This article has been published in Enabling Education 2
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Title: Focus on Teacher Education
Author: Holdsworth, J C
Publisher: EENET
Date: 1998

Focus on teacher education . . .

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in South East Asia has a scattered and ethnically mixed population of 4.6 million people. Lao PDR has a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and education budget and therefore faces difficulty in providing high quality, yet low-cost education for its children. Active teaching methods were introduced into primary schools and kindergartens from 1990, with only minimal additional funding, resulting in a higher quality of education. This has been accomplished by Lao educationalists with a small amount of help, advice and financial resources from outside agencies, namely UNICEF, UNESCO and SCF(UK). Major changes to the initial teacher training and in-service training curriculum provide the key to this success.

Revision of the pre-school teacher training curriculum began in 1990. An SCF adviser worked intensively for the first two years with teacher trainers to improve teaching and learning by developing a child-centred approach in the demonstration kindergarten. Regular seminars followed classroom observation and practical teaching sessions. The teacher trainers observed each other and learned from each other. A teaching manual was developed for the use of trainers and teacher trainers and kindergarten teachers were given opportunities for study tours in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and England. Some key teacher trainers are studying English so that they can have access to international publications. A library and a toy and teaching aids workshop have been set up at the college.

“Sitting, eating and sleeping on the floor is usual in Lao houses, and in school it creates a much more relaxed and informal relationship between teachers and children, so encouraging interaction.”

Old style kindergartens could manage with only a piece of chalk, but the ‘learning through playing’ approach requires a minimum level of resources. The literature on pre-school education presumes a level of resourcing not possible in Laos. However the wealth of Lao culture and tradition ensures that Lao pre-schools are well-resourced. Children play imaginative games with sand, leaves and coconut shells; women are skilled weavers; the socialist system emphasises the duty of working together; communities provide support for education; and the rich Lao culture provides stories, poems, songs and dances for the kindergarten curriculum.

“School improvement may be the result of the introduction of integrated education, or provide the opportunity for integrated education to happen, but whichever route is taken, school improvement must take place. “

Providing educational opportunities for Lao children with disabilities is one part of the national goal of providing basic education for all children. The Integrated Education Programme began in one pilot primary school in 1993 and by 1996 it was extended to 23 primary schools and 11 pre-schools in four provinces. Lao has no special schools for disabled children which is an enormous advantage for the Ministry of Education as it builds a system which reaches out to all children. The reform of teaching methodology and teacher training, together with new more relevant curriculum already in use in grades 1-3, has paved the way for integration. Integrated education benefits all children in the school because the teachers have to be more creative and innovative to be able to solve teaching problems in the classroom. Guidelines ensure that integrated classes should not exceed 45 children and that there should be no more than 3 children in each class who are classified as having either a disability or failing persistently. It is only when the school is working efficiently that the additional task of providing for children with disabilities and difficulties in learning can be accomplished successfully. School visits by the national implementation team are an important part of the initial teacher training. These visits supplement the training provided in workshops and help foster new attitudes and new skills by relating the training to real children, real problems and real solutions.

The experience of the Lao Integrated Education Programme has shown that with careful planning, implementation, monitoring and support, and by using all available resources, the twin goals of improving the quality of education for all and integrating disabled children can go hand in hand.

Contact person: Ms Janet Holdsworth . SCF . Box 1146 . Vientiane . Lao . PDR . Fax: +856 21 21 62 85

Useful documents on the Lao programme include:

  • Management of the Integrated Education Programme: Guidelines (1997)
  • Changing practice in pre-schools from didactic to active learning with low resources in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic by Vatthana Manoroth in SEAPRO Forum 1997
  • Experiences in Provision for Children with Disabilities using the Kindergarten Sector. Janet Holdsworth & Phannaly Thepphavongsa in First Steps, UNESCO
  • The Uses of Managed Experience and the Limitations of Training. Janet Holdsworth, SEAPRO

Contact person: Ms Janet Holdsworth . SCF . PO Box 1146 . Vieniane . Lao PDR . Fax: +856 21 21 62 85 . Email: