Anda di halaman 1dari 40

EDUCATION IN LAOS

Education is compulsory,FREE , and universal through the fifth grade; however,


high fees for books and supplies and a general shortage of teachers in rural
areas prevented many children from attending school. There were significant
differences among the various ethnic groups in the educational opportunities
offered to boys and girls. Although the government's policy is to inform ethnic
groups on the benefits of education for all children, some ethnic groups did not
consider education for girls either necessary or beneficial. While figures were not
reliable, reported literacy rates for girls were approximately 10 percent lower than
for boys in general. Although school enrollment rates for girls remained lower
than for boys, gender parity has been increasing. [Source: 2010 Human Rights
Report: Laos, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. State
Department, April 8, 2011 ^^]

Education and social services remain rudimentary at best but are improving. In
lowland villages traditional education was provided to boys and young men
through the Buddhist temples. Although this practice continues in some areas, in
general it has been supplanted by a national education system which,
unfortunately, is hampered by limitedFINANCIAL resources and a lack of trained
teachers. [Source: Library of Congress]

The Laos government spends very little on education. Education expenditures:


3.3 percent of GDP (2010), country comparison to the world: 135. The GDP of
Laos is very low. At one time it was estimated only five countries spent less on
education as a percentage of their overall budget. Laos It wants to improve it
schools but lacks the funds to do so, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty in
which a lack of education prevents the country from advancing and a lack of
advancement means no money for education.

In the early 2000s, Laos received about $20 million a year in education grants
and loans in foreign aid. Analysts have said the money would be most effective if
spent on 1) the reduction of the dropout rate and repetition rates in the first and
second grades, 2) primary school teacher training and 3) addressing the problem
of teachers not speaking ethnic languages.

1
There are gaps in terms of education between boys and girls, rich and poor,
urban and rural areas. Within urban areas, the gaps are narrower while the rural
areas record some of the lowest educational indicators in the country, and the
gapsCONTINUE to widen. Those living in remote areas are the most
disadvantaged and cut off from services, many of whom are ethnic groups.
Indeed, a significant proportion of children especially girls and ethnic groups in
remote areas are out of school.

Literacy and Women and Education in Laos


Literacy (definition: age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 73
percent male: 83 percent; female: 63 percent (2005 Census). [Source: CIA World
Factbook]

Overall, there are more illiterate women than men. Causes of female illiteracy
vary across provinces and among the different ethnic groups, but poverty,
distance, costs, and traditional beliefs tend to be the main factors. Other factors
include the burden of household chores, early marriage or pregnancy. The
literacy rates for adult women and men in the Northern region are lower than in
the other regions. Luang Namtha, in the northern region, has lowest percentage
of adult literacy, and Vientiane capital has the highest percentage of adults who
can read and write.

Both boys and girls attend village schools but only a few boys are encouraged
toCONTINUE their education on the district or provincial level. According to a
UNICEF report Laos will not be able to reduce poverty or improve its living
standards unless a greater effort is made to get girls into schools.

Girls are less likely than boys to attend school and attend for fewer years--a
discrepancy that was declining, however, in the early 1990s. In 1969 only 37
percent of students in primary school were girls; by 1989, however, 44 percent of
primary school students were girls. Because of Lao Sung cultural attitudes
toward girls' and women's responsibilities, girls in these groups accounted for
only 26 percent of all students. [Source: Library of Congress]

Education Prior to the Lao People's Democratic


Republic
2
Of the many ethnic groups in Laos, only the Lao Loum had a tradition of formal
education, reflecting the fact that the languages of the other groups had no
written script. Until the midtwentieth century, education was primarily based in the
Buddhist wat, where the monks taught novices and other boys to read both Lao
and Pali scripts, basic arithmetic, and other religious and social subjects. Many
villages had wat schools for novices and other village boys. However, only
ordained boys and men in urban monasteries had access to advanced study.
[Source: Library of Congress, 1994 *]

During the colonial period, the French established a secular education system
patterned after schools in France, and French was the language of instruction
after the second or third grade. This system was largely irrelevant to the needs
and life-styles of the vast majority of the rural population, despite its extension to
some district centers and a few villages. However, it did produce a small elite
drawn primarily from the royal family and noble households. Many children of
Vietnamese immigrants to Laos--who made up the majority of the colonial civil
service--also attended these schools and, in fact, constituted a significant
proportion of the students at secondary levels in urban centers. Post-secondary
education was not available in Laos, and the few advanced students traveled to
Hanoi, Danang, and Hu in Vietnam and to Phnom Penh in Cambodia for
specialized training; fewer still continued with university-level studies in France. *

The Pathet Lao began to provide Lao language instruction in the schools under
its control in the late 1950s, and a Laotian curriculum began to be developed in
the late 1960s in the RLG schools. In 1970 about one-third of the civilian
employees of the RLG were teachers, although the majority of these were poorly
paid and minimally trained elementary teachers. At that time, there were about
200,000 elementary students enrolled in RLG schools, around 36 percent of the
school-age population. *

Education Since 1975 in Laos


An important goal of the LPDR government was to establish a system of
universal primary education by 1985. The LPDR took over the existing RLG
education system that had been established in 1950s and restructured it, facing
many of the same problems that had also confronted previous governments. The
French system of education was replaced with a Laotian curriculum, although

3
lack of teaching materials has impeded effective instruction. An intensive adult
literacy campaign was initiated in 1983-84, which mobilized educated persons
living in villages and urban neighborhoods to bring basic reading and writing skills
to over 750,000 adults. Largely as a result of this campaign, those able to read
and write had increased to an estimated 44 percent. According to the United
Nations (UN), by 1985 those able to read and write were estimated at 92 percent
of men and 76 percent of women of the fifteen to forty-five age-group. Because
few reading materials are available, especially in the rural areas, many newly
literate adults lose much of their proficiency after a few years. [Source: Library of
Congress, 1994 *]

The decision to establish universal education led the government to focus its
efforts on building and staffing schools in nearly every village. School enrollment
has increased since 1975. In 1988 primary school enrollment was estimated at
63 percent of all school-age children. In 1992-93 an estimated 603,000 students
were in primary school, compared to 317,000 students in 1976 and 100,000
students in 1959. However, the goal of achieving universal primary education was
postponed from 1985 to 2000 as a result of the lack of resources. Repetition
rates ranged from 40 percent for the first grade to 14 percent for the fifth grade.
Dropouts also were a significant problem, with 22 percent of all entering first
graders leaving school before the second grade. In the late 1980s, only 45
percent of entering first graders completed all five years of primary school, up
from 18 percent in 1969. *

