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Background paper for efa monitoring report

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To conclude, Lao PDR has made important strides in achieving Education For All, particularly UPE, in an extremely challenging and resource- constrained context. The expansion of the system to put primary schools and teachers within in reach of very many more children is particularly impressive. Meanwhile, however, there is keen awareness of the many children, particularly ethnic minority children and girls, who do not yet have access, and who are unable to complete a full cycle of meaningful primary education, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and illiteracy. In order to sustain the progress that has been achieved, and build on lessons learned to make further breakthroughs, the above analysis suggests that the following policies, strategies and actions (all of which are either already being tested or implemented, or are under discussion), will prove particularly important:

  1. Prioritisation of actions that will ensure that all schools can offer either through a grade by grade approach of through five years in a multigrade system. Often, this needs a change of attitude (from a preoccupation with "grade" to a focus on learning outcomes) and improvement in teacher confidence and skills (in order to be able to teach in a mixed age and mixed ability context), rather more teachers or more classrooms. This is recognised in the plans to continue to expand multigrade schooling and to continue the incentive for multigrade teachers.

  1. In aiming to achieve UPE and redress current inequalities in the system, it may be that agreeing and defining a "minimum entitlement" for all children in terms of actual learning hours (ie the equivalent of five school years in an urban primary school), would prove useful. Once a school is able to offer this "five year entitlement, it would seem important to consider automatic promotion, in order to ensure more equitable distribution of teacher input. Currently this is under debate and discussion, with the WB and ADB concerned about system efficiency, but other agencies expressing a concern that automatic promotion might simply disguise poor quality teaching. Clearly, such a policy would need to apply only where "five grades" are on offer in some form, and in conjunction with quality improvements and clear measures of learning outcomes.

  1. Flexible time-tabling to fit with local harvest times (and perhaps to enable children to have their "five year" entitlement over a longer period). Decentralisation regulations already allow for re-scheduling school days and terms, and the need is widely recognised and acknowledged, so here the issue seems to be finding a way to actually support a number of districts to pilot this idea and monitor the effects.

  1. Seeking to better enforce regulations on the age of entry, both to achieve Universal completion as well as to monitor progress on UPE. This too, is recognised, but currently different strategies are being tried. The trailing in some districts of increasing the age of entry to seven years for ethnic minority children needs careful monitoring, and compared with the ELPS strategy of a "bridging year" (which could be for 5-6 or for 6-7 year olds) as an "equaliser" for ethnic minority children.

  1. All players seem agreed that further progress towards UPE in Lao PDR now requires a really serious focus on the ethnic minority and non- Lao speaking communities who lag behind. There seems to be a sense that this is now coming to top of agenda and there is a need to "seize the day". Better data on ethnic minorities is needed (disaggregated by gender as is already the practice) and the pending approval of the new classification should enable this. Projects trialling the use of community primary (and pre primary) teachers need to be monitored closely to assess their impact. Success is likely to lie with allowing enough flexibility (but also guidance and support) within the system to support local schools, officials and local teachers to develop and respond to a deeper understanding of local culture, realities and lifestyles. There may also be scope for the tertiary education sector to play a role, by developing social and cultural subjects and encouraging greater interest in, and understanding of, the ethnic cultures and languages represented in Laos. The issue of the quality of ethnic minority boarding schools might come under further discussion and debate, given that these are supported by the Government of Vietnam, who are now re-considering their own policy on these schools.

  1. Better attention to language issues and language learning. As an important part of addressing ethnic minority concerns, there would seem to be an urgent need for greater awareness of how children learn language and literacy, as well as piloting of effective and feasible strategies for improving language learning in the mother tongue and in Lao, including mother tongue literacy using the Lao script. What would seem essential is that good language teaching is seen as an extension of the principles of good teaching generally, and to focus on simple understandings and skills that minimally- qualified teachers in poorly resourced classrooms can actually use and apply. The recommendations of the PPA, and the growing concern about the "ethnic minority gap" bodes well for achieving more focus on this issue. A number of donors have signalled interest in funding good quality pilot studies.

