The term information and communication technology (ICT) is used in several government documents, such as the 2006 ICT Act (as amended in 2013) and 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education, but no specific definition of the term is provided. The 2010 National Education Policy refers to “information technology education” that “will not be limited to computer science only, rather mobile phones, radio, television data collection and processing of information are also to be included and emphasis will be given on its multi-angular necessity” (Section 12). The policy identifies the aims and objectives of information technology as producing “competent manpower of international standard, trained and educated in information technology to perform efficiently in relevant fields”.
Similarly, the term education technology (EdTech) is used in several government plan and strategy documents, such as the 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh and the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, with no specific definition of the term provided.
According to the 2021 Policy on Blended Learning for Bangladesh, “blended learning” is defined as a “learning design that strategically, systematically, and effectively integrates a range of face-to-face, online, mobile, distance, open, social, and other technology-enhanced learning across physical and virtual environments”. However, this policy only explicitly applies to higher education, and not primary and secondary level.
Constitution and laws: The 1972 Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (as amended in 2011) does not make any reference to technology in education, or technology more broadly. Bangladesh has a general 2006 ICT Act, 2018 Digital Security Act, and draft 2022 Data Protection Act, but neither law make any direct reference to education. In 2021, a draft of a new Education Act was finalized and went to the cabinet. The 1961 Intermediate and Secondary Education Ordinance includes “Science” and Technology” classes within its definition of “intermediate education” (Article 2).
The 2001 Telecommunications Act aims to provide universal telecommunications service (which includes internet service) to “any citizen of Bangladesh or to other persons irrespective of their place of stay or occupation in Bangladesh” (Art.2), with no specific mention of schools.
Policies, plans and strategies: The government of Bangladesh has a strong policy and strategy framework for the integration of ICT in education. Led by Bangladesh Vision 2021, commonly referred to as Digital Bangladesh, the government places great importance on the application of ICTs in all spheres of development, and particularly education. According to the Vision 2021, “education is a key sector to the social and economic transformation of Banglades and the Government continues to place great effort in modernizing and revolutionizing Bangladesh’s education system through the use of ICT, promoting technology-based teaching and learning as a strategic lever to achieving Bangladesh’s Vision 2021”.
The National ICT Policy (2009; 2013; 2015; 2018) regulates ICT at the national level in Bangladesh, with a dedicated section on Education, Research and Innovation. The aim is to “expand the reach and quality of education to all parts of the country using ICTs, ensure computer literacy at all levels of education and public service and facilitate innovation, creation of intellectual property and adoption of ICTs through appropriate research and development”. The 2011 National Science and Technology Policy similarly supports the strengthening of science and technology capacity in schools.
In 2012/13, the Ministry of Education developed and launched the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education, with the intention of “modernizing and revolutionizing Bangladesh’s education system through the use of ICT, promoting technology-based teaching and learning as a strategic lever to achieving Bangladesh’s Vision 2021”. The Master Plan provides an overarching guiding framework for the advancement of ICT in education in Bangladesh, with objectives including the development of the teaching-learning environment, development of professional and ICT skills for teachers, and improvement of teaching-learning material standards. The 2019 Progress Review Report for the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education in Bangladesh presents the findings of the first comprehensive progress review of the Master Plan, conducted by a Review Committee with support from UNESCO in 2018. The review gathered information through different data collection tools that had been developed for relevant government agencies, in addition to a desk review of existing literature, key information interviews with Government stakeholders, and focus group discussions with teachers and students.
The government of Bangladesh has also recognized the importance of ICT in major education policies, strategies, and reforms. In the country’s 2010 National Education Policy, substantial attention is given to ICT as a priority in the education system. The policy supports the “need for a huge investment in order to expand and implement ICT” within the education system, with a dedicated section on “Information Technology Education”. The 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh similarly includes a section dedicated to “ICT for and in education, 21st century skills and the fourth industrial revolution”. The Education Sector Plan also aims on “enhancing EdTech and ICT capacities across the education system”, specifically through enhancing education technology personnel capacity and quality, and providing education technology support to institutions.