Performance statistics vary according to rural-urban location, ethnic group, and


gender. Enrollment and school quality are higher in urban areas, where the
usefulness of a formal education is more evident than in rural farming
communities. Isolated teachers confronted with primitive rural living and teaching
conditions have a difficult time maintaining their own commitment as well as the
interest of their pupils. Ethnic minority students who have no tradition of literacy
and who do not speak Lao have a particularly difficult time. Unless the teacher is
of the same or similar ethnic group as the students, communication and culturally
appropriate education are limited. Because of these factors, in the late 1980s the
enrollment rate for the Lao Sung was less than half that of the Lao Loum;
enrollment was also low for Lao Theung children. *

Secondary education enrollment has expanded since 1975 but as of mid-1994 is


still limited in availability and scope. In 1992-93 only about 130,000 students were
4
enrolled in all postprimary programs, including lower- and upper-secondary
schools, vocational programs, and teacher-training schools. The exodus of
Laotian elite after 1975 deprived vocational and secondary schools of many of
their staff, a situation that was only partly offset by students returning from
training in socialist countries. Between 1975 and 1990, the government granted
over 14,000 scholarships for study in at least eight socialist countries; just over
7,000 were to the Soviet Union, followed by 2,500 to Vietnam, and 1,800 to the
German Democratic Republic (East Germany). *

Local secondary education is concentrated in the provincial capitals and some


district centers. Dropout rates for students at secondary and technical schools
are not as high as among primary students, but the gender and ethnic group
differentials are more pronounced. In the late 1980s, only 7 percent of lower-
secondary students were Lao Sung or Lao Theung, a rate that dropped to 3
percent in upper-secondary school. For most students who do not live in a
provincial center, attendance at secondary school requires boarding away from
home in makeshift facilities. This situation further discourages students in rural
areas from pursuing further education, with additional differential impacts on girls
and minorities. Vientiane has the majority of advanced schools, including the
national teachers' training school at Dong Dok, the irrigation college at Tad
Thong, the agriculture college at Na Phok, the National Polytechnic Institute, and
the University of Medical Sciences. Even so, the level of training available at
these schools is low. *

In 1986 the government began to reform the education system, with the goals of
linking educational development more closely to the socioeconomic situation in
each locality, improving science training and emphasis, expanding networks to
remote mountainous regions, and recruiting minority teachers. The plan
envisioned making education more relevant to daily realities and building
increased cooperation in educational activities among the various ministries,
mass organizations, and the community. However, the ability to implement this
program through its scheduled completion in 2000 depends on a significant
budgetary increase to the educational sector in addition to receiving significant
foreign aid. Education accounted for only 8 percent of government expenditures
in 1988, down from a 10 to 15 percent range during the preceding seven-year
period, and cultural expenditures also were not accorded a high priority. *

5
Schooling in Laos
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 9 years; male: 10
years; female: 9 years (2008). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Officially education is compulsory for eight years, from age six to fifteen. Primary
school has five grades, middle school three grades, high school three grades.
Most villages have primary schools. In rural areas secondary school students
generally have to travel a considerable distance from the their homes villages to a
middle school of high school.

In mid-1994 the school year was nine-months. The ideal sequence included five
years of primary school, followed by three years of lower-secondary school and
three years of upper-secondary school. Some students go directly from primary
or lower-secondary school to vocational instruction, for example, in teacher-
training schools or agriculture schools. *

In the 1990s, the average Laotian only had three years of formal schooling. At
that time only about 40 percent of children finished primary school with many
repeating at least one grade. Many students have to walk for hours just to get to a
school.

The level of education increases with proximity to district and provincial towns.
The absence of decent schools in Laos has prodded many Laotians to go to
Thailand to get an education. In the old days the elite were educated at French
schools elsewhere in Indochina and in France itself. These days they study at
private or international schools or go overseas.

Prior ro the 1970s, the Lao education system was based on the French system.
Under the Communists it was modeled after the Chinese and Russian systems.
Before 1975, many classes were taught in French, today they are taught almost
exclusively in Lao.

School Life
Most villages have one or two primary schools. Some villages have no schools
or dilapidated structures, sometimes with no walls or a roof, that serve as
schools. One room schoolhouses are sometimes flattened by storms and put out

6
of commission for years. Many communities build their own schools from private
donation because the government can't provide them with funds.

A typical school has no lights, no books or pencils and a dirt floor, Children
squeeze behind wood benches, copying lessons on beat up writing tablets. In the
winter, children bundle up in coats because there is no heat.

In the 1980s arithmetic was taught to small children in some rather interesting
ways in Laotian textbooks. For example 3+1=4 can be expressed by having three
bunnies and adding one more to equal four, right? To express 6-1=5 you start out
with six U.S. warplanes flying over Laos. One is shot down by a soldier in a floppy
eared cap and you get five. [Source: Peter White, National Geographic, June
1987]

Although more school texts and general magazines are being printed, poor
distribution systems and budgetary constraints limit their availability throughout
the country. Overall, 3.9 million books were printed in 1989, including school texts
published by the Ministry of Education, and novels, stories, and poems published
by the Ministry of Information and Culture. Translations into Lao of various
Russian-language technical, literary, and children's books were available through
the Novosti press agency. Virtually all these materials are inexpensive
paperbound editions. Distribution of school texts is improving, and magazines
and novels can occasionally be found in district markets distant from Vientiane.
Thai printed material--for the most part, magazines and books--was available
after the late 1980s in a few shops. Yet, in the early 1990s, it was rare to see a
book or any other reading material in rural villages, with the exception of political
posters or a months-old edition of the newspaper Xieng Pasason (Voice of the
People) pasted on a house wall. [Source: Library of Congress]

Teachers and the Poor Quality of Schools in Laos


In the 1990s a typical teacher in a village school had an eighth-grade education,
three years of teacher training and earned $17 a month, when they were paid.
Few people wanted to be teachers because they pay was so low. It is not unusual
for teachers and students not to show up at school. Sometimes the teachers
speak a different language than that of the students.

7
Because teachers are paid irregularly, they are forced to spend significant
amounts of time farming or in other livelihood activities, with the result that in
many locations classes are actually held for only a few hours a day. Because of
irregular classes, overcrowding, and lack of learning resources, the average
student needed eleven to twelve years to complete the five-year primary course
in the late 1980s.

Because resources are limited, most schools are poorly constructed--of bamboo
and thatch--and staffed by only one or two teachers who are paid low wages,
usually in arrears. Many village schools have only one or two grades, and books,
paper, or other teaching materials are conspicuous by their scarcity. [Source:
Library of Congress]

Luang Prabangs Buddhist Monk Secondary and High School is housed Wat
Siphoutthabath. At the temple more than 700 students take their lessons in just
nine small classrooms. High school students begin their studies for the day after
middle school students have finished their classes, or visa versa, and even then
the classrooms were always filled beyond capacity. A monk-teacher said, They
came from the countryside, They enjoyed studying, but were limited. They came
from the jungle villages in northern Laos, where no Buddhist junior high or high
schools existed. [Source: Daily Yomiuri]

Pre-Primary Education in Laos


The purpose of pre-primary education is to prepare children physically,
emotionally, socially and mentally to enter grade 1 of primary school. This
preparation is considered the foundation for further psychological development.
Pre-primary education consists of two levels: nursery or crche, with an intake for
children from 2 months to 2 years of age; and, kindergarten, with an intake for
children from 3-5 years of age. [Source: Laos Ministry of Education]

Specific objectives for pre-primary school set by the Ministry of Education (MOE)
include to: 1) enhance the physical development of children; 2) train young
children to follow instructions of the teacher; 3) train children to be leaders and
followers as appropriate; 4) encourage children's imagination and creativity; 5)
train children to be disciplined; 6) facilitate the learning of different movements; 7)
train children to be brave; 8) create an environment for children to be happy and

8
enjoy themselves; 9) train children in memorizing; 10) provide a range of
experiences for children's development.