  1. Piloting and monitoring school and locally -based approaches to improve quality. Responsibility needs to be taken at the "lowest" levels" to integrate different inputs to make an actual difference to the participation, completion and learning outcomes of children, focusing on their skills, understanding and competencies in enabling "Active" approaches to learning and supporting language learning, literacy and numeracy. This means a greater focus on whole school development and in-school support for teachers. It also includes engagement of schools in local cultures and realities, finding out how communities perceive education and what factors will attract children to school. Attention to ongoing monitoring of children's learning, as well as progress on the quality of provision as a whole, will also be important. This school- and community- based approach is very much being recognised within the major projects, significantly in the new phases of the WB project. Achieving this shift in focus will depend on wider progress on decentralisation, along with better mechanisms for sharing and coordination, the time scale for which should not be underestimated.

  1. Identifying communities of multiple disadvantage including poverty, high adult illiteracy and children are at risk of a "poor start" in learning, and seek to address these through targeted, "holistic" interventions. There is some discussion on this, and attempts at project/ programme level to integrate different interventions. It might to possible to coordinate more the expansion of appropriate ECCE and adult literacy programmes, linked to livelihoods strategies, and synergised as far as possible with the actions mentioned above on school improvement, language- learning and enhanced community participation in schools. Again, this will depend on progress on decentralisation, as well as cross- ministerial collaboration and aid coherence.

  1. Monitoring of key indicators, including net intake of 6-7 year olds, survival to Grade Five (completion) and competencies of Grade Five graduates and functional adult literacy, is planned by the MoE, based on recommendations from the UNESCO EFA review, and current approaches of the WB and others. It was felt that the recent experience of the literacy survey and the EFA Assessment, have helped to build up capacity for effective monitoring.

  1. Increased financing of education, linked to guidelines for decentralisation to enable better targeting, equity and internal efficiency. There is strong recognition of the need for improving systemic efficiency and financial management and an number of initiatives aimed at building capacity for this. In addition to offering direct support to these initiatives, the moves towards a "SWAp" will help if it means that more accurate costing can be achieved and donors reach closer agreement among themselves on what would be minimum requirements for increasing aid.

  1. Developing a coherent approach to balanced sector development, led by the Ministry of Education, in order to facilitate prioritisation and effective implementation of key strategies, based on a single, agreed, coherent and costed plan for the sector. This clearly lies behind all of the above and, as noted throughout, the foundations are now being laid for moving towards this approach, and away from the current project modality.

  1. Coherent support from the development partners Starting with working more together to bring together learnings around common themes, there will be opportunities to move from information- sharing towards deeper dialogue and coordination. Donors are now challenged to report and document work in such a way that can be used as a basis for policy analysis, prioritising and planning. A further challenge will be to find ways to prevent fragmentation when giving technical support locally in an increasingly decentralising system. Meanwhile, work in Laos will depend on further measures beyond Laos, within each donor agency, to increase the flexibility and responsiveness of their support. For the INGOs that work in education in Lao PDR, many of the same challenges apply. There is real opportunity for those that are able to move from a "project implementation" to a policy pilot" mentality, and to undertake work that, rather than being "scaled up" per se, can be used to trial new and creative approaches to improving educational access and quality in the many unique communities in Laos; generating learning to inform wider policy- making. In the absence of "civil society" structures and mechanisms, organisations that can support approaches to enabling community level monitoring of progress on EFA and sector development will prove particularly valuable.


ADB Education Sector Development Plan, 2000

ADB, Participatory Poverty Assessment Lao PDR (2000), State Planning Committee, James Chamberlain et al, ADB, Vientiane 2002.

Daovong Vongsay (SIDA) Discussion Paper: Uneven Social Sector Development, SIDA, Vientiane

Government of Lao PDR/ MoE The National Poverty Eradication programme- Education Sector, 2003- 2005

Holdsworth, Janet Seeking a Fine Balance: Lessons from Inclusive Education in Lao PDR SC-UK, SEAPRO, Bangkok, 2002

Howse, Geoff (Consultant for UNESCO, Bangkok) "Education For All" in Lao PDR: A Review of the Current Situation, 2002

Lally, Mike, Team Leader of BEGP (AusAid) Discussion Paper: Use of the Net Enrolment Ratio as an Indicator for Educational Development in Lao PDR, 2002

MoE Lao PDR National Literacy Survey MoE with UNICEF and UNESCO

MoE, EFA Year 2000 Assessment Final Country Report for Lao PDR, MoE Lao PDR, Vientiane (with UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, World Bank).

