Making Learning More Effective in Rural Pre-Schools
UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Japan supports the Ministry of Education and Sports in providing training to pre-school teachers to improve early childhood education in Lao PDR.
On a cold February morning, Ms. Ming Phuangthavong, a pre-school teacher, prepares for her first class of the day at Nongbouathong Primary School in the Northeastern Lao province of Xiengkhouang. The journey from her house in the provincial capital to her school is an hour-long drive along curvy roads surrounded by lush green hills.
Ms. Ming first collects her teaching materials, which she received at the pre-primary teacher training organized by UNICEF, and heads to a classroom full of eager children. She cannot wait to continue applying the new knowledge that she gained at the training.
"It has not been long since we received the training, but the improvement is already visible in the classroom,” says Ms. Ming.
Following the floods of 2018, UNICEF, received support from the Government of Japan for the “Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of School Education Sector in Flood Affected Areas in Lao PDR” programme. The initiative aims to support the sustainable recovery of the education sector from the floods and increase its resilience to disasters. As part of the programme, training was provided to pre-school teachers on child-friendly and effective teaching methodologies in the flood-affected-districts of Xiengkhouang and Attapeu provinces.
The teachers were taught how to prepare a teaching plan, use locally available items as teaching materials and effective teaching methods. Even the experienced teachers realized that teaching is always evolving and that there is so much to learn.
“I apply the valuable skills I learnt at the training every day in my class,” says Ms. Ming. “The most common mistake in Lao PDR is that teachers don’t give students enough opportunity to explore themselves. Now, my teaching style is more child-centered and often I encourage my students to find their own solution to problems,” said Ms. Ming.
Se also learnt to use local items as teaching materials. As children get to play with rocks, sticks and strings when learning how to count and identify colours, their attention is also at its peak. The interactive method of teaching has resulted in children learning faster and better.
“I always thought that learning materials are better when they are big in size and advanced,” shares Ms. Ming. “However, at the training, I learnt how to use the right materials according to the activities and children’s age.”
The importance of strengthening Early Childhood Education (ECE) is well-recognized in Lao PDR and is a priority for the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). ECE plays a key role in ensuring the cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development of young children, which lasts a lifetime. Positive interaction with adults, such as caregivers and teachers, is essential to their growth and their learning.
However, only one-third of children aged five are enrolled in ECE programs in Lao PDR (LSISII, 2017). The quality of ECE teaching and services also varies considerably by provinces and districts, especially in schools in remote districts like Ms. Ning’s school. Moreover, the increased vulnerability of Lao PDR to climate change like extreme weather patterns and flooding adds another layer to the problem.
Aside from the training she attended, Ms. Ning and her fellow pre-school teachers also receive support from their provincial and district education offices via coaching and mentoring. This helps to ensure that trained teachers and school principals receive continuous support from MoES to apply new knowledge in the classroom and school management. A total of 6,000 pre-school age children across three districts in Xiengkhouang and Attapeu provinces are expected to benefit from the interventions over four years. In 2021, pre-school and primary teachers will also receive additional information on disaster risk reduction and providing psychosocial support for children.