Current participation in pre-primary education is at very low levels with wide


differences between provinces. Provision of a three-year pre-primary period is
expensive, both for human and capital expenditure. For example, teacher training
for pre-primary teachers occurs at one TTC in Vientiane Municipality with an
annual quota of one place for each province except for Vientiane Municipality
which has a quota of two. These quotas do not take into account population
differences. Additionally, nursery schools are also provided as part of pre-primary
education, although it is not clear from the data to what extent this is within the
private sector or is subsidized. In view of the very low internal efficiency in
primary education, further expansion of pre-primary education should be a low
priority.

Fees for pre-primary education are relatively high and not all families are able to
send their children to kindergarten. Likewise, MOE does not have sufficient
resources to fund countrywide participation in pre-primary schooling. An
alternative approach would be to utilize the private sector as the provider of
private education, either completely or through the use of a voucher system.

Primary Education in Laos


The primary education cycle in Lao PDR is five years. MOE has overall
responsibility for coordination, planning, policy development and quality control
for formal education while management of functional responsibilities is distributed
geographically to 18 PES offices and 135 DEBs. At the village level the village
head, village school management committee, and the school principal are directly
responsible for the operation and maintenance of schools in more than 8,000
villages. [Source: Laos Ministry of Education]

The human resources development Medium-Term Program 1997-2000,


produced by the SPC of Lao PDR in May 1997, provided a general framework for
identifying priorities for education. For primary education MOE has the following
immediate priorities: 1) universal primary education with quality improvements; 2)
increased access to education in rural and ethnic minority areas; 3) eradication of
illiteracy; 4) improved internal efficiency of schooling; 5) improved professional

9
training and academic status of teachers; 6) improved management and control
of education to ensure quality.

The current Education Sector Development Plan (MOE, 1995c) provides a


planning framework for MOE. It outlines a long-term reform agenda and provides
broad policy themes to 2020, in accordance with general Association of South
East Asian Nations (ASEAN) planning. The major medium-term priority is to
improve quality in primary and lower secondary education by improving internal
efficiency and student achievement. To achieve this, the current plan calls for
revision of the school curricula, textbooks and instructional materials together
with a reorganization and reform of teacher training and pedagogical support
services. Other components of the current Plan include: 1) standardization of
preservice teacher training; 2) improved access to educational services through
large-scale school infrastructure initiative; 3) selective expansion of adult literacy
and vocational educational programs, particularly for girls, women and minorities;
4) strengthening of educational planning and management at central, provincial
and district levels; 5) enhanced planning capacity, co-ordination and co-operation
with MOE and external agencies.

Activities are currently underway in all of these areas, assisted in most cases by
funding from international donors and agencies. Policy targets (MOE, 1995c)
have been set for many activities, for example, a primary repetition rate of 14
percent by the year 2000; however, there is no evaluation mechanism in place to
monitor progress towards targets. Likewise, a target has been set to restructure
administration and management and to redistribute resources equitably among
provinces and districts but there appears to be no framework nor guidelines on
how to achieve these targets.

Teacher training for primary school occurs at TTCs. There is also a Teacher
Development Center (TDC) established as part of the ADB-supported Education
Quality Improvement Project to improve the quality of both pre- and in-service
training.

An added complexity to improving the quality and relevance of primary education


in Lao PDR arises from the multiple purposes of primary education and the
linguistic variability of target groups. Graduation of local people is needed for
future supply of teachers and other skilled workers but also to improve the
productivity of subsistence farmers. The former requires an academic approach
10
linked to transition to secondary school, while the latter requires a greater focus
on basic technology and applied science. In the context of poor subsistence
farming communities, literacy and numeracy as the sole aims of primary
education are not enough, particularly among ethnic minorities where Lao is not
the first language and where their own language has no written form. In such
communities there is a need to introduce content of primary education that will
directly improve their income and living condition.

University Education in Laos


Laos has only two universities Dong Dok University and Phaetsat University
and two technical colleges, all in Vientiane.

There are three institutions which are considered to provide university-level


programs: the University Pedagogical Institute; the National Polytechnic Institute;
and the University of Health Sciences. Each of these institutions provides
specialized professional training of at least 4 years duration that is open to
graduates of upper secondary schools. There is no national university providing
programs in the arts and sciences. Admission to these institutions is based on a
provincial quota system determined by the Ministry of Education (Asian
Development Bank, 1989b, p. 66; Spaulding, 1990, p. 117).

National University of Laos (NUOL) is an elite university in Vientiane, the capital


of Laos. Founded in 1996, with departments brought in from other existing
colleges, it is the only national university in the country. NUOL accepts top
students from all over the world including graduates from the ivy leagues. Its
doctoral program has been rated consistently on par with John Hopkins
University The university is a partner of the Greater Mekong Sub-region
Academic and Research Network (GMSARN) and ASEAN University Network
(AUN)

Academic Freedom in Laos


The law provides for academic freedom, but in practice the government imposed
restrictions. The Ministry of Education tightly controlled curricula in schools,
including private schools and colleges. [Source: 2010 Human Rights Report:
11
Laos, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. State Department,
April 8, 2011 ^^]

Both citizen and noncitizen academic professionals conducting research in the


country may be subject to restrictions on travel, access to information, and
publication. Although the government exercised control via requirements for exit
stamps and other mechanisms over the ability of state-employed academic
professionals to travel for research or obtain study grants, the government
actively sought such opportunities worldwide and approved virtually all such
proposals.^^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of
London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Laos-Guide-999.com,
Comptons Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian
magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street
Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian
Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News
and various books and other publications.

12
Preprimary education for children aged three to five is the responsibility of
individual parents. Its purpose is to prepare children for primary school.
Currently only about eight percent of children in this age group are enrolled in
preprimary schools.

With respect to the five years of compulsory primary education, basic


infrastructure problems limit primary schools so that only 34.8 percent of
them can offer the complete five years. Though this level of education is
"compulsory," roughly 25 percent of children are not enrolled. Approximately
30 percent of villages do not have primary schools and, of 1000 students
starting primary education, only 20.5 percent survive to grade five without
repetition. Including repetition, another 34.7 percent survive to grade five.
Overall, in 1996-1997, only 13.9 percent of Lao youth were completing primary
education. There are significant disparities across provinces with respect to
access to primary education; access is lowest in remote mountainous areas
with large populations of ethnic minorities.

