
2006-2013 Developing a multi-track curriculum

Table 1: Changes and reformation in curriculum since 1993

It has been noticed that Bangladesh Government has initiated the support system back in 1993 to reform the curriculum policy and implement the changes in the primary and secondary educational system. However, Asian Development Bank has started to work as an external support as well as influence from the time of uni-track curriculum development. This specific policy reform has been executed with the technical and financial support from ADB. Under this particular adopted policy, all students are set to follow a unified and same curriculum till 10th grade. Only at this stage they would be able to choose a specific stream such as humanities, business study or science. Prior to this policy reform, students have been able to choose different educational streams at an earlier age in eighth grade. The reform has been abandoned and postponed previously in response to major public opposition about the fact that the subjects related to science have the higher chances to get diluted along with placing greater emphasis on religious studies and subjects. The newly formed Bangladesh Government in 2008 has revised the curriculum along with the intention to maintain the multi-track curriculum developed. The uni-track curriculum has been put aside with the new cycle of revising the policy that eventually has led to the final adoption of the latest implemented curriculum through the development of National Curriculum 2012. In this prolonged period ADB has been the only development partner providing significant support by indicating the outcome of Uni-track curriculum to be justified for a small scale degree.

In this context, development partners such as ADB and World Bank tend to develop certain missions of the project while agreeing upon several terms before executing the project. Different missions such as needs assessment missions, project appraisal missions and project preparation mission are required in terms of availing support from development partners. Once a project has been finalized and approved, the legal loan agreement has been signed among planning commission, development partner and the government (, 2019). These kinds of tie ups greatly impact on the part of a policy to get reformed based on the method of a project. The staff of the ADB tends to be closely communicative and interactive with the senior professionals and government officers in order to make the objectives successful. The motivation of the teachers has been one of the greatest external influences to impact on the curriculum. As influenced by the views of Karim et al. (2017, p.55), the emphasis on English language learning has been never before in the primary and secondary educational curriculum of Bangladesh. The inclusion of English text books in the system has been majorly for improving the capabilities and competent of the students along with increasing the motivation of the teachers.

The system before latest change

The Government of Bangladesh has developed a communicative curriculum regarding the sphere of English language teaching for the students in 1996 with the motto of enabling them to communicate locally and internationally. The National Curriculum and Text book Board has presented a series of text books named as “English for Today” by the instruction of the Ministry of Education. In order to help the teachers and classroom activities, these textbooks have been introduced to enhance the curriculum and make it more contemporary. Before the change, communicative learning has not been much emphasized in Bangladesh.  The curriculum of 2010 has maintained the use of the text books though the content has been changed and updated. Prior to the multi-track development curriculum, an existence of Uni-track curriculum has been there. As influenced by the views of v Rahaman and Akter (2017, p.3), this change has been made in order to facilitate the teachers with the capability of making the learners more competent on international level. It has been noticed that in 1974 Ministry of Education has reported that Bangladesh education commission has suggested instructing in Bangla at school level of education. However, it has not been possible for the government to replace Bangla with English. In this regard, the private universities tend to teach exclusively in English to the medical, business and science students according to the Private University Act 1992. Although a new educational policy has been expected after independence Bangladesh has experienced its first educational policy in 1983. This policy has been concerned about planning, developing, experimenting and evaluating curricula by NCTB. Before that, ad-hoc commissions and committees tend to look after the matter of curriculum and resolve any problems regarding that. NCBT has been formed in 1983 and currently it has been one of the most significant educational bodies for secondary and primary education in Bangladesh. This is majorly responsible for English language teaching in Bangladesh education system. The major objectives of the board have been writing textbooks, revising syllabus and curriculum, approving references and books and exploring the effectiveness of the curriculum (Brunfaut and Green, 2017, p.51).

Major reasons behind the change

The major change in the curriculum has been the ability of the students to choose streams from 10th grade. Apart from that, changes are made in the spheres of student’s assessment and training of the teachers. It has been noticed that total enrollment in secondary education has increased from 46% (2005) to 61% in 2011. Significant improvement has been noticed in terms of pass grades and rate that has risen from 53% in 2005 straight to 82% in the year 2011. However, the policy reformation has been made due to a range of issues pertaining different sectors.

Low quality in specific sphere of curriculum has been the major reason. Apart from that, low learning levels of students along with inappropriate acquisition of non-cognitive skills is majorly responsible. One of the most significant reasons has been the inequitable learning paradigm and opportunities in terms of greater variation in quality of the school. As influenced by the views of Rahman (2015, p. 96), the part of low level of motivation in teachers is also an important factor behind the change to take place. A weaker public examination has been considered to be one of the most severe and impacting features to make the change happen. All of the reasons collaboratively have contributed to the adoption of newly reformed policy and educational curriculum in Bangladesh. The government has undertaken a series of initiatives in order to improve the basic quality of the education (Rahman, 2015, p.257). This includes the part of revising the curriculum in order to make this more in lined and relevant to 21st century employability skills for ensuring better future for the students and for overall national economy. Apart from that, improvement has been ensured in the sphere of public examination in order to provide an incessant support to develop the cognitive skills of the students. According to the views of Mandy et al. (2016, p.9), improving the quality of the curriculum can ensure a better future for the next generation that ultimately impacts on the part of entire quality system of the Nation. The newly reformed policy has perfectly made it sure to develop a centralized and transparent recruitment policy for the teachers. The significant low level of English language among students and teachers has been considered one of the major reasons behind the change in the curriculum. It has been observed that in most of the cases, the testing system of Bangladesh in School level have been conducted according to the national level testing system. As influenced by the views of Bain and Siddique (2017, p.159), it has been evident that examination and teaching have a definite impact on the part of education that includes curriculum, attitudes of students and teaching methods. Hence, in this context, Bangladesh has experienced greater need to reform the curriculum policy in primary and secondary education.

Recent external influences

Bangladesh has faced a major setback in competing in international standards. It has faced different influences to develop certain changes in the part of its curriculum. The part of universal education has been valued by every international organisation, policymaker system. It has been noticed that both the parts of private and public gains are high through educational system. This includes the part of economic growth of the entire nation while improving individual earning potential. The quality of health is also correlated with the part of education. It has been noticed that multiple forums have declared primary education to be one of the fundamental human rights that need to be availed by every individual. As influenced by the views of Sultana (2018, p.16), Bangladesh government has supported the policy of universal education by making it mandatory for each individual at free of cost. Almost two thirds of the students in Bangladesh are enrolled in the schools that are administered by government. As a matter of fact, almost 20% of the children never get enrolled to schools or any kind of educational courses.

The major reason behind this has been the poverty stricken environment and poor state of education. According to the views of Hossain et al. (2015, p.8), this can create huge pressure on Bangladesh to be internationally competitive that has ultimately led the country to reform its educational policy with the help of external support.

External pressure

The part of inadequate resources, unqualified teachers, lack of involvement of stakeholder are some of the major responsible factors that have resulted into the poor educational status in Bangladesh. This lacking has resulted into placing Bangladesh far behind other countries on international standards. It has been noticed that NCTB has altered and changed the contents of books under the huge pressure of fundamentalism (Asadullah et al. 2015, p.187). It has faced extensive criticism in terms of fulfilling the demands of religious groups. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has found that there is no such policy determining the right of the authority to formulate the curriculum. Hence, this kind of pressures are there as well that have made the Primary and secondary curriculum of Bangladesh changed.

The way curriculum responds to it

It has been majorly noticed that Bangladesh curriculum has directly responded to it. It has been evident in the case of a high ranking employee who has wanted to add his poem in the curriculum due to which two poems have been removed from the 9th and 10th grade text books. In some cases, non-Muslim names have been replaced with Muslim names. However, as influenced by the views of Akteruzzaman and Islam (2017, p.186), on the positive side, the government has undertaken and developed certain policies regarding curriculum that has greatly benefitted the system to be more effective. Entirely corrupted education system has been reformed and upgraded with the help of ADB and World Bank in terms of providing financial and technical support. These special help has assisted the country to develop curriculum by covering the topics of technology, science and upholding a continuous transition from rote learning to active learning. Curriculum revision has taken place under the rigorous support of SESDP that has been implemented in a long procedure of 6 years from 2008 to 2013 (Donaldson et al. 2017, p.36).


Small scale curriculum development

The primary and secondary education levels in Bangladesh are striving for significant upliftment which is tremendously important for academic success of all students pursuing primary and secondary education. There are various ways by which primary and secondary education can be improved in Bangladesh and country can surely observe a massive hike in literacy rate. This increment in literacy rate in Bangladesh is very important for the country’s growth as literacy of youth generation signify the future condition of a developing nation. Bangladesh being a very poor country with a massive population of 167759878 is a huge burden for the nation but Bangladesh is gradually developing with an annual growth rate of 7.90% which is highest after its independence in 1971. According to UNESCO the adult literacy rate of overall adults is 72.89% and it is increasing at a rate which is a boon for the society.

