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EDU Update

Government efficiency stressed at Laos forum

THE Ministry of Education and Sports hosted its annual two-day meeting in Thalat, Vientiane recently to discuss ongoing and future cooperation with international non-government organisations (INGOs).

The main objective of the meeting was to share lessons and experiences in implementing various projects in the education and sports sectors between Lao education officials and representatives from INGOs.

During the meeting the possibility of establishing better coordination processes to facilitate improved collaboration in the future was also discussed.

The meeting was chaired by Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Ms Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun. There are 35 INGOs working in the 18 provinces of Laos. In 2013, the INGO sector contributed $US19 million towards improving education in Laos.

Participants also discussed ways to improve coordination processes between central, provincial and district officials.

The aim was for all sectors involved to be able to improve the implementation and monitoring of various projects.

The participants highlighted the importance of efficient government processes, including the preparation of visas, memorandums of understanding and project progress reports.

At the meeting, representatives from Plan International, the Aid Children with Disability Association, Childfund, Spirit of Soccer, Assemblies of God and IV-Japan presented the challenges and progress of their projects for 2013.

Through these presentations government officials were able to learn more about the technical aspects of project implementation.

At the end of the meeting, participants were satisfied with the cooperation opportunities and the prospect of stronger partnerships in the future.

Rural schools lag: Laos

The Ministry of Education and Sports' plan to achieve Education for All targets by 2015 could be hindered by the fact that available education statistics for several rural areas remain limited to kindergarten and primary school.

The ministry's Primary and Pre-school Education Department director general Dr Mithong Souvanvixay said recently that statistics presented in education reports for schoolchildren and enrolment studies covered only primary education and hence, a very specific and targeted group of five-year-olds.

Statistics concerning teaching, however, are believed to cover both kindergarten and primary schools.

"The ministry's strategy now is to progressively increase participation in primary school and beyond in order to improve children's integration into and achievements within primary education," he said.

Dr Mithong also commented on the need for pre-primary education, which the ministry hopes to establish and support in the future. The new policy direction is based on a revised study conduct?ed by the ministry and also upon the results of a feasibility study.

In order to achieve Education for All and education goals by 2015, Dr Mithong said the ministry would focus on increasing the number of state-run nursery schools and kindergartens as well as improving their access to teaching and learning resources.

The plans also include extending school buildings, holding training courses for rural teachers and providing further school supplies for rural ethnic children.

The ministry is expected to send 8,000-9,000 teachers to work in rural areas around the country by 2015, because the low standard of education in remote areas is related to the lack of teachers, low teacher skills, and a lack of resources.

Dr Mithong also noted that the private sector would play a role in the education revolution.

"We need to encourage the private sector to open nursery schools and kindergartens to support the government's initiatives," he said.

Laos has seen a slow but continuous increase in school enrolment rates over the past 15 years. The gender parity index has gradually moved towards greater equality, with boys and girls enjoying the same education opportunities.

However, school attendance among rural ethnic girls remains low, according to the department.

From 2007 to 2013, enrolment in early childhood care and education caregiver training increased from 50 to 95 per cent, according to the department.

Government policy is encouraging private sector involvement in education opportunities and development by simplifying procedures and making conditions for entry and sustainability more pronounced. - Vientiane Times


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