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Schools for Asia



Nonhmixai Village


Lao People’s Democratic Republic has made real strides in increasing access to education in recent decades: enrolment in primary school now stands at over 96 per cent nationwide. But the country still has a long way to go. One in ten children still never receive any formal schooling and among those who do go to school, repetition and dropout rates are some of the highest in Asia: only 71 per cent of students who enrol in grade one go on to complete the full five years of primary school. These figures are even lower in rural areas and marginalised communities. At issue is school quality. Says Mr Kheune Xaysanavongxay, Deputy Director of the Department of Pre-school and Primary Education: “Ensuring access has been relatively easy compared to ensuring the quality of education our children receive.” In 2005 UNICEF worked closely with Mr Kheune and the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) to pilot its cross-cutting model for quality basic education, the ‘Child Friendly Schools’ approach, in three schools in the country. Four years later Lao PDR was home to over 1,200 child friendly schools and the model had been nationally endorsed under a new name: ‘Schools of Quality’. In 2012 the more than 2000 Schools of Quality provided an evidence base for the development of the national Education Quality Standards, which the MoES is in the process of rolling out nation-wide. These aim to make every school in the country a School of Quality by 2020. UNICEF has supported the Government every step of the way, providing technical and financial support to changes in the curriculum and direct support to the roll out in 40 Districts. In the process, it has become clear that providing teaching and learning materials and training school directors, teachers, and community leaders in the child-centred approach is

not enough. If those tasked with overseeing the implementation of the new standards at the school level—namely education staff at the provincial and District levels—lack the knowledge and skills to implement the roll out, the government’s ambitious plans will not be fully realised. Most have been recruited into their positions with little or no experience in education administration and management. They lack not only essential skills in planning and budgeting, but also the background to inform effective teaching and learning. This has a direct impact not only on the state of school facilities under their care, but also on the quality of instruction, the availability of teaching and learning materials, the involvement of the community—and learning outcomes for tens of thousands of students. In the following pages you will meet 11-year-old Loy Luangboliboune. Loy is a second grade student in Phalanxai District, one of three lowperforming Districts where UNICEF is concentrating its efforts on building the capacity of the District education staff. The District’s numbers speak for themselves: less than 89 per cent of children are enrolled in primary school; almost 16 per cent of children repeat the first grade and more than 36 per cent drop out after their first year of school. Just 32 per cent of children complete the full five years of primary school, and far fewer continue on to secondary school. By supporting local education authorities so that they can provide schools and school communities with the support they need, the nationwide implementation of the Education Quality Standards for Primary Schools will have its intended effect—transforming learning outcomes for Loy and thousands of others across the country whose educational achievements will ultimately form the foundation of Lao’s future success. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 3


My name is Loy Luangboliboune. I am 11 years old and I am in the second grade. I live in Nonhmixai Village, Phalanxai District, Savannakhet Province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. My father is a farmer and daily labourer and my mother is a housewife. I have two older brothers who live in town with my grandfather and go to school. I also have four younger sisters and a younger brother—he refuses to go to s chool. Last year I couldn’t go to school because I had to help my mother take care of my sisters. I am so happy to be back this year. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 5

05:53 After

I wake up I wash the dishes...

06:03 ...and

wash my face. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 7


with my sisters...

“Last year, I was really unhappy not to be in school. I wanted to be with all of my friends in school. I also felt guilty. I wanted to learn. I wanted to do my best and be in school, but I couldn’t. Looking after my little sisters was a really tiring job. The youngest cries a lot. Sometimes she stops when I hold her. Sometimes not. When my mom was away, I had to take care of all of them by myself. Once the youngest fell down. Luckily, my parents didn’t beat me. My mom usually just shouts. She says ‘If we beat them they always get sick.’”

06:14 Then 8 UNICEF Laos

I get dressed...


06:36 ...and

leave for school.

06:41 I

stop to pick up my cousin Koung, who lives nearby. I wait while she finishes her chores. She makes sticky rice for her family...

10 UNICEF Laos

06:46 ...and

cooks breakfast for her brother. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 11

06:58 We

walk to school. It can be scary walking on the road. One day I was almost hit by a car. There is a shortcut, but you have to go through the forest. We’re afraid of ghosts—my friend saw one there once—so we don’t go that way.