MoE, Lao PDR EFA Planning Status Report. 3rd MoE Development Partner Coordination Meeting, April 10th 2003 at MoE.

MoE, Lao PDR Ministry Of Education: Education Strategic Vision 2020, 2000

MoE, Ministry of Education Draft EFA Action Plan, Lao PDR, October 2002

MoE, Overheads from Consultative Workshop on the National Poverty Eradication Programme Education Sector. April 24th, 2003

MoE/ SC-UK, Mid Term Review of Lao Inclusive Education Project, May 2002

Noonan, Richard, Factsheet on Teacher Salaries: Table on Salary Supplements and Subsidies for 2001- 2002

Noonan, Richard, Glossary of Terms for Education Sector Development in Lao PDR, MoE, Vientiane.

Noonan, Richard, Government Expenditure Analysis Year 2000- 2001

Noonan, Richard, Recent Trends in the Supply of Primary and Secondary School Teachers in Lao PDR: progress and problems in the period 1999/2000 to 20001/2002, MoE April 2003

Power, Lorna (Save the Children UK) Language and Education Issues in Lao PDR, SC-UK, SEAPRO, Bangkok.

SC-Norway Report on Participatory Research on Communities' Views of Education, 2001

SC-UK Early Learning in Primary Schools (ELPS) Project Documents 2001-3

UNESCO, EFA Monitoring Report team, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2002 Education For All: Is the World on Track? UNESCO 2003

Very many thanks to all of those who gave their time to meet with me, or to communicate by phone or e-mail:

Informants met on visit to Laos in April 2003

Mr. Khamhoung Sacklokham, Director of General Education, MoE

Ms Bounmy Ounnarath, Department of General Education, MoE

Mr Kadam Vongdenane, Department of General Education, MoE

Dr. Richard Noonan, MoE (Consultant)

Dr. James Chamberlain, Consultant (Social Assessment and Policy) based in Laos, lead author of Participatory Poverty Assessment

Mr. Am Pathammavong (Project Officer) and Mr Hiroyuki Hattori (Programme Officer), UNICEF

Mr Daovong Vongsay, Senior Programme Officer, SIDA

Ms Yukiko Okada, Assistant Resident Representative, JICA

Mr. Serge Villas, Senior Programme Officer, EU

Ms. Barbara Keller Shuey, Consultant
Other Informants

Mr. Sheldon Shaeffer (Director), Mr. Dominique Altner and Mr. Toshiyuki Matsumoto. UNESCO Bangkok Asia- Pacific Regional Bureau for Education

Ms Norkham Souphanouvong and Ms Stella Murray, SC-UK, Lao PDR



Goal: Universal Access to and Completion of Quality Primary Education
Provisional Targets:

  • Increase NER to 95% by the year 2015 and 98% by 2020

  • Reduce repetition rate by 2% annually and drop out rate by 3%


Goal: Improve the Quality of Education and Learning Achievement
Provisional Targets:

  • Reduce repletion rate by 2% annually, and drop our rate by 3% annually


  • Upgrade skills of untrained/ unqualified teachers

  • Improve multigrade teaching in remote areas

  • Improve school supervision and learning and assessment systems

Goal: Expansion of Early Childhood Care and Education
Provisional Targets:

  • Expand pre-schools to increase the enrolment ratio to at least 5% annually


Goal: Equitable Access to Appropriate Learning and Life Skills Programmes for Youth and Adults
Provisional Targets:

  • Up to 50% of the newly literate continue complementary education to acquire basic education and vocational skills


  • Link illiteracy eradication with basic lifeskills and vocational training

  • Expand vocational training especially for disadvantaged populations

Goal: Improvement in Levels of Adult Literacy
Provisional Targets:

  • Increase literacy rate among 15-40 age group by 95% by 2020

  • Increase literacy rate among 15+ age group to 90% by 2020


  • Continue to expand literacy programme for adults, particularly for disadvantaged groups

  • Improve and expand the Community Learning Centres

Goal: Elimination of Gender Disparities in Primary and Secondary Education
Provisional Targets:

  • Increase primary NER for girls to 95% by 2020

  • Increase lower secondary NER for girls to 74% by 2020


  • Expand access for girls in ethnic minority areas through provision of new schools and community mobilisation

  • Provide qualitative inputs for multigrade education for minority children, especially girls.




