Better teachers for better learning outcomes

With the support of the European Union and UNICEF, the Government of Lao PDR is training pedagogical advisors deployed in the remotest part of the country to ensure that every child receives quality education.

Ayush Karki
A woman standing
©UNICEF Laos/2020/AKarki
20 January 2021

Ms. Phoudavanh Keansan is a supervisor of pedagogical advisors (PA) in Lao PDR's Attapeu Province. For the past five years, she has been supporting PAs who are visiting 180 schools spread out across five districts. PAs work for the District Education and Sports Bureau (DESB) and they regularly visit primary schools to observe classes and provide teachers with feedback about their teaching approaches. Listening to teachers’ voices is also one of their main tasks.

"In 2012, I completed my formal education and then decided to work as a teacher at a school in Attapeu Province," says Ms. Keansan.

Although Lao PDR is making steady progress in increasing access to education, the quality remains poor. According to a 2017 learning assessment conducted by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), many Lao students currently do not meet the expected learning standards: only one in three Grade 3 students met literacy standards for promotion to Grade 4, and less than one in five students met the standards for mathematics.

To address this learning crisis, the European Union (EU), UNICEF and the Government of Lao PDR are working together under the framework of the Partnership to Strengthen the Education System (PSES).  One of the activities of the programme is the Pedagogical Advisors training.  The training allows advisors to address areas of improvement in teaching and learning practices in their regular classroom observations with child-centered perspectives.

Ms. Keansan is a recipient of the Pedagogical Advisors training."The training was beneficial to learn new skills," she says. 

Two people
©UNICEF Laos/2020/AKarki
Keansan interacts with the school director at Tha Ouan Primary School.

"At the training, we learnt to observe and evaluate teachers in a single grade and multi-grade classes, and we were given resources to support teachers in improving their teaching methodology. Understanding the PA’s role and the most updated teaching method that is good for children’s learning is very important for my work" 

Since receiving the training, Ms. Keansan has been applying the skills every day at work. She often meets the PAs who visit the schools in her province and passes on her knowledge.  

Working as a PA supervisor for over five years, Keansan has been able to identify some challenges that prevent children from learning. On her recent visit to Tha Ouan Primary School in Sanamxay District, she met the teachers and held a meeting with Mr. Somchai Xaykeosong, the school director. The primary school has 120 children from Early childhood education to grade 5.

"Sanamxay is an ethnically diverse district. We also have plenty of children from non-Lao Thai ethnic groups.  The language has acted as a major obstacle for these children to learn," says Ms. Xaykeosong.  

Realizing the language barrier, the school has now implemented peer learning support, where ethnic students and Lao students are paired together to support each other.

"Having the support of PAs in our school has been highly effective," says the school director. "Their support helps us identify our weaknesses and improve them. Thanks to the peer-learning programme, our non-Lao speaking children are now learning faster and better," he further adds.

A man speaking
©UNICEF Laos/2020/AKarki
Mr. Somchai Xaykeosong, school director of Tha Ouan Primary School, explains the vital role played by PAs

Along with the PA's support, the school director believes regular assessment is the key to understanding the gap in their system. 

The PSES programme in Lao PDR aims to support the country in achieving the objectives of the Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP) 2016-2020 and 2021-2025, in line with the 8th and 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – Quality of Education.

It is designed to complement the EU Budget Support Programme to Education, which focuses on basic education quality improvement for disadvantaged children and reforms in teacher management, education planning and financing. PSES also complements other ongoing support to the education sector by development partners, including international and bilateral organizations, and NGOs.

The programme focusses on 1) strengthening education sector governance, planning and budgeting, 2) enhancing teacher management and quality; and 3) promoting evidence-based sector analysis and policy dialogue. 4) COVID 19 Emergency Response and Preparedness was newly added in 2020. PSES focuses on capacity and system strengthening at all levels of the education system. Specific support is provided to the 40 priority districts of MoES.