07:06 On

the way we meet our friends. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 13

Do you clean the classroom every day? “Yes. We learned to do it in first grade.” Does the teacher ask you to do it? “No. If she asked us we wouldn’t do it!” —Koung, Loy’s cousin

07:13 Some of the students pick up the trash in the schoolyard. Koung and I cut small branches with leaves from the field behind the school and help to sweep the classroom.

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07:33 It

is the boys’ job to put the chairs up on the tables and the girls’ job to do the sweeping.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 15

“To make this a School of Quality we must improve the environment, both inside and out. If we start with the outside, people passing—both children and parents—will see the school and say ‘I want to go!’ On the inside we need to hang some things on the walls, and make some repairs. We need latrines, more classrooms and more teachers so that we can add more grades and the children of Nonhmixai can complete primary school in their own village.” —Phommachanh Piaxayasane, Head of Pre-School and Primary Education Unit, Education and Sports Bureau Phalanxai District

16 UNICEF Laos

07:13 We

play outside until school starts.

Nonhmixai Incomplete Primary School Constructed: 1983 Grades offered: 1, 2, 3 Number of classrooms: 2 Number of teachers: 2 Number of students: grade 1: 35; 20 girls, 15 boys grade 2: 10; all girls grade 3: 15; 5 girls, 10 boys Facilities: water, but no latrines Schools for Asia Loy’s story 17

ENVIRONMENTS FOR LEARNING “I would love to have a more beautiful classroom. If I could, I would put up banners with slogans, alphabets and numbers. I would also put the students’ work on the walls. But it won’t stay there. I used to produce visual aids for the classroom and I would hang them on the walls. After school the older children come to play here and the doors to the classroom don’t lock. They came in, took them off the walls and ripped them up. Since then I haven’t produced any new ones or hung anything on the walls. We tried to fix a lock on the door several times, but it wasn’t strong enough. Right now it still can’t be locked.” —Velmani Sipaseud, Head Teacher

“This District faces a number of obstacles in implementing Schools of Quality, but among the biggest is human resources, both at the school and District levels. The quality of teachers is poor. Most have only a lower secondary education and were trained on the job; School principals are overstretched and lack the management skills they need to do their job; and the District level staff are supposed to support the teachers and principals in doing their work, but they don’t have the skills to do so. It is good that UNICEF is putting its focus not on supporting individual schools, but on strengthening the capacity of the staff at the District level. When all of us can perform our given roles to the best of our ability, we will be able to help improve the performance of the teachers and principals. When they manage the schools well and teach well, the parents will be more motivated to send their children to school. As a result, our schools will become quality places for children to learn.” —Phonexay Vilaysack, Director, Education and Sports Bureau, Phalanxai District

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08:13 The

first grade sits on one side of the room and the second grade sits on the other. The teacher also splits the chalkboard into two. She writes our work on one side and their work on the other.

08:16 “Sometimes I bring my

baby to school,” says Velmani. “Usually he stays home with his grandparents, but if they are sick or away he comes with me.”

“In Phalanxai, the quality of instruction varies from place to place. Thirty-two of our 62 schools are incomplete, so they offer only grades one and two or one, two and three. In these schools, the quality of instruction is often not very good. There aren’t enough


children to warrant a teacher for every

“One of the main challenges I face in the classroom is multigrade teaching. It isn’t easy. Some days, if everyone attends, I have 45 students in the classroom. It is too many. When I teach grade one, grade two doesn’t have much to do so they are playing and disrupting the classroom. Then grade one does the same when I teach grade two. A few months ago it was worse. I was the only teacher so I was also teaching grade three. As a result, the students didn’t really understand the material they were supposed to be learning. I felt so discouraged—and tired. Sometimes, I have to explain things again and again and again to make sure everyone understands and I have to raise my voice. In my teacher training we had a few lectures on multigrade teaching and the teacher gave us a copy of the multigrade manual to read, but we didn’t have any actual practice. “If I could change things? I would have a nice school building and I would have more teachers so I didn’t have to teach a multigrade classroom. I would also like to have some more training.” —Velmani Sipaseud, Head Teacher

grade level, so most—52 schools—use multigrade teaching. Many teachers only completed grade nine and then had on the job teacher training. They have little or no training in how to teach multiple grades in the same classroom. It is difficult for them to manage the children and to focus on each grade, much less on individual students. Our District staff can help them a little, but we too need a better understanding of the skills involved in multigrade teaching. This is not something the government currently has the capacity to provide. But UNICEF does. That is why the support they give to Districts like ours is key.” —Phommachanh Piaxayasane, Head of Pre-School and Primary Education Unit, Education and Sports Bureau, Phalanxai District

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 21

08:38 The

teacher helps the first grade...

22 UNICEF Laos

“As a Pedagogical Advisor, it is my job to provide support to the teachers in the classroom—to check their lesson plans, observe them teaching and provide feedback. I also conduct trainings and workshops to give teachers new skills. I used to be a teacher so I know it can be a difficult job. One of the most common challenges I see is that many schools practice multigrade teaching and the teachers have difficulty planning their lessons. I never taught multigrade or had any proper training in how to do it.

08:38 ..then

she helps us.

I learned the method I recommend to the teachers—using two sides of the chalkboard and teaching first to one grade and then to the other—from my

“The Pedagogical Advisor visits the school about three times a year. When he is here he observes the class and gives me advice on how to improve my teaching. His suggestions usually help. But I don’t always agree with them. For example, last time he came, he observed me doing a drawing lesson. He said it was a bad idea to allow the children to draw from their imaginations. He thought it would be better if they had to draw real objects that were sitting in front of them. In my opinion, when you talk about drawing it can be free.” —Velmani Sipaseud, Head Teacher

predecessor in this job. I would really like to be able to give these teachers more strategies. Maybe we could visit schools that do multigrade really well and share experience with them. I want to know what good multigrade teaching looks like.” —Sengdavone Souan-Outhai, Pedagogical Advisor, Education and Sports Bureau, Phalanxai District

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 23

“I’d say I am an average student. I feel like I could have done better in school this year. I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to my studies. And I don’t do enough homework. But I get tired of copying from the textbook. At the beginning of the year, the teacher used to write on the board and we would copy that into our notebooks. Later, when we got better at reading and writing, we started copying from the textbooks during class. It’s boring. If I don’t finish at school, I have to finish at home. Sometimes I forget to do it.” —Loy

How does UNICEF help? UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) as it implements the national Quality Education Standards in primary schools throughout the country. It does this by: • Supporting the development of early grade literacy teaching and learning materials, especially for children who are learning Lao as a second language. • Providing training in the ‘Schools of Quality’ model to MoES staff in four Provinces and 40 Districts. This includes training for both administrators and teachers at the primary and secondary level. Specific trainings will focus on building capacity in multi-grade teaching, school management and leadership. • Providing child-friendly water and sanitation facilities in approximately 480 primary schools across the country and introducing hygiene promotion activities within school routines. • Distributing grade one and two textbooks to all students nation-wide accompanied by the required teacher guidebooks.

24 UNICEF Laos

08:58 The

teacher calls on different students to present their answers in front of the class. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 25

“As the Village Chief, it is my responsibility to follow up on teacher and student absences,” says Kit Keobounhome. “I go into school once a week to talk with the children. They tell me if the teachers are not in school every day. This is really important because if they are not here on a regular basis, the students will not be here regularly either. Last year, one of the teachers missed three days during the harvest. I went to see them. I said, ‘You are a salaried government employee. You must do your duty.’ I have the authority to report them to the District office, but I prefer to handle things in a softer way.”


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT “The Village Education Development Committee (VEDC) is responsible for taking care of the school building and organizing repairs. This school is 30 years old. During that time the community worked together to change the roof, add the doors and build the fence. In the future I want this to be a nice school, with toilets and attractive school grounds. If children have a good experience here, they will want to continue to come to school.” —Kit Keobounhome, Village Chief and President of the VEDC

How does UNICEF help? Throughout Lao PDR, the Village and District Education Development Committees, which are made up of members of the local population, are essential to the delivery of education services at pre-school, primary and secondary level. Having already received training on their roles and responsibilities in the areas of school management, enrolment and attendance, UNICEF and its partners are now working to provide over 14,000 VEDC members in 40 Districts with an in-depth understanding of the new national quality education standards. The goal is to help make their local schools ‘Schools of Quality’, both at the primary and secondary levels.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 27

11:55 When

I go home for lunch, my brother and some of the others are next door watching cock fighting. I don’t like it. I eat and go back to school as fast as I can. I want to be with my friends. At home, I don’t have a choice of which friends I play with, but at school I do.

