Every child has the right to go to school and learn

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With a primary net enrolment in primary education of 98.7% (2017), Lao PDR has met the Millennium Development Goals target of universal access to primary education with gender parity.

Despite this achievement, Lao PDR still has some of the poorest education indicators in Southeast Asia. Approximately 70% of 5-year-old children are not enrolled in Early Childhood Education (ECE) programmes, with those in hard-to-reach areas and from poor families being the most excluded. Many of them do not speak the Lao language, which is the official language of instruction. Pre-primary teachers have limited skills on child-centred pedagogies and supporting materials. The high repetition and dropout rates in primary grades are strongly influenced by the limited access to quality ECE opportunities.

Quality of primary education is another major concern. Only 81.9% (2017) of enrolled children complete primary education. Students’ learning outcomes are low, leaving children without essential knowledge and skills. Teachers' limited capacity, a weak pedagogical supporting system, challenges in multi-grade teaching, and the lack of teaching-learning materials are some of the key constraints.


UNICEF's education programme operates at national and local levels to help ensure quality ECE and basic education for all children in Lao PDR, with a special focus on remote and disadvantaged children.

To help achieve national and international goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals for education, UNICEF continues working on addressing inequities in access, participation and learning in education in Lao PDR.

While UNICEF focuses on system strengthening, we also work on service delivery on the ground. In particular, UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) to, among other things, improve the pre-primary curriculum and the ECE quality standards, and to develop and implement a national ECE costed action plan. Our support also includes training pre-primary teachers and school principals, and the provision of teaching-learning materials.

In addition, UNICEF provides support for the expansion of a Community-Based School Readiness Programme in educationally disadvantaged communities, including non-Lao-speaking villages. This includes capacity building for ECE facilitators and Village Education Development Committees, and the provision of age appropriate materials. Parenting education is another key part of UNICEF’s support for ECE, which helps raising awareness and developing skills of parents and caregivers.

With the aim of improving the quality of primary education, UNICEF supports the MoES to reinforce primary curriculum, teacher training and support by Pedagogical Advisors. Based on the Child-Friendly Schools concept, UNICEF promotes safe and enjoyable learning environments which include appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

UNICEF also supports MoES in the coordination and implementation of multi-year sector plans to strengthen planning, budgeting and monitoring processes, including the Education Management Information System.

Early childhood development

UNICEF believes that Early Childhood Development (ECD) is the foundation of life-long learning and success. UNICEF supports ECD in a comprehensive way that combines education, health care, nutrition, hygiene promotion, protection and cognitive stimulation, from the period of pregnancy to 8 years of age to help children achieve their full potential.

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