The basic curriculum of Lao primary education in grades one through five
includes the Lao language, mathematics, social studies, physical education,
music, and handicrafts. Of the 23 to 25 hours spent in class, 33 to 50 percent
of that time is devoted to language studies. Mathematics instruction increases
from three to six hours from grades one through six. Social studies instruction
is about two to three hours, and the remaining time is used for physical
education, music, and handicrafts.

Read more: Lao - Preprimary Primary Education - Percent, Five, Children,


and Studies -
StateUniversity.com http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/807/Lao-
PREPRIMARY-PRIMARY-EDUCATION.html#ixzz4bMP53iq6

As a result of French colonial influence, Lao PDR follows a Western academic


calendar, September to June. After the success of the revolution in 1975, Lao
became the language of instruction at all levels of education. In the current
structure of Lao education, primary education is for five years (compulsory),
followed by three years of lower secondary, three years of upper secondary,
and then three to seven years of postsecondary education, dependent upon the
field of study. While children may start primary school at age six, the modal
age is actually seven, except for several urban areas. A unified standard
national curriculum is used, and the use of modern technology in Lao
13
education is extremely limited.

Read more: Lao - Educational Systemoverview - Seven, Secondary, Age, and


Primary -
StateUniversity.com http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/806/Lao-
EDUCATIONAL-SYSTEM-OVERVIEW.html#ixzz4bMPGlb1y

Education since 1975


Laos Table of Contents

An important goal of the LPDR government was to establish a system of universal primary
education by 1985. The LPDR took over the existing RLG education system that had been
established in 1950s and restructured it, facing many of the same problems that had also
confronted previous governments. The French system of education was replaced with a
Laotian curriculum, although lack of teaching materials has impeded effective instruction.
An intensive adult literacy campaign was initiated in 1983-84, which mobilized educated
persons living in villages and urban neighborhoods to bring basic reading and writing skills
to over 750,000 adults. Largely as a result of this campaign, those able to read and write
had increased to an estimated 44 percent. According to the United Nations (UN), by 1985
those able to read and write were estimated at 92 percent of men and 76 percent of women
of the fifteen to forty-five age-group. Because few reading materials are available,
especially in the rural areas, many newly literate adults lose much of their proficiency after
a few years.

The decision to establish universal education led the government to focus its efforts on
building and staffing schools in nearly every village. Because resources are limited, most
schools are poorly constructed--of bamboo and thatch--and staffed by only one or two
teachers who are paid low wages, usually in arrears. Many village schools have only one or
two grades, and books, paper, or other teaching materials are conspicuous by their scarcity.

School enrollment has increased since 1975. In 1988 primary school enrollment was
estimated at 63 percent of all school-age children. In 1992-93 an estimated 603,000
students were in primary school, compared to 317,000 students in 1976 and 100,000
students in 1959. However, the goal of achieving universal primary education was
postponed from 1985 to 2000 as a result of the lack of resources.

Because teachers are paid irregularly, they are forced to spend significant amounts of time
farming or in other livelihood activities, with the result that in many locations classes are
actually held for only a few hours a day. Because of irregular classes, overcrowding, and
lack of learning resources, the average student needed eleven to twelve years to complete
the five-year primary course in the late 1980s. Repetition rates ranged from 40 percent for
the first grade to 14 percent for the fifth grade. Dropouts also were a significant problem,
with 22 percent of all entering first graders leaving school before the second grade. In the
late 1980s, only 45 percent of entering first graders completed all five years of primary

14
school, up from 18 percent in 1969.

Performance statistics vary according to rural-urban location, ethnic group, and gender.
Enrollment and school quality are higher in urban areas, where the usefulness of a formal
education is more evident than in rural farming communities. Isolated teachers confronted
with primitive rural living and teaching conditions have a difficult time maintaining their
own commitment as well as the interest of their pupils. Ethnic minority students who have
no tradition of literacy and who do not speak Lao have a particularly difficult time. Unless
the teacher is of the same or similar ethnic group as the students, communication and
culturally appropriate education are limited. Because of these factors, in the late 1980s the
enrollment rate for the Lao Sung was less than half that of the Lao Loum; enrollment was
also low for Lao Theung children.

Girls are less likely than boys to attend school and attend for fewer years--a discrepancy
that was declining, however, in the early 1990s. In 1969 only 37 percent of students in
primary school were girls; by 1989, however, 44 percent of primary school students were
girls. Because of Lao Sung cultural attitudes toward girls' and women's responsibilities,
girls in these groups accounted for only 26 percent of all students.

Secondary education enrollment has expanded since 1975 but as of mid-1994 is still
limited in availability and scope. In 1992-93 only about 130,000 students were enrolled in
all postprimary programs, including lower- and upper-secondary schools, vocational
programs, and teacher-training schools. The exodus of Laotian elite after 1975 deprived
vocational and secondary schools of many of their staff, a situation that was only partly
offset by students returning from training in socialist countries. Between 1975 and 1990,
the government granted over 14,000 scholarships for study in at least eight socialist
countries; just over 7,000 were to the Soviet Union, followed by 2,500 to Vietnam, and
1,800 to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

In mid-1994 the school year was nine-months. The ideal sequence included five years of
primary school, followed by three years of lower-secondary school and three years of
upper-secondary school. Some students go directly from primary or lower-secondary
school to vocational instruction, for example, in teacher-training schools or agriculture
schools.

Local secondary education is concentrated in the provincial capitals and some district
centers. Dropout rates for students at secondary and technical schools are not as high as
among primary students, but the gender and ethnic group differentials are more
pronounced. In the late 1980s, only 7 percent of lower-secondary students were Lao Sung
or Lao Theung, a rate that dropped to 3 percent in upper-secondary school. For most
students who do not live in a provincial center, attendance at secondary school requires
boarding away from home in makeshift facilities. This situation further discourages
students in rural areas from pursuing further education, with additional differential impacts
on girls and minorities. Vientiane has the majority of advanced schools, including the
national teachers' training school at Dong Dok, the irrigation college at Tad Thong, the
agriculture college at Na Phok, the National Polytechnic Institute, and the University of
Medical Sciences. Even so, the level of training available at these schools is low.

15
In 1986 the government began to reform the education system, with the goals of linking
educational development more closely to the socioeconomic situation in each locality,
improving science training and emphasis, expanding networks to remote mountainous
regions, and recruiting minority teachers. The plan envisioned making education more
relevant to daily realities and building increased cooperation in educational activities
among the various ministries, mass organizations, and the community. However, the ability
to implement this program through its scheduled completion in 2000 depends on a
significant budgetary increase to the educational sector in addition to receiving significant
foreign aid. Education accounted for only 8 percent of government expenditures in 1988,
down from a 10 to 15 percent range during the preceding seven-year period, and cultural
expenditures also were not accorded a high priority.

Although more school texts and general magazines are being printed, poor distribution
systems and budgetary constraints limit their availability throughout the country. Overall,
3.9 million books were printed in 1989, including school texts published by the Ministry of
Education, and novels, stories, and poems published by the Ministry of Information and
Culture. Translations into Lao of various Russian-language technical, literary, and
children's books were available through the Novosti press agency. Virtually all these
materials are inexpensive paperbound editions. Distribution of school texts is improving,
and magazines and novels can occasionally be found in district markets distant from
Vientiane. Thai printed material--for the most part, magazines and books--was available
after the late 1980s in a few shops. Yet, in the early 1990s, it was rare to see a book or any
other reading material in rural villages, with the exception of political posters or a months-
old edition of the newspaper Xieng Pasason (Voice of the People) pasted on a house wall.

Search

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

EDUCATION
Laos Table of Contents

Education Prior to the Lao People's Democratic Republic

Of the many ethnic groups in Laos, only the Lao Loum had a tradition of formal education,
reflecting the fact that the languages of the other groups had no written script. Until the
midtwentieth century, education was primarily based in the Buddhist wat, where the monks
taught novices and other boys to read both Lao and Pali scripts, basic arithmetic, and other
religious and social subjects. Many villages had wat schools for novices and other village
boys. However, only ordained boys and men in urban monasteries had access to advanced
study.

During the colonial period, the French established a secular education system patterned
16
after schools in France, and French was the language of instruction after the second or third
grade. This system was largely irrelevant to the needs and life-styles of the vast majority of
the rural population, despite its extension to some district centers and a few villages.
However, it did produce a small elite drawn primarily from the royal family and noble
households. Many children of Vietnamese immigrants to Laos--who made up the majority
of the colonial civil service--also attended these schools and, in fact, constituted a
significant proportion of the students at secondary levels in urban centers. Post-secondary
education was not available in Laos, and the few advanced students traveled to Hanoi,
Danang, and Hu in Vietnam and to Phnom Penh in Cambodia for specialized training;
fewer stillCONTINUED with university-level studies in France.

The Pathet Lao began to provide Lao language instruction in the schools under its control
in the late 1950s, and a Laotian curriculum began to be developed in the late 1960s in the
RLG schools. In 1970 about one-third of the civilian employees of the RLG were teachers,
although the majority of these were poorly paid and minimally trained elementary teachers.
At that time, there were about 200,000 elementary students enrolled in RLG schools,
around 36 percent of the school-age population.

In 2005, the literacy rate in Laos was estimated to be 73% (83% male and 63%
female).[1]

Contents
[hide]

1Education before the Lao People's Democratic Republic


2Education since 1975
3Education in Laos (post-1990)
4Development challenge in Laoss education system
5NGO
6References
7Bibliography
8External links

Education before the Lao People's Democratic Republic [edit]


Of the many ethnic groups in Laos, only the Lao Loum had a tradition of formal
education, reflecting the fact that the languages of the other groups had no
written script. Until the mid-20th century, education was primarily based in the
Buddhist temple school (wat school), where the monks taught novices and other

17
boys to read both Lao and Pali scripts, basic arithmetic, and other religious and
social subjects. Many villages had wat schools for novices and other village boys.
However, only ordained boys and men in urban monasteries had access to
advanced study.[2]

Teacher in a primary school in northern Laos

During the colonial period, the French established a secular education system
patterned after schools in France, and French was the language of instruction
after the second or third grade. This system was largely irrelevant to the needs
and lifestyles of the vast majority of the rural population, despite its extension to
some district centers and a few villages. However, it did produce a small elite
drawn primarily from the royal family and noble households. Many children
of Vietnamese immigrants to Laoswho made up the majority of the colonial civil
serviceattended these schools and, in fact, constituted a significant proportion
of the students at secondary levels in urban centers.
Post-secondary education was not available in Laos, and the few advanced
students traveled to Hanoi, Danang, and Hu in Vietnam and to Phnom
Penh in Cambodia for specialized training; fewer still continued with university-
level studies in France.[2]
The Pathet Lao began to provide Lao language instruction in the schools under
its control in the late 1950s, and a Laotian curriculum began to be developed in
the late 1960s in the RLG schools. In 1970 about one-third of the civilian
employees of the RLG were teachers, although the majority of these were poorly
paid and minimally trained elementary teachers. At that time, there were about
200,000 elementary students enrolled in RLG schools, around 36 percent of the
school-age population.[2]

Education since 1975[edit]


An important goal of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) government
was to establish a system of universal primary education by 1985. The LPDR
took over the existing Royal Lao Government education system that had been
established in 1950s and restructured it, facing many of the same problems that
had confronted previous governments. The French system of education was
replaced with a Laotian curriculum, although lack of teaching materials has
impeded effective instruction.[3]
18
An intensive adult literacy campaign was initiated in 1983-84, which mobilized
educated persons living in villages and urban neighborhoods to bring basic
reading and writing skills to over 750,000 adults. Largely as a result of this
campaign, those able to read and write had increased to an estimated 44
percent. According to the United Nations, by 1985 those able to read and write
were estimated at 92 percent of men and 76 percent of women ages 15 to 45.
Because few reading materials are available, especially in the rural areas, many
newly literate adults lose much of their proficiency after a few years.[3]

Students in a small village school in southern Laos

The decision to establish universal education led the government to focus its
efforts on building and staffing schools in nearly every village. Because resources
are limited, most schools are poorly constructedof bamboo and thatchand
staffed by one or two teachers who are paid low wages, usually in arrears. Many
village schools have only one or two grades; books, paper, or other teaching
materials are conspicuous by their scarcity.[3]
School enrollment has increased since 1975. In 1988 primary school enrollment
was estimated at 63 percent of all school-age children. In 1992-93 an estimated
603,000 students were in primary school, compared to 317,000 students in 1976
and 100,000 students in 1959. However, the goal of achieving universal primary
education was postponed from 1985 to 2000 as a result of the lack of resources.
[3]

Because teachers are paid irregularly, they are forced to spend significant
amounts of time farming or in other livelihood activities, with the result that in
many locations classes are held for only a few hours a day. Because of irregular
classes, overcrowding, and lack of learning resources, the average student
needed 11 to 12 years to complete the five-year primary course in the late 1980s.
Repetition rates ranged from 40 percent for the first grade to 14 percent for the
fifth grade. Dropouts were a significant problem, with 22 percent of all entering
first graders leaving school before the second grade. In the late 1980s, only 45
percent of entering first graders completed all five years of primary school, up
from 18 percent in 1969.[3]
Performance statistics vary according to rural-urban location, ethnic group, and
gender. Enrollment and school quality are higher in urban areas, where the
usefulness of a formal education is more evident than in rural farming
19
communities. Isolated teachers confronted with primitive rural living and teaching
conditions have a difficult time maintaining their own commitment as well as the
interest of their pupils. Ethnic minority students who have no tradition of literacy
and who do not speak Lao have a particularly difficult time. Unless the teacher is
of the same or similar ethnic group as the students, communication and culturally
appropriate education are limited. Because of these factors, in the late 1980s the
enrollment rate for the Lao Sung was less than half that of the Lao Loum;
enrollment was also low for Lao Theung children.[3]

