There has been great progress in primary school enrolment over the past five years with national figures showing an increase from 91.6% in 2009 to 97% in 2011. However, drop-out rates at primary level remains high, particularly in more remote and rural areas. The number of children completing grade 5 is significantly off track to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 2, likely to only achieve 75% against a target of 95% by 2015.
High rates of drop-outs suggest that children from different ethnic groups are struggling with lessons taught in Lao, a language that is not their mother tongue. In addition, there is a large gender divide across the country, with many girls – especially those in rural areas – staying at home to care for younger siblings while more boys continue to attend school.
Despite a nationwide oversupply of teachers by 20% for basic education this surplus is contained within the urban and peri-urban areas while the remote, rural areas continue to face a shortage of teachers. This further disadvantages poorer, more remote ethnic communities. Of the 10,553 villages country-wide, only 45% have schools that go up to grade 3, and 20% of communities have no schools at all.
Save the Children’s education programmes focus on improving the access and quality of learning for Lao students from preschool through primary school. Our four primary objectives are:
- Access to at least five years of improved primary schooling.
- Quality of primary education improved yearly.
- School management has accurate information and provides educational and administrative support.
- Children have the capacity to contribute to quality education in a protected environment.
Save the Children has created a a unique model that brings communities and schools together to support children’s learning. By supporting the training of ethnic female teachers in rural villages we have joined forces with communities to help build schools and empower the villages to contribute to quality education in a safe environment.
In 2009, Save the Children in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) launched two innovative projects called School Quality Improvement (SQIP) and Early Learning in Primary School (ELPS) worth $8M USD to help support the government to achieve Millenium Development Goals (MDG) 2 & 3 by 2015. The program was designed to ensure that more than 100,000 children of 10 poorest districts in Bolikhamxay, Luang Prabang and Sayaboury provinces, especially those marginalized by poverty, remoteness, and /or disabled, girls and ethnic groups, have equitable rights to quality basic education in an inclusive and protective environment.
The ELPS project helps improve access to pre-primary education in vulnerable areas by establishing pre-primary schools with the support of communities and local education bureaus. Save the Children helps to raise the number of pre-primary classes by supporting communities to build attached preschool classrooms and provides the funding for training teachers to run the classes. The program also includes a 30-week innovative training course designedfor newly recruited pre-primary school students from targeted rural villages to learn the fundamental skills, techniques, and theory on teaching early childhood education. In return, selected candidates have agreed to return to teach in their villages for a minimum of three to five years.
In 2012, about 2270 children enrolled in pre-primary school and nearly 3,000 children gained access and attented primary school ( gr.1-5)as a result of SQIP and ELPS projects. The net enrollment rate for Save the Children target primary schools increased from 92.4% in 2009 to 95.5% in 2012.