EdTech or ICT in education is also mentioned in numerous general government strategies or plans. The Seventh Five Year Plan FY2016-20 and Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 both have separate sections for “Education and Technology”, while ICT and Education and Enhancing Education Quality through ICT are included under the plans’ section on Digital Bangladesh and Information Communications Technology (ICT). The 2011 Strategic Priorities for Digital Bangladesh similarly places great emphasis on integrating ICT through teaching and learning, developing ICT skills, and teacher training in ICT. Education is also included as a national priority sector in the 2019-24 National Strategy For Artificial Intelligence and 2019 e-Government Master Plan for Digital Bangladesh. The 2020 National Blockchain Strategy envisions blockchain technology being utilized in the educational sector to manage learning outcome and degree awards, with a dedicated section on a blockchain-based solution for educational certificates. Finally, the 2020 National Strategy for Robotics has several mentions of the education sector mainly through the promotion of robotics and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) education.
Digital competency frameworks: ICT competency standards are included as part of the basic competency standards for both teachers and students in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Education is committed to enhancing teaching quality (particularly at secondary level) through the Secondary Teacher Competency Standards, which is a government document that sets out what teachers are expected to know, understand and do to achieve in their work. It is represented as an integrated model that recognizes four teaching domains that a teacher draws upon within several areas of competencies of professional practice, including ICT integration in the Teaching Profession. The new National Curriculum Framework also moves towards a competency- and knowledge-based curriculum which builds a common foundation of basic competencies for all students, with several documents highlighting the importance of the development of their digital skills.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In 2020, the ICT Division of the Government of Bangladesh published the Post COVID-19 National ICT Roadmap Overcoming the Challenges and Leveraging New Opportunities for the ICT Industry. Specific to education, the Post-COVID-19 ICT Roadmap: The Education sector was also included, recognizing education as one of the 18 priority sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and “its potential for transformation of the economy and society”. The Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 and 2020/21-2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh also include several initiatives on increasing access to ICT infrastructure post-pandemic.
The Post COVID-19 National ICT Roadmap supports the transformation of education to a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) adjusted blended learning approach, the development of a digital education policy aligned with the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, and the upgrade of the Intellectual Property Rights Policy to ensure appropriate encryption and to protect the providers of online education. Moreover, the government aims to work towards universal affordable access to digital device, digital literacy, and internet connectivity for all citizens, which is envisioned to lead to a “breakthrough in reducing the digital divide for access to digital education content by 28 million students”. The ICT Ministry proposes several interventions through the Post-COVID-19 ICT Roadmap: The Education sector, which include the development of blended learning policies, ICT infrastructure development for blended learning, and group education methods in rural Bangladesh. According to the government, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the “primary, secondary and tertiary education system of Bangladesh needs to integrate education in emerging technology in its curriculum”.
When it comes to marginalized groups, the Post COVID-19 National ICT Roadmap aims to increase the number of women in tech startups with the aim of increasing education access and digital skills for girls and women.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh (which was developed after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Bangladesh) identifies major challenges in enhancing the utilization of ICT in education, including inadequate infrastructure, lack of proper internet connectivity, lack of access to electricity, and availability of equipment. The plan aims to set targets for the improvement of ICT infrastructure, including connectivity, broadband reach, device availability, content adaptation, and education technology support for institutions. Similar objectives for enhancing ICT infrastructure in schools after 2020 are included in the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 and Post COVID-19 National ICT Roadmap.
Electricity: The 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education supports the arrangement of a substitute power source for schools in case of no regular power supply, while the 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh aims to increase the number of safe and adequately equipped schools, including in ICT equipment and electricity. However, the 2019 Progress Review Report of the 2012-21 Master Plan concludes that the digital divide between education institutes with electricity and those without electricity continues to increase. In the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, the government plans on increasing the percentage of secondary schools with electricity from 95-100% by 2025.
