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In Lao PDR there are 11,640 villages. In approximately 70% of them, children have access to some grades (but not all) of primary school. Among these schools, 64.2% of primary schools are incomplete, consisting of grade 1, grades 1-2, grades 1-3, or up to grade 4. Only 35.8% of the villages have access to a school offering complete primary school education, mostly in large villages close to the roads. In provinces with large ethnic populations, more than 60% of the schools offer incomplete primary education.

In remote villages of ethnic minority districts, most schools were one-teacher school, offering first grade primary education. Low access to complete primary schools together with the quality problems appear to contribute significantly to the high percentage of children that have never been to school and those who have been to school but who dropped out and don’t have the opportunity to finish their primary education.

As with other areas in education, the data on the location of schools and teachers in the Lao PDR is quite limited. Table 19 presents data on the location of primary schools by province.

The table also has information on the total number of primary schools and the number of incomplete primary schools. Finally, it includes a column for the percentage of villages without any primary school. Given the size of the country and the state of the roads, the presence of an incomplete school or the absence of any school is likely to be an absolute constraint of the children in many village to finish (or even start) primary education.

Table 16: The Location of Primary Schools, by Province




Province


% ethnic minorities


Number of villages

Number of primary schools
Number of complete primary schools Number of incomplete primary schools % Temporary School Buildings* % of villages without schools
Vientiane Municipality

7.4%

486

468

359

109

31%

4%

Phongsaly

95.7%

663

380

54

326

85%

43%

Luangnamtha

97.7%

487

234

43

191

81%

52%

Oudomxay

90.9%

804

433

88

345

71%

46%

Bokeo

86.6%

397

167

55

112

68%

58%

Luangprabang

71.4%

1214

841

233

608

60%

31%

Huaphanh

70.0%

925

547

164

383

70%

41%

Xayaboury

81.0%

576

482

265

217

59%

16%

Xiengkhuang

55.7%

505

418

115

303

69%

17%

Vientiane Province

59.8%

498

423

229

194

32%

15%

Borikhamxay

59.8%

462

304

99

205

70%

34%

Khammuane

40.6%

874

513

177

336

65%

41%

Savannakhet

42.5%

1576

1096

422

674

54%

30%

Saravane

40.0%

731

423

93

330

70%

42%

Sekong

91.4%

278

115

22

93

86%

59%

Champasack

15.2%

896

745

319

426

22%

17%

Attapeu

63.1%

188

174

41

133

60%

7%

Xaysomboon S.R.

80.6%

137

103

41

62

68%

25%

Source: NSC Population Census and National EFA 2000, MOE 1999. *PES Annual Report 1996, Most of Incomplete Primary Schools are temporary buildings.

The data does suggest that as the percentage of ethnic minority population rises, the number of villages without schools or with incomplete schools also rises. It is important to interpret this result with the proper perspective—it by no means implies that the government is ignoring the needs of ethnic minorities. It may reflect the fact that ethnic minorities live in more remote and rural areas than the Lao-speaking population does.

It is to be underlined that all the schools do not offer the five grades of primary schooling and that some schools are therefore incomplete. If the school offers only the first 2 grades (28.6%), it is likely that students that registered in grade 2 will put an end to their schooling without ever reaching grade 3, since the nearest school offering grade 3 is usually too far away. In this case, it is the school system that fails, not the students who gives up. This case is different from that where grade 3 exist in the school and where the student decides to put an end to his/her studies.

It is therefore of interest to document, within the population those who "drop-out" from school in the course of primary education, the proportion of a) drop-out in the case where the child could not have extended his/her education due to the incompleteness of the schooling system, and b) drop-out in circumstances where the child could have prolonged his/her education. Table 17 : shows the distribution of the schools according to the grades offered in 1996-97.