CHILD-CENTRED LEARNING “Last year, my brother Kemh was in first grade. This year, two of his friends quit, so he did too. Now they come to play at school during break time, but they don’t come to class.” What will he do in the future if he doesn’t go to school? “He can be a rice farmer like my father. Being a farmer is also good.” Do you talk to him about coming back to school? “No. If he doesn’t listen to my parents when they tell him to go to school, why would he listen to me?” Do you know what he does all day? “He plays and he goes to the forest to hunt.” —Loy

“Most of the children in this village who are not in school are at home looking after younger siblings. A few, like Loy’s brother, are different. He says school isn’t fun. I say he’s just lazy. I have told his parents they must send him to school, but he’s still not going. Compared to my time, there are some fun things to do at school. After school the children can hang around with their friends and play, and there are breaks during the school day. But children are not at school to have fun.” —Kit Keobounhome, Village Chief and President of the Village Education Development Committee (VEDC) Schools for Asia Loy’s story 29

13:03 We

30 UNICEF Laos

decide who is first to be ‘it’ and play until school starts again at 13:30.


ADEQUATE RESOURCES “One of the other big challenges I face is a lack of teaching and learning materials. We don’t have enough textbooks. I do the best I can. For example, if several children live near to one another, I give them a textbook to share so that they can do their homework.” —Velmani Sipaseud, Head Teacher

How does UNICEF help? UNICEF and its partners are working to support District Offices in the collection, storage and use of the data they gather from their schools. They are also working to train District education officials in the development and analysis of this data for more effective decision making and the development of Costed District Education Plans. All Districts are required to produce these, but many fail to do so. The result is poor planning, inefficient use of funds and an inability to leverage more funding for their schools. UNICEF support covers both school and District level planning. Sound school plans mean greater prioritisation of the money schools receive from the national school block grants scheme towards areas that make a difference to quality schooling. UNICEF will also provide block grants to District Offices. Among other things these grants can be used to increase the number of pedagogical visits to schools, train District education staff and/or ensure that District offices also have adequate water and sanitation facilities.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 33

15:32 I

When I get home from school my mother is washing the clothes. I help her whenever she asks. I steam the rice, wash dishes, carry water from the tap and look after my sisters. But she does most of the work.

How does UNICEF help? Household poverty is a major


determinant of who goes to school, for

“I went to school through grade three. Then, when I was 14, my parents died. All seven of us were sent to live with a different relative. I liked school and I wanted to continue, but with our family all broken and scattered, I just didn’t feel like going. I also knew there wasn’t much of a future in it for me because I didn’t have the kind of support I would need to continue on for very long. So I stayed home and helped my aunt and uncle with the farming. “My husband and I know education is very important for our children’s future. We will keep them in school for as long as possible, but it is not easy. What my husband earns is not enough to cover our daily expenses and we have so many children to provide for. But our hope is that they will be able to stay in school and eventually get a good job so they can take care of us when we get older. If that is not possible, we will make sure they all get enough education so that they can at least read and write.”

general, a poor child is less likely to go to

how long and with what results. In

—Narm Luangboliboune, Loy’s mother 34 UNICEF Laos

school than a rich one. UNICEF works to help the most vulnerable children in Lao PDR by: • Working alongside other development partners to advocate for the implementation of 'free' primary education under the law. • Using 'top up funding' (providing additional funding to the school block grants) to help poor-performing schools achieve national education targets. • Advocating for the implementation of the Ministry's policy regarding flexible school calendars. Allowing schools to choose their calendar according to the agricultural season means more children are able to attend.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 35

16:08 I

make noodles for us.

36 UNICEF Laos

“It seems Loy is an okay student, but I don’t know. I don’t have any contact with the teacher. I have only ever been to the school once and that was to make sure my son was in class.” —Narm Luangboliboune, Loy’s mother

16:20 And

I wash the dishes before I go to play.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 37

38 UNICEF Laos

16:40 If

my mother is home, I try to go alone to play with Koung and Pao and my other friends. Today I have to take my sisters with me. I can play until sunset. Then I have to go home.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 39

16:48 When

my father gets home from work, my brother helps him start the ‘steel buffalo’ [power tiller].