Significant improvement in teacher student relationship is greatly essential for the development of primary and secondary education curriculum. Large amount of primary and high schools is essential for construction as it can increase the number of students and also indirectly make a hike in employment rate for recruiting new teachers and staffs for the primary and high schools (Humayun Kabir, 2016, p.27). Before construction of primary and high schools the government must focus on providing training to teachers teaching in the schools. It can be expected that the rate of literacy rate can increase rapidly if consideration of these factors are focused. Language is a pride in case of Bangladesh which is very obvious but in maintaining that pride the nation is betraying its youth by not proving quality education of English language. English is the universal language, so Bangladesh Government can consider immense increment in the rate of English language education as it can drastically help infants and youth. In the opinion of Hafiz and Rahman (2019, p.33), the Government can hire teachers from abroad for better teaching faculties which can increase the pace of English language education in the country.

Construction of good syllabus for English education is immensely significant as it is necessary to provide quality training to infants and youth of the nation. In order to provide modern education system the Government can consider in making smart classrooms as smart classes greatly develop the rate of student perception and attention towards education and learning. In the developing countries female literacy rate is very low and in Bangladesh also the literacy rate of female literacy rate is low in 5.7% compared to male literacy rate which is 75.7% according to the 2017 analysis made by UNESCO. The Government can consider in strengthening of its educational institute by appointing noble and educated officials in Ministry of Education and Finance as they can significantly stress in both quality education and maintain cash constant for primary and secondary school’s development. The International Development Association IDA has significantly helped and supported Bangladesh since the country’s independence 1772. World Bank and Asian Bank also have maintained long-term commitment with Bangladesh to health and education for the developing nation which is worth mentioning. It is recorded that IBRD and IDA contributed $2991 million to the country which is definitely worth mentioning. It can be analysed that improvement in this massive scale has significantly helped in the country. It can be estimated that problem of primary and secondary schools construction development can be solved very rapidly as the country is enjoying immense amount of international help and is capable of eradicating the problem if it maintains the pace of its improvement in action (, 2019).

Monitoring the curriculum

In relation to the context of Bangladesh, it has been identified that it is important for both the government to take initiatives for monitoring effectiveness of educational policies.  In Bangladesh, it is important for all the citizens to take minimum twelve years education. As per the views of Islam (2016, p.156), along with 8 years course of primary education, 6 years secondary course can help in development of career of a student. It has been observed that government of Bangladesh has taken initiatives to spread mass education system among the students. This country has invested 172.951 billion (Taka) for the purpose of national education budget (Ruman and Bhuiyan, 2015, p.14). On the other hand, it is important to conduct survey in order to make analysis regarding rate of literacy and interest of the students to continue education. It can be reported that almost 8 million students are enrolled in near about 20,000 secondary schools (Masum, 2016, p.42).

In case of reviewing and monitoring process, it is important to focus on teacher based education.  The Ministry of Education of Bangladesh has adapted National Education Policy of 2010 to support this teacher based education system which can monitor development of both primary and secondary curriculum (Rashid, 2019, p.450). On the other hand, it is important for the government to take some initiatives to motivate both parents and students to continue education. Apart from these, The National Curriculum 2012 can help to develop skills, knowledge and working habits of the students (Hasan et al. 2015, p.1297).

Teachers’ training

On the other hand, in relation to progression of present day’s situation, it is important to implement effective policies and regulations for teacher training. As per the views of Parvin, Ruxana Hossain, and Shaikh Flint Salam (2015, p.45), in this present age of digitisation, secondary education in Bangladesh has supported career development of the students. In both primary and secondary education system in Bangladesh, government has implemented technological advancement to reach the education system at high level. The authority of this country has invested on improvement of education system of Bangladesh along with help of Asian Bank and World Bank.

It has been observed that educational changes can help to development of curriculum. In relation to this factor, government of Bangladesh has taken initiative to support teacher training workshop to make the teachers aware regarding advancement of modern day’s technologies. Donaldson et al. (2017, p.27) has added some points to this factor by emphasising on the process of guide the teachers by curriculum experts to develop curriculum projects. In relation to the context of Bangladesh, teacher training system needs to be developed for making them aware regarding update news of modern age.

Figure 3: Six large projects executed with the help of ADB

(Source: 2019)

Bangladesh has focused on designing activities which has purpose to increase knowledge of students by focusing on reading sources, filed work. Based on the views of van Leeuwen and Janssen (2019, p.29), the process of implementing workshops for teacher training weekly basis can also motivate them to contribute better performance to educate the students. On the other hand, indirectly this system is able to develop curriculum of Bangladesh.


Thus, it can be concluded from the above evaluation, that primary and secondary curriculum has been impacted by different factors. For a longer period of time, Bangladesh has a corrupted political and educational system that has made direct impact into the part of its primary and secondary curriculum as well. However, the factors such as the urge of competing on international level and to adopt the motto of universal learning, the nation has developed certain policy and reformed the existing curriculum in order to improve the quality of education. In this context, the immense support from Asian Development Bank and World Bank has been highly essential that has ultimately helped the country to grow and have ensured a better future.

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