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Bangladesh, officially known as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is an independent country in South Asia with a total land area of just under 57,000 square miles.  The country shares borders with both India and Myanmar (formerly Burma), and is situated just north of the Bay of Bengal.  The capital and largest city in Bangladesh is Dhaka, which is centrally and strategically located in the heart of the country.
 
As of the spring 2011 census, the population of Bangladesh was listed as 142.3 million, making it the 9th most populated country in the world.  These figures, however, have recently been questioned by the United Nations and the Bengali government, as it is widely believed the total population is much higher, probably in the neighborhood of 155 to 180 million, which would make the country the eighth most populated in the world rather than the ninth.  The bulk of the population in Bangladesh—98 percent—is made up of ethnic Bengalis, with smaller groups of Biharis, indigenous tribal groups, and Rahingya, the latter of whom are refugees who fled the former Burmese state.  Bengali—a language with origins in Indo-Aryan Sanskrit—is the official and most widely spoken language in the country; however, in many of the upper and middle class regions of Bangladesh, and in many institutions of higher learning, English is the predominant and preferred language.  Islam is the chief religion in Bangladesh, with nearly 90 percent of the population practicing, but because of the country’s proximity to India, nearly 10 percent of the population adheres to Hinduism.
 
The Bengali culture is an interesting mix of the ancient and the modern.  The country boasts a rich literary heritage, one that dates back centuries and features many renowned poets and authors of folk prose.  Musically, the “Baul” tradition, which features fast-paced music with folk lyrics, is the most popular form.  Bangladesh produces an average of 80 films per year, and its tasty cuisine consists of a combination of Northeast Indian food and Middle Eastern fare, with rice and seafood serving as the staples to create a countless number of delicious dishes.
 
The Educational System in Bangladesh
 
In Bangladesh, the public education system is the responsibility of the national government and is highly subsidized and valued.  Private schools also exist in the country and are partially subsidized by the government, and the 15 national universities in the country are fully funded by the University Grants Commission.
 
Three distinctive and coexisting education systems are present in Bangladesh, including the General Education System, the Madrasah Education System and the Technical-Vocational Education System, listed in order of the number of students participating in each system.  Each of these systems is divided into four levels: primary school, which includes grades 1-8 and is compulsory under Bengali law; secondary school (years 9 and 10); higher secondary school (years 11 and 12); and tertiary education, which consists of both public and private universities, as well as technical and vocational secondary schools.  At each level of schooling, students can choose between Bengali and English as the preferred language of instruction.
 
The 34 government-sponsored universities and 54 private institutions of higher learning offer undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a wide range of academic disciplines.  Students who wish to further their education, in fields such as engineering, agriculture and medicine, have many programs from which to choose, including specialized schools that help train students in today’s advanced technology and the role it plays in a variety of vocational fields.

Map of Bangladesh

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