37.3m $ (EQUIP II)

22 of the poorest districts

Teacher training and upgrading

Teacher status and motivation


TTCs- materials and facilities



21m $

School construction- community based contracting

Curriculum development

Text books

Teacher guides

Phase two focusing further on learning assessment and on Lao as a second language.

Headteacher and school administrator training


Policy development

Admin and management

WB and France


35m $

Building 700 primary schools in Vientiane Municipality and Vientiane Province



33 m $

Focuses on ethnic minority areas and on girls participation in 28 of the poorest districts in Laos

Philosophy that this will benefit boys too.

Main strategy is local recruitment, training and support of over 300 ethnic minority teachers, which will also involve recruitment of 50 new Pedagogy Advisers (school supervisors).

Multigrade teaching and teacher upgrading

Development of supplementary materials relevant to ethnic minority communities and training in their use.

Community participation in school management and pilots of subsidies for the poorest families who send their girls to school.

Research on gender issues and strategies in different minority communities.

ADB and Aus-Aid
Aus-Aid and SIDA support one linked component


5.4m $

Teacher upgrading and school clustering

Promoting lifeskills

Monitoring learning outcomes

Second Phase of a project to expand ECD opportunities in poor districts and communities.



6.4m Euro

Building multigrade schools

Training pedagogy advisers and administrators



Midday snacks to children in remote areas



Inclusion of disabled children in mainstream primary schools through a focus on active, "mixed ability" approaches and school- parent relationships.



Trialing a "pre-primary" bridging year for rural ethnic minority communities, focusing on mother tongue and second language learning and school- community links

Selection training and support of pre- primary teachers from the local community, especially ethnic minority women.



Quality improvement through support to extension of activities of UNICEF project (school clustering, teacher upgrading ECD), as well as child- to child and non formal primary education.



Adult literacy, especially Women's Literacy

Development of Community Learning Centres

Basic skills training and health education, now expanding to included technical/ vocational opportunities for primary school leavers, income generation and "lifeskills".

UNESCO, UNDP, Swiss Government, GTZ

1 From Richard Noonan, MoE

2 From interview with James Chamberlain, consultant

3 Richard Noonan, MoE 2003, and ADB 2000.

4 INGOs include SC-UK, SC-Norway, Ecoles Sans Frontiers, World Vision, World Education and Japanese Social Reconstruction


5. See summary of current projects in Annex A.

6 The EFA 2000 Assessment gives an improvement in NER from 62% in 1990 to 76.2%, (79.8%m, 72.4%f), while the WB (2000) gives a somewhat lower figure of 72.2%. The MoE's 2003 statistics suggest some further improvement to 79.8%, while UNICEF quoted 80.9%.

7 MoE Presentation for NPEP

8 Holdsworth 2002

9 Information from UNICEF

10 A recent discussion paper produced by the ADB- Aus Aid Basic Education Girls Project presents an interesting simulation, demonstrating that a statistical result of NER 71% can be obtained in a situation (like that common in rural Laos) where "only 80% of children attend school and of those who do, only 43 % complete primary school. That is, only 30% of children aged 6 to 10 years complete 5 years of primary school, the figure being inflated due to the age profile of entrants and the high repetition rates". The author urges attention to a wider set of measures to give a better indicator of progress towards "real" UPE

11 There is some project evidence (UNICEF, SC-Norway) that this qualification does make a difference to teachers' classroom performance, as well as bringing with it a salary incentive.

12 SC-Norway research found that some Hmong, in particular, had a traditional attitude to girls education since girls will soon marry into another family, and even the women who had been educated claimed that they had forgotten everything once they married

13 Early Learning in Primary Schools (MoE/ SC-UK)

14 Efficient" complete schools are those that enable the vast majority of children to enter at the correct age (6-7) and progress up through the grades and complete in five years. But "efficient" incomplete schools would churn out 9 year old Grade Two graduates. Since these children would have only a minute chance of retaining long term benefits from their experience, the schools would in fact have been very inefficient, while incomplete schools which allow children to repeat a few times might be 'efficient" if resulting in children retaining a basic level of skills on leaving school.

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