Table 17: Percentage of schools by grade

School offering only Grade 1

School offering up to Grade 2

School offering up to Grade 3

School offering up to Grade 4

School offering the 5 Grade

Schools which data are not reliable

Total

821

2097

1395

424

2551

30

7318

11.2%

28.6%

19.1%

5.8%

34.8%

0.4%

100%

Access to lower secondary education is even more restricted. Lower secondary schools are sparsely distributed across rural districts, and children have to travel further from their village to attend the secondary school. The cost of transportation, lack of boarding facilities, and the opportunity cost for children in school and not working make it costly for the family to send their children to lower secondary school. Poverty remains an obstacle that limits the opportunity of those children who wish to attend secondary school.

6.2.1.7 Core Indicator 9 and 10: Percentage of primary school teachers having the required academic qualifications, and who are certified to teach according to national standards.

The Teacher Training Department defined teachers with academic qualifications are those teacher graduates of all system and those untrained teachers with level of education of lower secondary and above. Those teachers that are certified to teach are teachers who have gone through the 8+3 teacher training system, which is the current national standard for primary school teachers.

Table 18 : Percentage of primary school teachers having required academic qualifications and certified to teach for the whole country 1991-98.

Percentage of primary school teachers Gender Parity Index
With academic
qualification (1) Certified to teach (2)

(1)

(2)

1997-98

86.6

37.4

1.1

1.5

1996-97

88.5

34.7

1.1

1.5

1995-96

87.1

32.6

1.1

1.6

1994-95

85.0

30.1

1.2

1.6

1993-94

84.8

27.3

1.2

1.7

1992-93

82.4

25.5

1.2

1.7

1991-92

79.1

20.9

1.2

1.9

The table shows that there in an increasing percentage of certified teachers every year. The gender parity index shows that there are more females in the teaching force at primary level both with academic qualifications and certified to teach, but it tends to decline each year since 1991, that is from 1.9 to 1.5 in 1998.

At provincial level the trends are similar, but in high ethnic population provinces, the percentage of certified teachers in creased significantly. Table 19 : shows the progression of certified teachers in some selected high ethnic population provinces. Phongsaly, Louangnamtha, Sekong and Attapeu certified teachers have increased significantly but the parity index also decreased . For Phongsaly the parity index for certified teachers decreased from 5.0 to 1.6. Louangnamtha and Attapeu have similar trends. Sekong, Bokeo and Saravanh remains more or less the same but in Oudomxay the parity index increased from 1.8 to 4.3. Overall trends of the parity index indicated that the number of female teachers are declining compare to the male teachers. This may due to the fact that fewer girls enrolled in the teacher training schools compare to the previous years, but still there are more female than male teachers in the primary education teaching staff. Though the parity index throughout the provinces are higher than 1, the trend seems to be decreasing.

Table 19: Comparison of the percentages of primary school teachers who are certified to teach according to national standards in selected high ethnic population provinces (1991-92 and 1997-98)

1991-92

1997-98

With academic Certified Gender Parity Index With academic Certified Gender Parity Index
qualification (1) to teach (2)

(1)

(2)

qualification (1) to teach (2)

(1)

(2)

Phongsaly TOTAL (MF)

70.9

5.9

1.4

5.0

72.3

26.1

1.3

1.6

Male (M)

58.3

1.8

59.4

18.3

Female (F)

80.2

8.9

79.3

30.2

Louang Namtha TOTAL (MF)

55.3

13.0

1.4

2.9

75.3

31.6

1.3

1.4

Male (M)

50.0

8.3

69.3

27.7

Female (F)

67.8

24.1

88.2

40.1

Oudomxay TOTAL (MF)

46.3

6.8

1.7

1.8

51.5

12.0

1.7

4.3

Male (M)

39.9

5.8

44.8

7.0

Female (F)

69.6

10.6

75.6

29.8

Bokeo TOTAL (MF)

64.1

5.9

1.3

2.4

74.5

13.3

1.2

2.5

Male (M)

60.5

4.5

71.8

9.8

Female (F)

76.6

10.9

83.0

24.1

Saravane TOTAL (MF)