Students writing on the blackboard in a village school

Girls are less likely than boys to attend school and attend for fewer yearsa
discrepancy that was declining, however, in the early 1990s. In 1969 only 37
percent of students in primary school were girls; by 1989, however, 44 percent of
primary school students were girls. Because of Lao Sung cultural attitudes
toward girls' and women's responsibilities, girls in these groups accounted for
only 26 percent of all students.[3]
Secondary education enrollment has expanded since 1975 but as of mid-1994
was still limited in availability and scope. In 1992-93 only about 130,000 students
were enrolled in all postprimary programs, including lower- and upper-secondary
schools, vocational programs, and teacher-training schools. The exodus of
Laotian elite after 1975 deprived vocational and secondary schools of many of
their staff, a situation that was only partly offset by students returning from
training in socialist countries. Between 1975 and 1990, the government granted
over 14,000 scholarships for study in at least eight socialist countries: just over
7,000 were to the Soviet Union, followed by 2,500 to Vietnam, and 1,800 to
the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).[3]
In mid-1994 the school year was nine months. The ideal sequence included five
years of primary school, followed by three years of lower-secondary school and
three years of upper-secondary school. In 2010, another year was added to
upper-secondary school, for a total of 12 years of primary and secondary
education. Some students go directly from primary or lower-secondary school to
vocational instruction, for example, in teacher-training schools or agriculture
schools.[3]
Local secondary education is concentrated in the provincial capitals and some
district centers. Dropout rates for students at secondary and technical schools
20
are not as high as among primary students, but the gender and ethnic group
differentials are more pronounced. In the late 1980s, only 7% of lower-secondary
students were Lao Sung or Lao Theung, a rate that dropped to 3% in upper-
secondary school. For most students who do not live in a provincial center,
attendance at secondary school requires boarding away from home in makeshift
facilities. This situation further discourages students in rural areas from pursuing
further education, with additional differential impacts on girls and
minorities. Vientiane has the majority of advanced schools, including the
national teachers' training school at Dong Dok, the irrigation college at Tad
Thong, the agriculture college at Na Phok, the National Polytechnic Institute, and
the University of Medical Sciences. Even so, the level of training available at
these schools is low.[3]
In 1986 the government began to reform the education system, with the goals of
linking educational development more closely to the socioeconomic situation in
each locality, improving science training and emphasis, expanding networks to
remote mountainous regions, and recruiting minority teachers. The plan
envisioned making education more relevant to daily realities and building
increased cooperation in educational activities among the ministries, mass
organizations, and the community. However, the ability to implement this program
through its scheduled completion in 2000 depended on a significant budgetary
increase to the educatio sector in addition to receiving significant foreign aid.
Education accounted for only 8 percent of government expenditures in 1988,
down from a 10% to 15% range during the preceding seven-year period, and
cultural expenditures were not accorded a high priority.[3]
Although more school texts and general magazines are being printed, poor
distribution systems and budgetary constraints limit their availability throughout
the country. Overall, 3.9 million books were printed in 1989, including school
texts published by the Ministry of Education, and novels, stories, and poems
published by the Ministry of Information and Culture. Translations into Lao of
Russian-language technical, literary, and children's books were available through
the Novosti press agency. Virtually all these materials are inexpensive
paperbound editions.
Distribution of school texts is improving, and magazines and novels can
occasionally be found in district markets distant from Vientiane. Thai printed
materialfor the most part, magazines and bookswas available after the late
1980s in a few shops. Yet, in the early 1990s, it was rare to see a book or any
other reading material in rural villages, with the exception of political posters or a
months-old edition of the newspaper Xieng Pasason ("Voice of the People")
pasted on a house wall.

Education in Laos (post-1990)[edit]


Refer to page Education in Laos (post-1990) for updated education information.

21
Development challenge in Laoss education system [edit]

Pupils in a small village school in a rural area in northern Laos, December 2007

Kindergarten in Thakhek.

Primary School in Thakhek.

University Campus in Luang Prabang.

The Lao population of 4.9 million is ethnically and linguistically diverse. The
government has defined 49 ethnic groups, many having their own language.
[4]
School attendance, literacy, and other indicators of educational attainment vary

22
greatly among different ethnic groups. Census data from 1995 reveal that 23
percent of the Lao never went to school as compared with 34, 56, and 67 percent
for Phutai, Khmu, and Hmong. Among two of the smallest ethnic groups, 94
percent of the Kor and 96 percent of the Musir never attended school. The quality
of instruction tends to be poor, and nearly half of those who enter do not
complete the primary cycle.
Lao, the official and instructional language, is the first language of about 50
percent of the population. Children from homes where Lao is not spoken enter
schools with a significant handicap, a condition partly accounting for the high
dropout rate. Changing the language of instruction would be a complex problem;
however, steps can be taken by schools to assist non-Lao speaking pupils.
The rural quality of Laos implicates the provision of education as urbanization
facilitates educational delivery. It is more expensive to provide schools for each
small village than to build a smaller number of large schools in cities. These
rural-urban differences are even more significant for provision of secondary,
technical or vocational schools given the higher unit costs involved. The quantity
and quality of schooling are influenced by demographic structures and are highly
sensitive to the size of the school-age cohort.
The extremely young population of Lao PDR puts a heavy burden on schooling
and, at the same time, the high dependency ratio contributes to the low national
productivity. Large families force choices as to which children go to school,
tending to suppress female enrollments and indirectly reducing the number of
subsequent opportunities for girls in education and in the labor market.
The education system is evolving under severely constraining conditions of
inadequately prepared and poorly paid teachers, insufficientFUNDING ,
shortages of facilities, and often ineffective allocation of the limited resources
available. There is significant geographic, ethnic, gender and wealth disparities in
the distribution of educational services, and inequalities exist in every level of the
system.

NGO[edit]
Aide et Action (AEA)[5] is trying to increase the education of the people in Laos, by
promoting access to school for the disadvantaged, improving the quality of
primary education and supporting and encouraging education programs for
children migrant and geographically inaccessible. AEA hopes to prevent the
exclusion and marginalization that is occurring throughout the country. AEA is
employing a two-prong approach to tackle this problem of low education levels in
Laos. On one hand, it is trying to lay some basic infrastructure, which can aid this
effort to increase the national education level and literacy rates. A couple of
libraries have been built and are operational.
On the other hand, AEA is training locals to be adequately qualified and skilled to
run and management libraries so as to be able to benefit from the libraries.
School headmasters have been trained on school management, and teachers
23
have been trained to use of the preprimary education project curriculum, class
facilitation and on early childhood education and care, in a pilot phase to promote
reading and preprimary education in Laos.
Though AEA is trying to help in Laos, it has been careful and has entailed the
cooperation of local organizations, such as the Ministry of Education. This is
essential, as AEA being an international organization most probably would not be
well-versed in the local culture and procedures. Hence, by being involved in joint
efforts with local organizations, it enables AEA to reach areas and people that it
otherwise would not have reached. This makes the projects more effective.
As a developing country in southeast Asia ruled by a communist government, Laos has
a very limited education system. The country is populated by several ethnic groups but
only the Lao Loum, or lowland Lao, have a tradition of formal education and written
script.
Buddhist temple schools called wat schools were the main source of education until the
mid-twentieth century and the subjects covered were rudimentary. Buddhist monks
would teach their pupils basic arithmetic and reading skills as well as social and
religious subjects. At the time, only ordained boys and men had access to further
education.
The French had an influence on Laotian education during the colonial period but,
unfortunately, the secular system it established had little relevance to the vast majority of
rural citizens. Most students never exceeded secondary school studies, and the few that
did had to travel to larger cities in Vietnam. The elite minority who reached university
level studies usually traveled all the way to France toCONTINUE their education.

Recently, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, or LPDR, has shifted its focus toward
constructing an education system that will encourage broad ideological thinking and
mobilize potential. With goals to build a well-rounded development in areas such as
economy, technology and culture, the LPDR sees education as a way forward for the
nation. It wants to strengthen the national education system by improving its overall
quality, increasing relevance and ensuring equitable access.

These goals are specifically listed in Article 19 of Laos Constitution that states that
educational, cultural, and scientific activities are the means to raise the level of
knowledge, patriotism, love of the peoples democracy, the spirit of solidarity between
ethnic groups, and the spirit of independence. In Article 22, the Constitution asserts
that the State and society shall endeavor to improve the quality of national education
system, to create opportunities and favourable conditions for all the people to receive an
education, particularly the inhabitants of remote and isolated areas, ethnic minorities,
women, children, and disadvantaged persons.

24
The Decree on Compulsory Primary Education of 1996 was a milestone in these
endeavors by making primary educationFREE and compulsory for all children whether
by public or private institutions. All schools were mandated to comply with a national
curriculum, thus standardizing minimum requirements of education for all schools.

The national program currently consists of primary schools where students learn for five
years and can then move on to two periods of secondary educationfour years in lower
secondary and three years in upper secondary. Although girls are allowed to attend
primary and secondary schools, they are still underrepresented along with cultural and
language minorities. This is reflected in Laos literacy rates, where 86 percent of females
between the age of 15 and 24 were surveyed to be literate in 2011, whereas 92 percent
of males of the same age group were confirmed to be literate.

The Education Law enacted in 2000 and amended in 2007 reasserts the claim made in
the Laos Constitution that all Lao citizens have the right to education without
discrimination and establishes that the government has a duty to expand education for
the development of Lao citizens necessary knowledge and capacity for their
occupation or further study.

Although education in Laos is still not up to speed with that of developed nations, it is
clear that the LPDR government has prioritized education improvement as a means of
both modernizing the state and safeguarding the future of its people. It understands that
education is an important means of national development and has strongly invested
itsINTERESTS IN expanding education to reach that end.

Description
Share: FacebookTweetLinkedInGoogle +

25
26
27
28
29
30
31
Map data 2017 Google, SK telecom, ZENRIN Imagery 2017 TerraMetrics

Terms of Use

Lao PDR has a 5-4-3 formal education structure that has been in place since
2010. Primary school has an official entry age of six and a duration of five
grades. Secondary school is divided into two cycles: lower secondary consists of
grades 6 - 9, and upper secondary consists of grades 10 - 12. Basic education
consists of primary and lower secondary education. In principle, primary school
isFREE and compulsory. Students sit for the primary achievement examination
at the end of grade 5, the lower secondary achievement examination at the end
of grade 9, and the upper secondary achievement examination at the end of
grade 12.The duration of the school year is 33 weeks. (UNESCO IBE, World
Data on Education. Revised 6/2012).

Prior to the 2010 academic year, lower secondary and upper secondary each
lasted three years. Under the current system, an additional year has been added
to lower secondary education

32
For an overview of current education conditions in Lao PDR, please view our
education profiles.

Last updated: 4/2014

Education in Laos (Part I) The beginning of a formalized school


system

11

Jun

2016

by JZeck

| All Posts, Laos


No Comments.

Supporting education in Laos is our focus. Due to this, it is crucial to take a


careful look at the history of education in Laos, which is quite diverse.
Therefore, this new post series in four parts focuses on the development of
education in Laos. Part I focuses on the period between the inauguration of
a formalized school system by the French colonial rulers, which started in
1893, until the Lao independence in 1954.

Part II surveys the period of 20 years of civil war in Laos, from 1954 until
1975, especially the differences in the education systems of the two hostile
parties, the Royal government of Laos and the Pathet Lao. Part III deals
with the current Lao education system since the Communist coup in 1975.
With regards to the ASEAN Economic Community, established in 2016,
33
Part IV sums up the future challenges and goals for the present-day Lao
school system.

Due to its culture, Laos does not have a long-standing tradition of


formalized education in public schools, compared to European countries.
As a Buddhist country in Southeast Asia, following the oldest branch of
Theravada Buddhism, through the centuries education took place in the
monasteries and temples. The deep religious faith within the Lao society
has preserved this system all the way through: During the French colonial
rule from 1893 until 1954, the long-lasting war up until 1975 and since the
Communist coup in 1975. Temples still offerFREE education for children
who choose to become a monk or a nun. Especially in rural areas, where
public schools suffer from a lack of teaching materials, teachers and also
even school buildings, attending education in temples opens up a huge
opportunity for both the children as well as their parents. The history of a
countrywide public education system, however, goes back to the
inauguration of a formalized schooling system that the French colonists
began in 1893.

The French colonial rulers incorporated Laos in 1893 as a protectorate into


the Indochinese Union, together with Tonking, Annam, Cochinchina (which
is now Viet Nam), and Cambodia. From this time on, the French began to
implement the educational system of France in Laos. Despite the economy
and infrastructure, the education system in Laos remained at a low level,
due to its low strategic value as a colony for France. An example can serve
to illustrate this low significance: In a country 2/3 the size of Germany, even
in the 1940s not more than 600 French people lived there. Only ten
kilometres of railroad tracks were laid by the French during that time, which
illustrates the low economic interests, especially compared to other
colonies. And so, human resources, which only come after economic
exploitation within the colonial system, also remained low.

