Despite progress towards universal access to basic education, about 160,000 children between 6 and 14 remain out of school (2016) in Lao PDR. The national target for literacy (95% by 2020) seems far off due to ongoing dropouts in the early years of primary schooling and poor learning outcomes. These issues are most pronounced in rural, mountainous and ethnic minority communities. Additionally, the development of Education Quality Standards for primary education in the country has been instrumental in improving basic education, but it is now imperative that these standards not only reach the schools, but are also understood, owned and applied by all primary schools in Laos.
Ethnic minority children living in poor, rural and economically disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by these challenges and have the country’s worst education outcomes, putting them at a high risk of late enrollment, irregular attendance, grade repetition and early dropout.
Aide et Action Laos has been contributing to the development of the education sector in Laos for more than 10 years, with a focus on Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE), school readiness, literacy and numeracy, the use of ICT to improve literacy, teaching and learning, and the promotion of school development plans. The results have been encouraging: the number of children enrolled in ECCE has surpassed our goal thanks to our awareness raising among parents about the importance of preschool; school readiness and numeracy among the children we worked with were greatly improved according to research findings from the University of Geneva and external evaluation; and we successfully piloted the Education Quality Standards for primary education.
Among the remaining challenges, early grade literacy remains a major one, with significant differences between urban and more rural and remote schools, where there are often larger numbers of students who do not speak Lao as their first language.
At present, Aide et Action in Laos continues to focus on improving the learning outcomes of ethnic and marginalized children. Our work promotes quality in early literacy and numeracy teaching and learning both at school and at home, and encourages the use of ICT (Innovative Communications Technology) to enhance teaching literacy and numeracy. We also continue to direct our efforts towards enhancing school management so schools become more inclusive and child-friendly, to improve children’s school readiness and to strengthen basic Lao literacy and numeracy learning outcomes in early childhood education and primary schools.
Our current projects have been developed from our earlier pilot projects in Vientiane province, and are aligned with the 8th Education Sector Development Plan of the Lao PDR (2016-2020) and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. They operate under an MoU signed with the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES).