Enhancing educators’ skills for quality preprimary education in Bangladesh

This page in:
teacher in Bangladesh classroom teacher in Bangladesh classroom

Over the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced an upward shift in focus in early year education planning.  The Government is showing a strong commitment to early childhood education and positioning itself to continue to make this a priority for the country. As of 2021, around 1.57 million students were enrolled in preprimary education (PPE) in around 65,000 government primary schools.  The Government now intends to pilot an additional year of PPE for four-year-olds and then expand the program countrywide as envisioned in the National Education Policy 2010.

In order to successfully implement this vision of high-quality PPE, teachers and school practitioners and leaders will need specialized training and support.  A 2021 survey of 200 PPE teachers and 200 headteachers (the equivalent of principals) across 300 public schools sought to understand educators’ perceptions on PPE and identify professional development priorities. Results showed that while almost all PPE teachers participated in the government’s 15-day induction training, there were notable gaps in their sense of preparedness to teach PPE. And for headteachers, very few (12.5 percent) received any training at all on PPE or early childhood education. When asked whether they wanted more training opportunities, nearly all teachers and headteachers agreed. Specific topics of interest included behavior management; characteristics of young children/how young children learn; socio-emotional learning; and mental health.

Mindsets play a role

While expertise in technical areas is important, the mindsets of these educators also play a critical role in how they use their knowledge and create a learning environment for young children.  The study found that teachers and headteachers have a conventional perspective, often viewing PPE predominantly as a place to provide basic education to children rather than an opportunity for holistic development in the early years. About half of the teachers and headteachers responded that the focus in PPE is largely on academic learning. This mindset diverges from the literatures that show that young children learn best when they pursue their own interests, interact with their peers and surroundings, and engage in playful learning. 

In cases where educators reported perspectives that were aligned with best practice in early childhood education – such as responses related to the value of play – the survey found a discrepancy between reported importance and actual practice. For example, teachers and headteachers widely identified play as being essential for children’s learning and development and as having an important role in lifelong learning; however, putting play into practice in the classroom was not universal. So why does this discrepancy exist?  

Key study findings

The study, Playful Pre-Primary Education in Bangladesh: Study on Professional Development Needs of Pre-Primary Teachers and Headteachers, finds that teachers face a range of challenges in translating play-based curricula into their day-to-day teaching practice.

  1. Training and belief system: Interviews with early childhood education practitioners and policymakers suggest that this stems from a lack of training on how young children learn through play. But it is also based on longstanding beliefs about education in Bangladesh  being centered around academic learning. Respondents reported that parents and communities believe this too, thereby reinforcing traditional expectations that do not involve playful learning in PPE. It is however promising that “play based learning” was rated as one of the top three areas for further training by teachers to improve the quality of PPE.
  2. Knowledge support: For teachers to effectively implement play-based learning activities and other quality enhancing measures in PPE, ongoing support is essential.  Teachers reported a desire for refresher courses and greater supervision and mentoring from headteachers. Headteachers emphasized a need for training in mentoring and supervision skills and classroom observation so they could better support PPE teachers. A growing body of research points to the merits of early childhood education (ECE) leadership development as a potential catalyst for positive change, making this practice to potentially be transformative.

Based on the findings, the study recommends tailoring professional development for PPE teachers and headteachers to fill gaps in knowledge on play based learning and re-orient mindsets toward what’s conducive to the learning of young children.  Key policy options to achieve this include:

  • Develop new pre-primary training programs which support the quick adoption and practical application of play-based teaching practices by trained and newly recruited teachers;
  • Introduce pedagogical improvements for teacher and headteacher training in preprimary.  Training for headteachers managing PPE should include skills training in supervision, classroom observation, and feedback to PPE teachers. For teachers, pedagogical improvements may include them to complete coursework on child development and play and visit a few schools to observe before the PPE training begins;
  • Ensure teachers have the resources and tools to apply play-based learning during training and in the classroom; and
  • Implement a well-designed communication strategy for headteachers, teachers and families to help build awareness about play based learning and how it relates to young children’s learning and development.


Lucy Bassett

Professor of Practice, University of Virginia

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000