82.5

23.9

1.2

1.9

81.5

35.9

1.1

1.6

Male (M)

76.8

18.4

78.1

29.3

Female (F)

93.9

34.8

87.9

47.9

Sekong TOTAL (MF)

68.9

10.1

1.3

1.2

63.1

32.1

1.5

1.3

Male (M)

62.7

9.6

53.5

28.8

Female (F)

83.3

11.1

79.6

37.8

Attapeu TOTAL (MF)

67.1

8.2

1.5

2.4

93.0

33.9

1.0

1.1

Male (M)

58.1

5.7

92.6

32.7

Female (F)

87.3

13.7

93.8

35.9

Source: EFATAB91&97, MOE 1999

Teachers

Perhaps most important "input" in education is the teachers. Teachers themselves require training to be effective with their students; they should have a solid grasp of the subject that they are teaching and of techniques to impart this knowledge. In an ethnically diverse country like the Lao PDR, language can be an important constraint for students to learn, especially at an early age. Table 20 shows the number of teachers by language family in the various levels of the school system. In addition to grouping the teachers by ethnic groups, the table shows the number of "untrained" teachers nationally. These are teachers that do not have the formal training needed to be a teacher but who work as teachers.

Table 20: Teachers, by Linguistic Group




School Level

Tai-Kadai

Hmong-Yao & Sino-Tibetan

Austro-Asiatic

National

Untrained

Total

Female

Total

Female

Total

Female

Total*

Female*

Total

Female

Pre-School

1,999

1,997

36

36

90

90

2,169

2,166

375

374

Primary

21,870

10,255

1,193

386

3,230

641

26,382

11,338

6,186

1,742

Lower Secondary

7,391

3,010

198

80

279

57

7,889

3,152

129

35

Upper Secondary

2,963

1,150

45

15

134

55

3,151

1,222

47

17

Vocational

251

75

1

0

3

0

255

75

146

48

Technical

569

154

9

2

11

0

667

203

305

93

Tertiary Education

809

250

16

5

15

1

958

292

297

63

Source: MOE Annual Bulletin 1997-98.

At all levels of education, the overwhelming majority of teachers come from the Tai-Kadai. Even at the primary level, more than 80% of the teachers are from Tai-Kadia language family. For 1997-98, 23.4% of the teachers have not gone through any teacher training system. Most of these teachers are found in rural remote areas, this figure has not included contracted teachers and most of them are graduate students from lower and upper secondary schools who have not undertaken any teacher training courses at all.

Figure 10 shows the distribution of untrained teachers by districts. Most of the mountainous ethnic districts have very high percentage of untrained teachers (between 30-70%). In contrast with the districts on the lowlands along the Mekong river and its tributaries, these district have considerably low percentage of untrained teachers (below 30%).

 

The misallocation of teachers to schools has been a problem that the government has tried continuously to solve. The 1998-99 school statistics have shown great disparities of student teacher ratios across the schools throughout the country (Table 21a). The student teacher ratio ranges from 4:1 in some schools (Kiedtisack Primary School) in the capital city to 129:1 in ethnic minority one-teacher schools (Kongtakun primary school, Paksong District, Champassak Province). Among the 511 schools where the student-teacher ratio is over 50:1, many of them are ethnic minority schools, and mostly are multi-grade classes with one teacher only.

The difficulty in matching teacher supply to teacher demand stems from the quota system currently used for selecting teacher trainees. However, it is clear that the current determination of quota places for teacher training is not based on appropriate criteria.

Table 21a: Student Teacher Ratios, School Year 1998-1999

Student Teacher Ratio

Number of Schools

Proportion

<10

52

0.6%

>=10<20

1,276

15.7%

>=20<30

3,127

38.4%

>=30<=40

2,390

29.4%

>40<=50

784

9.6%

>50<=65

367

4.5%

>65

144

1.8%

Source: MOE School Database 1998-99

Insufficient quota placements for teacher trainees are provided to remote districts with high minority populations. The criteria used for the determination of quota placements does not correlate to educational needs (existing NER). Though they have been provided quota placements, very few ethnic minority students were qualified or were able to make their way through. This reflects the historical fact of lacking access and quality of basic education in those areas.

