Investing in Teachers, Investing in the Future of Lao PDR
Lao PDR has committed itself to rewriting its educational story, emphasizing every child’s right to learn.
By Dr. Sisouk Vongvichit, Vice Minister of Education and Sports, Ms. Ina Marčiulionytė, Ambassador of the European Union to Lao PDR, and Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to UNICEF Lao PDR.
As the world becomes increasingly captivated by technology and global connections, an ancient saying remains as relevant as ever: "To plan for a year, plant rice; to plan for a decade, plant trees; to plan for a lifetime, educate your children." Lao PDR has committed itself to rewriting its educational story, emphasizing every child’s right to learn.
For the past 50 years, the Government of Lao PDR has collaborated with development partners such as UNICEF and the European Union to create an education system that reaches every child. From building schools to improving curricula, the focus has been broad and commendable efforts have been made. However, one critical aspect deserves more attention: the quality of our teachers.
Teachers are more than just educators; they are role models, inspirations, and shapers of the future. Many of us remember a teacher who changed our lives, whose lessons we carry with us long into adulthood. Some are even inspired to take up the noble profession because of the teachers in their own lives.
“Being a teacher is my dream job. When I was young, my teacher was my role model and motivated me to become one today,” said Mr Sonxay Chantamala. Now he is living his dream by working as a teacher at Sisttanak Lower Secondary School in Vientiane Capital, and similarly, continuing to inspire and shape the next generation.
Recent research conducted in partnership with the EU found that teacher quality is a strong predictor of student performance. Schools that do well focus on learning for all students, giving special attention to those who are struggling.
These indicators echo a broader global understanding. For example, Finland’s educational system thrives because it focuses on equity, providing the most support to children who need it most, which ultimately benefits everyone. In the Republic of Korea, teaching is a prized and cherished role.
Across the border in Viet Nam, we see an education system outperforming countries like Britain and Canada. How? By investing in teachers who are trained and continually retrained, recalling another proverb that “the best teacher is the best learner.”
Lao PDR has come far when it comes to improving its education system and now it’s time to take the next step in improving education for all. Currently insufficient budget is directed at supporting teachers. Increased state budget allocation to invest in teacher training, to build teacher capacity and deliver quality education is at the heart of the EU budget support programme. It is time for Lao PDR to prioritize education, including appropriate salaries for teachers and incentives for volunteers, to truly invest in our future.
To foster a future-ready Lao PDR, a three-pronged approach is needed: financial investment, policy adjustments, and a cultural shift towards recognizing the importance of teachers. The rewards for these investments are limitless. As we continue to build our nation's human potential, our focus must increasingly turn to those who can unlock it: our teachers.
The road to long-term development begins in the classroom. Our work so far shows that with concerted effort, substantial educational progress is within reach. Yet, the journey is ongoing, demanding our unwavering focus. The well-being and potential of 3 million young people in Lao PDR depend on it.
As we celebrate 50 years of partnership between UNICEF and the Government of Lao PDR, the urgent need to invest in quality education becomes ever clearer. The future of Lao PDR is in our classrooms today, and that future starts with investing in our teachers.