Computers and devices: The ICT Division is tasked with setting up computer labs and multi-media classrooms in primary and secondary schools across Bangladesh, which is mentioned in several government documents. According to the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education, the government aims to establish multi-media classrooms in all educational institutions (including madrasas), which are equipped with 1 laptop and 1 multi-media projector/LCD screen. The government also plans on establishing ICT labs at each educational institution with an adequate number of computers/laptops. ICT labs with at least 20 computers or laptops are also planned to be established in madrasas. To help purchase computer or laptop materials, the government plans on providing interest-free loans or grants to teachers.
According to the 2020/21-2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh, under ICT facility expansion, particular attention should be given to the availability of devices for students and teachers, “minimizing discrimination and disparity”. To procure smart devices, a special student loan program aims to be implemented to ensure that at least 40% of students get personal loans (consumer loans), which may be provided by a trust/company.
The Seventh Five Year Plan FY2016-20 also supported ICT and equipment support for educational institutions, which included creating smart/multimedia classrooms with a power-saving internet-connected laptop, projector or largescreen-TV (including in government-approved madrasas), providing all students with computers, and establishing computer labs in all primary schools by 2021. In 2020, the Bangladesh Computer Council had established computer labs in over 3,000 educational institutions, with considerable progress made in the distribution of laptops, multimedia projectors, sound systems, and modems having been provided in about 8,925 classrooms in 5,432 public primary schools. The Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 aims to increase the number of secondary schools with computer access from 77-100% by 2025 and provide for a “greater role of ICT-based learning”. This includes converting classrooms into multimedia classrooms and providing computers and multimedia devices in Aliya madrasas.
Internet connectivity: The 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education aims to establish internet connectivity at each educational institution and install faster internet connection in teacher training institutes. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, several education sector strategies included objectives that highlighted increasing internet access in schools. The 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh gives attention to wi-fi hotspots for educational institutions and “ensuring wide and affordable access to the internet for all educational institutions”. Moreover, the government plans to provide at least 40% of students with a special student loan to procure internet service through a government-approved trust or company. According to the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, the government additionally aims to increase the number of secondary schools with internet access from 38-100% by 2025, while the Post-COVID-19 ICT Roadmap: The Education sector supports the development of cluster-based internet/public wifi services whereby students can come to a designated place to learn at their time of convenience with their own devices or devices available at learning centres.
The 2001 Telecommunications Act aims to provide universal telecommunications service (including internet connectivity) to “any citizen of Bangladesh or to other persons irrespective of their place of stay or occupation in Bangladesh” (Art.2), with no specific mention of schools.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Since 2010, the government’s “Digital Bangladesh” program has aimed to increase access to digital public services (including education) leading to a substantial increase in online learning opportunities. The government has been working on developing a suite of distance education tools to provide hard-to-reach learners (such as those in remote areas, slums, or refugee camps) with access to education. These tools include the student platform Konnect, which provides learners with online learning content and live classes, the Teachers’ Portal, which offers content and more than 100,000 online classes to primary and secondary level learners, and the Virtual Class platform, which offers online live classes for tertiary-level learners. According to the 2011 Strategic Priorities for Digital Bangladesh, the government supported that all education services be made available online or through mobile platforms. Moreover, the government aimed to turn one of the government TV channels into an education TV channel (Education TV or web TV) for distance education, with low tech interventions viewed as the “most cost-effective ICT educational interventions for secondary schooling”. The National ICT Policy similarly aims to utilize mass media tools such as radio and television to broadcast educational programs.
During the COVID-19 school closures, remote learning was delivered though four main platforms. Content was broadcast on the public TV channel, which was complemented by radio, mobile, and online dissemination. The government launched the 2020 COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan for the education sector, with long-term (24-month) outputs including the development of a Crisis Response and Recovery Plan with Standard Operating Procedures as part of the regular education planning, integrating remote learning into regular school education through a blended learning approach, developing a sustainability mechanism for remote learning and professional teacher development, and developing an online learning assessment system. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and transition to remote and blended learning approaches, the government plans on further developing and integrating education technologies into the learning and teaching process.
The 2020 COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan aimed for significant focus to go towards reaching the most marginalized groups, which include girls, out-of-school children, and children with disabilities. To this effect, the government stated that printed learning material may need to be developed for reaching the most marginalized learners who may have no access to the four remote learning platforms. Moreover, adaptations to internet-based platforms were considered so they can run effectively on low-cost feature phones.
The 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education supports increasing student ICT skills at all education levels, which is also highlighted in the 2011 Strategic Priorities for Digital Bangladesh where the government placed high emphasis on ICT literacy for primary and secondary students.
The government emphasizes revising the curriculum towards a competency-based curriculum which builds a common foundation of basic competencies for all students. According to the 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh, particular attention has to be given to students acquiring the foundational skills of multiple literacies, practicing higher order skills of solving problems and thinking critically and creatively, achieving social and emotional maturity, acquiring moral and ethical values, and being adaptable to change pursuing a lifelong learning approach.
The promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is highlighted in several government documents. The National Strategy for Robotics aims to promote robotics-based STEM education by introducing the basics of robotics in ICT education at the school and college level, setting up robotics laboratories in schools and colleges, and offering lessons on robotics-based transformation of the economy and society as a whole. The government also recognizes the importance of enhancing education in Mathematics, Science and English in the 2009 National ICT Policy. In the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, there is increased focus on STEM subjects, particularly through scholarships, job counselling, advocacy, and parent-teacher conferences. STEM education for girls is particularly highlighted, with a dedicated section on “STEM and ICT education for girls” which the government aims to promote in schools, colleges and universities through regulatory measures and increasing girls’ participation by establishing targets. Moreover, additional stipends and support for girls, science fairs, and special training for teachers should be expanded towards increasing girl students in STEM.
The Ministry of Education has developed the Secondary Teacher Competency Standards to enhance the quality of secondary school teaching which recognizes four teaching domains that a teacher draws upon within several areas of competencies of professional practice. These include ICT integration in the Teaching Profession, which focuses on the competency outcomes, and supporting knowledge and skills that are needed to utilize ICT in performing the jobs related to teaching and in the teaching profession. The Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 aims to further strengthen teacher quality and skills, with future curriculum reviews to focus on developing competency, instead of content-learning. The 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh similarly plans to improve the ICT capacity development of teachers by developing and expanding the ICT-based programs for teacher professional development and engagement, including through an internet-based Teachers’ Portal.
One of the goals of the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education is to develop the professional skills of teachers in and through ICT. This includes the provision of quality pre-service and in-service training for all teachers in primary and secondary schools to help them acquire basic skills in ICT, use of ICT in teaching-learning methods, developing learning materials through ICT, as well as introducing distance learning programs through radio, television, and the internet to develop their professional skills. Additionally, the plan aims to develop online modules for teacher training, organize exams of online courses in teacher training, and “establish ultra-modern ICT labs in all primary teacher training institutes to enhance basic ICT skills of teachers”. The 2020/21 – 2024/25 Education Sector Plan for Bangladesh and Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25 similarly aim to increase the number and percentage of teachers with ICT and e-learning training.
Similar goals are set for teachers in madrasas, with plans to ensure ICT teachers hold an ICT diploma, include ICT materials in the teacher training curriculum to enhance madrasa teachers’ digital skills, introduce distance learning courses for training madrasa teachers, provide quality pre-service and in-service ICT training, and establish an ICT lab at the Bangladesh madrasa teachers training institute.
The ICT Division is responsible for human resource development and training in ICT. In 2012/13 to 2013/14, over 7,000 teachers had been trained on using digital content in various institutions at the upazilla levels. More than 2,000 teachers had been trained in basic ICT skills, while 316 were trained as master trainers under the human resource development program through ICT training. In 2019, quality in-service training had been provided for all primary school teachers to help them acquire basic ICT skills, quality pre-service and in-service training was introduced for madrasa teachers, 66 “ultra-modern ICT labs” had been established in 66 primary teacher institutes, basic ICT materials had been included in the teacher training curriculum, and over 300 master trainers had been trained to coordinate ICT teacher training. However, according to the 2019 Progress Review Report, no initiatives have been taken at the primary level to formally require an ICT degree or ICT diploma as an additional qualification. At the secondary level, an official circular has been issued by the Ministry of Education to recognize professional degrees in ICT.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education supports taking special measures to protect the confidentiality of students, teachers, and administrators who use technology. The 2020 National Internet of Things Strategy Bangladesh (which includes the education sector) also identifies “data protection and personal privacy” as a growing challenge. According to the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, the government is planning the enactment of the Data protection and Privacy Law and revision of the 2018 Digital Security Act to connect with independent law on data protection and privacy. The draft 2022 Data Protection Act is the first legislation in the country that is focused on data privacy and protection. The draft of the Act does not mention education, but refers to child online protection in general.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
According to the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education, the government aims to ensure the “safe and effective use of technology”, with all necessary measures aimed to be taken to prevent any unexpected risks in the security and confidentiality of all who use technology, including students, teachers, and administrators. However, there is no specific mention of cyberbullying or the online abuse of students. Cyberbullying is punishable under the 2006 ICT Act (as amended in 2013) (Article 66), but there is no explicit link with education or schools. After COVID-19, the Post COVID-19 National ICT Roadmap supported the development of a digital education policy aligned with the Eighth Five Year Plan 2020-25, and the upgrade of the Intellectual Property Rights Policy to ensure appropriate encryption and to protect the providers of online education.
The National Cybersecurity Strategy and 2021-25 Bangladesh Cybersecurity Strategy aim for cybersecurity awareness to be added to the national education curriculum as a way of spreading cybersecurity knowledge to students and their relatives. The 2020 Digital Security Rules also include education, which is not directly referenced in the 2018 Digital Security Act or draft 2022 Data Protection Act.
The government of Bangladesh has two main Ministries that are responsible for the integration of ICT in education. The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (responsible for primary and mass education) and Ministry of Education (MoE) (responsible for secondary, vocational and tertiary education) are mainly responsible for the implementation of the 2012-21 Master Plan for ICT in Education and the overall coordination and implementation of ICT in education, including curriculum, infrastructure, and remote learning methods. There is no dedicated division for ICT under either education ministry.
The ICT Division of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is responsible for national ICT policy and strategy development, coordination with other Ministries and divisions in relation to ICT, the promotion of the integration of ICT in various national sectors (including education), and providing assistance to the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and MoE in matters relating to ICT. The ICT Division also plays a key role in enacting cybersecurity laws and policies and ensuring these policies and guidelines are being followed, along with the Digital Security Agency, which is responsible for preventing cybercrimes using computers and digital devices. There is also an ICT Adviser to the Prime Minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Science and Technology is responsible for coordinating science and technology activities in Bangladesh, including the provision of assistance to educational institutions in the science and technology sector.
ICT infrastructure in schools may be procured by various governmental or non-governmental entities. These include the MoE, the Bangladesh Computer Council (under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology) which has set up computer labs in over 3,000 educational institutions, and trusts or companies that have been approved by the government to offer financial assistance to students in procuring smart devices. There has also been a National Data Centre and Cyber Centre established in the Bangladesh Computer Council.
The role of non-government actors in the development of EdTech in Bangladesh is not limited to procurement of ICT devices however. The country’s EdTech market is estimated to grow to 729 million USD by 2025, with the rapid expansion mainly driven by increasing private investments in the sector. Startups like Shikho, Science Bee and 10 Minute School have contributed to the rise in the sector. 10 Minute School is the largest online education platform in the country, serving students in grades 1-12 alongside its test preparation and skill development courses. The platform managed to raise over 2 million USD in foreign funding, catering to 9 million new learners in 2021 alone. Coaching centres (which mainly operated online after COVID-19) have also been dominating the education industry for decades, with their domination getting increasingly validated after the government officially decided to legalize them in 2020.
In 2011, Bangladesh authorities imposed a ban on the use of mobile phones by school teachers in classrooms, while in 2017, both students and teachers in schools and colleges were banned from bringing mobile phones in classrooms in accordance with a new government order.