40 UNICEF Laos


How does UNICEF help? Despite the government’s target of 75 per cent participation in secondary education, the figures remain far lower. Gross enrolment rate in lower secondaryschool is 69 per cent, while that of upper secondary is 36 per cent. Though secondary education is not currently an area of focus for UNICEF Lao PDR—and will not be until a greater

“I went to school through grade four. I stopped because I am the eldest son and I had to help my father on our family’s farm. I wish I had been able to continue, but I didn’t have a choice. I have seen what education can do. Some of my siblings stayed on in school and now they have a good job working for the government. “I want my children to stay in school through upper secondary and go on to get jobs. But that isn’t easy. Our village school is incomplete. Our children have to go to another school for grades four and five. Still, we are luckier than most. When our children reach that point, they can go to live with my parents in town and continue their education there. For other families, it can be difficult to get their children to school, so some drop out. “I don’t know what the future holds, but we will continue to send them to school for as long as we can afford it.” —Tee Luangboliboune, Loy’s Father

number of children in the country go on to complete a primary education—the organisation’s support to the District Education and Sports Bureaus will allow District staff to provide a better level of service to lower secondary schools through improved skills in educational planning and management.

“Right now, children from this area may try to go on to secondary school, but because the nearest one is 15 km away, they soon drop out. Transportation is too costly. We have made an agreement with the government that next year we will support the building of a secondary school for our community.” —Kit Keobounhome, Village Chief and President of the VEDC Schools for Asia Loy’s story 41

17:26 Every

afternoon my father checks on the charcoal he makes for our family. He gets mud from a crater. He told me it was made by a bomb in the war a long time ago. He uses the mud to cover the small holes so most of the smoke stays inside. 42 UNICEF Laos

17:25 While

mother washes my sisters...

17:25 ...Koung

and Pao and I do our homework.

Schools for Asia Loy’s story 45

19:20 Look

what we caught! Everybody likes to eat lizards.

19:20 After 46 UNICEF Laos

we eat dinner...

16:55 Somebody

19:20 ...we

pushed me.

watch TV and then go to sleep. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 47

48 UNICEF Laos

All children have the right to receive a quality education. UNICEF Laos is working with the government, local education authorities and other development partners to ensure that students in educationally disadvantaged communities get an education that provides a solid foundation for a better future. Schools for Asia Loy’s story 49

ABOUT UNICEF UNICEF’s goal is to make a difference for all children, everywhere, all the time. All children have rights that guarantee them what they need to survive, grow, participate and fulfill their potential. Yet every day these rights are denied. Millions of children die from preventable diseases. Millions more don’t go to school, or don’t have food, shelter and clean water. Children suffer from violence, abuse and discrimination. This is wrong. UNICEF works globally to transform children’s lives by protecting and promoting their rights. Their fight for child survival and development takes place every day in remote villages and in bustling cities, in peaceful areas and in regions destroyed by war, in places reachable by train or car and in terrain passable only by camel or donkey. Their achievements are won school by school, child by child, vaccine by vaccine, mosquito net by mosquito net. It is a struggle in which success is measured by what doesn't happen—by what is prevented. UNICEF will continue this fight—to make the difference for all children, everywhere, all the time.

To fund all of its work UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations. We receive no money from the UN budget. 50 UNICEF Laos

Following the success of Schools for Africa, in January 2012 UNICEF launched the Schools for Asia initiative:


PO Box 1080 KM 3 Tha Deua Road Vientiane LAO PDR Tel : + (856) 21.315.200 - 04 Fax: + (856) 21.314.852 Photography, writing and design: Kelley Lynch

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UNICEF Laos: Loy's story  

Loy Luangboliboune, 11, is a second grade student in Phalanxai District, one of a number of low-performing Districts in Laos where UNICEF is...

UNICEF Laos: Loy's story  

Loy Luangboliboune, 11, is a second grade student in Phalanxai District, one of a number of low-performing Districts in Laos where UNICEF is...