34
Furthermore, education in public schools was mostly irrelevant to the needs
and lifestyles of the majority of Lao society during that time, as it did not
have a middle class to support this system, as in Europe. Public schools
were mostly established in the few urban areas and some in district
centers. Consequently, as late as 1953 more than 90% of the population
worked in subsistence agriculture (and many still do), where formal
education was unknown. The French attempts in education during the 60
years of their colonial rule led to the existence of a small urban elite,
primarily out of the royal Lao family and other bourgeois households. Many
students were the children of Vietnamese immigrants to Laos, which was
supported by the French so that they could recruit them as civil servants for
lower-administrative functions. With the Communist coup in 1975 nearly all
of them together with their families fled the country to seek asylum in
Australia, France, the USA, or Thailand, which is why an urban elite was
almost fully absent from this time on.

The education system during that time only consisted of primary and
secondary schooling. The Collge Auguste Pavie in Vientiane opened up in
1924 as the first secondary school in Laos with four classes and 120
students and until 1954 remained the only secondary school throughout the
whole country. As a mirror of education in France, students in Laos learned
French history, culture and of course, the language which was irrelevant
to the needs and lifestyles of most of the population.

The following wonderful film made in Northern Siam and Laos in the mid
1920s gives a good impression of what these lifestyles looked like at that
time.

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (USA: 1927. R: Cooper, Meria


C./Schoedsack, Ernst B.)

35
Further studies after secondary school graduation were not possible in
Laos. Some Lao citizens attended colleges or universities in Pnohm Penh,
Saigon, Hanoi, and a few also in France.

Within the Indochinese Union, French was the common language of civil
servants and the first foreign language in schools. In Laos it was taught
from the second grade on. A small Lao elite, recruited from not more than
200 families throughout the country mainly around Luang Prabang,
Vientiane, Pakse and the few other urban areas, was distinguished by its
use of the French language and the assimilation of the French culture from
the majority of the Lao population the Grande Nation with its specific
culture was far away from the beliefs, lifestyles, interests, and the
environment in Laos.

36
This minimal influence also explains the low number of pupils within this
first formal education system. Even in 1963, according to a governmental
report, more than 75% of the total Lao population never attended a formal
school. French overall influence remained minimal, due to the low number
of schools throughout the country, the low number of French colonists, and
Laos ethnic diversity. French did not replace the native languages as it did
in many of the African colonies. This is why French does not play an
important role in contemporary Laos; besides the signs on a few
governmental buildings it is not common in everyday life.

However, between 1893 and 1954 the elitist French education system
paved the way for the set-up of a broader formalized education throughout
the whole country, starting in the mid-1950s up until today. If we look back
at the beginnings of formal education, especially the challenges, we can
see some parallels to the present situation. Ethnic diversity and the
marginalized rural areas are still the major challenges for the Lao education
system, as for almost half the population the Lao language is not the
mother tongue, and as many remote villages still lack access to education.

Part II of this series will trace the end of the colonial rule with the Lao
declaration of independence in 1954 and survey the different educational

37
models run by the hostile parties during the war, the Royal Lao government
on the one side and the Communist Pathet Lao on the other.

To beCONTINUED !

Text & photos by J. Zeck

References:

Postiglione, Gerard A., Jason Tan (2007). Going to school in East Asia.
Westport: Greenwood Press.

Stuart-Fox, Martin (2008). Historical Dictionary of Laos. Lanham:


Scarecrow Press
Inc.

Internet sources:

Hays, Jeffrey (2008). Education in Laos.


In: http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Laos/sub5_3d/entry-2981.html
(last accessed 04/29/2016)

Halpern, Joel M., Marilyn Clarke Tinsam (1966). Education and Nation-
Building in Laos. In: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?
article=1008&context=anthro_faculty_pubs (last accessed 04/29/2016)

Vientiane High School (2002). Vientiane High School.


In: http://www.fedu.uec.ac.jp/~thavisak/f_ourschool.htm (last accessed
04/29/2016)

38
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality
education and promote lifelong learning
opportunities for all

By 2014, Lao PDR had met MDG target on enrolment, with a primary education net
enrolment ratio of 98.5 percent. However, survival rate to grade 5 remains low, at
around 78.3 per cent in 2014/15. Although the survival rate has increased by over 7
percentage points from that in 2012, it still needs to be much higher for full achievement
of MDG 2, which involves completion of primary education. The Mid Term Review of the
Education Sector Development Plan 2011-15 linked the low survival rate to high
repetition and dropout.

The early years are a key bottleneck within the countrys basic education system. The
low survival rate is a consequence of most children dropping out in the first year of
school or not progressing to the next grade level. Childrens lack of school readiness is
a key factor. Other causes for dropping out include incomplete schools, the limited
capacity of teachers, irregular teacher attendance, poor quality of teaching and learning,
the direct and opportunity costs of schooling for families, and insufficient funding for
investments in education quality.

The construction of complete primary schools has enabled many more children to go
to school. The proportion of complete schools rose from 48 percent in 2007/08 to 80
percent in 2015 of all primary schools. Nonetheless, an estimated 1,500 primary
schools are still incomplete, mostly in remote rural areas, forcing children to leave
school before finishing their primary education. Around 10,000 primary students drop
out from primary education every year.

The access to early childhood education is limited. The percentage of new entrants to
grade one having preschool experience in 2014/15 was 51.2 percent, with most of these
enrolments in urban areas. Access to early childhood education varies significantly
across districts, ranging from an enrolment rate of 18.6 percent in Toumlarn District to
80.2 percent in Sisattanak District, a 61.6 percentage difference (2013/14).

Secondary education gross graduation rates, which are much lower than gross
enrolment rates, indicate significant dropout during the secondary cycle. From 2012 to
2014, the lower secondary gross graduation rate increased to approximately 56 percent,

39
while the upper secondary gross graduation rate increased to around 34 percent. Non-
completion of secondary education may be due to the low demand from communities,
grade repetition in secondary school, which may lead to loss of interest and dropping
out, and difficulty in access to secondary schools. The government is expanding the
construction of secondary schools with dormitories for children and this has contributed
to increasing female enrolment in lower secondary and upper secondary.

Children from certain ethnic groups face particular challenges. Those from non-Lao Tai
communities face the difficulty of being educated in a language that is not their mother
tongue, which has a direct impact on their ability to learn the foundational skills required
to graduate from primary education. Despite the national policy on inclusive education,
children with disabilities face difficulties in attending school, even if they are able to
enrol at a school.

Although the Government has made significant investments in expanding non-formal


adult literacy programmes, progress has been slow. Lao PDR has a low literacy rate,
even among youth, possibly because of the large proportion of children not continuing
to secondary education. The number of learners within the non-formal education for the
lower secondary level has increased rapidly. However, the quality and efficiency of such
learning programs need improvement.

Quality education is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the
multiple goals.Learn more about Goal 4 and its targets.

40