Where supportive policy and appropriate incentives have been addressed, results have shown significant improvement, for example, the in-service teacher trainees in NTU project, teachers were given higher status and a salary boost when they accomplished their training courses. Still the policy is inconsistent, once the teachers have been upgraded, and have their salary increased, in the end they gradually lose interest and their motivation drops. This is due to the fact that these newly upgraded teachers were not any more supervised by the NTUC trainers and were left to the DEB to supervise. There have been great efforts in setting up school clusters but again incentive programs for these upgraded teachers needs to be considered to allow them to advance their teaching career, and should not cease at the end of the project.

On the 21st December 1998, the Prime Minister issued a decree on the increase of salary for remote rural teachers. The increase of 15-25% based on the remoteness and difficulty of the areas. It is of interest to follow up with the impact of this policy.

There has been a significant increase in government investment and foreign assistance in the education sector, but still a large portion of the budget is forwarded to infrastructure compared to the technical and professional support budget at the grass-root level

The MOE has had to resort to using volunteer teachers who have some level of education or little teaching experience and training, or students who dropped out of the general education system or those who did not have the opportunity to further their education. As there are no alternatives, the local authorities have had to recruit volunteers as best they could see fit, normally those who have had the most education in their communities. Most important are those willing to take on the job and who have the responsibility to educate the people in their communities. Although they may have a strong will and commitment, they still lack professional qualities. These teachers then become the target group for the NTU program, which drops back into the endless loop of training untrained teachers.

The problem of untrained teachers is likely to be resolved by investing more effort in expanding the in-service teacher-training network. To date, the in-service teacher training is playing an important role in supporting the basic education system in remote areas. Based on the report of the Provincial Education Service (PES), parents in the school communities suggested that many of the upgraded teachers trained in the NTU program perform better than some of their counterpart pre-service teachers trained from the teacher training colleges. Though there have been positive outcomes, there are also constraints that prevent the quality of the training and supervision. These untrained teachers have different backgrounds of education, thus making training very difficult.

According to the MOE Annual Bulletin 1997-98, statistics have shown that the level of education within the untrained teachers differs; that is, 35.5% have only had primary education, 7.5% did not even finish primary education, 43.9% have had lower secondary education, and only 13.2% have had upper secondary education. Teachers at the lower education level are mostly ethnic minority teachers teaching in remote ethnic villages. Therefore, nearly half of them have had some primary education.

These teachers themselves were untrained and recruited without any preparation to provide primary education to the children. This situation is common in ethnic minority villages. Most of these teachers are local villagers in the communities who have some knowledge of Lao language and have been familiarized with the curriculum that they have been taught previously at school. The majority of tem teach Grade 1, which is the most critical school year for the children. Worst than that, some of these teachers have to deal with multi-grade teaching that requires a lot of pedagogical skills.

More worrisome is the lack of ethnic minority women teachers. This is probably an extension of the vicious circle mentioned above for ethnic minority teachers; few girls in school leads to few women teachers.

6.2.1.8 Core Indicator 12, 13, 1: Repetition rates by grade, Survival rate to grade 5 and Coefficient of efficiency

The Progressive Promotion policy has impact on the promotion rate and reduced the repetition rate significantly from 30.1 in 1991-92 to 22.6 in 1996-97. Therefore, the Coefficient of Internal Efficiency have risen from 42.8 in 1991-92 to 51.5, in 1996-97. It is to be noted that the drop-out rates hasn’t improve much at all and remains quite the same for all the school years since 1991-92, (except for 1993-94). The survival rate has made some gains from 47.7 in 1991-92 to 56.6 in 1996-97 (except for 1993-94 where it dropped to 42).

Figure 11: Progression of Coefficient of Internal Efficiency in Primary Education 1991-92 to 1996-97

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