Pre-primary teacher training in Laos
Peer learning for better future of Lao children
It’s a cold October morning in Xiengkhouang province, Lao PDR. Surrounding the Khoune district office of education, a beautiful green mountain range is visible. Inside the office, pre-school teachers are curiously investigating a classroom lesson plan, and actively exchanging opinions and teaching strategies with instructors. No matter how much experience teachers possess, education is always evolving and there is always more to learn.
“How about asking the class a question before showing the picture card?” says one teacher. “I think it’s better singing a song before the activity!” says another. The exchange of enthusiastic ideas brightens the room and the moods of teachers, all of whom are gathered for pre-school in-service teacher training across Khoune and Nonghed districts.
Early Childhood Education (ECE): a necessity for children’s development
The importance of strengthening Early Childhood Education (ECE) services is well recognized in Lao PDR. ECE plays a key role in ensuring the intellectual and physical development of young children. Positive interaction with adults, such as caregivers and teachers, is essential to their development and their learning.
Despite this, only one-third of children aged five are correctly enrolled in Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs in Lao PDR (LSISII, 2017). The quality of ECE teaching and services also varies considerably by province and by district. More remote districts, such as Khoune, are often at a disadvantage including due to increased vulnerability from extreme weather patterns, including flooding.
To address this, the Government of Japan, UNICEF and the Lao Ministry of Education and Sport (MoES), is working to provide pre-school teacher training in child-centered, effective teaching methodologies in the flood affected districts of Xiengkhouang and Attapeu provinces. This training also includes Disaster Risk Reduction and Psychosocial Support for children.
In addition, teachers will be assisted by technical officials from their provincial and district education offices via coaching and mentoring support. This helps ensure that teachers and school principals who partake in the training can receive continuous support from MoES to apply new knowledge in the classroom and in school management. Overall, the training is expected to benefit up to 18,000 children across Xiengkhouang and Attapeu provinces.
Ms. Souliya, a pre-school teacher from Viengxay village, Nonghed District, Xiengkhouang Province is excited to join her first in-service training after six years of teaching experience. “What I expect from this training is to gain skills for making better lesson plans and to receive feedback on my demonstration lesson. This is a great opportunity to work with peers which I didn’t have until now,” she says.
Most children in her school belong to a non-Lao speaking ethnic group. “The main challenge for those children is the language barrier. I’m trying my best to use visual materials for them. I’ve been learning a lot about how to effectively use teaching materials in the classroom from this training.”
One of the training activities that Souliya finds challenging is the “circle activity” which involves children making a circle and learning together with a focus on numeracy and literacy. Teachers are required to make all children engage collectively with a specific learning target for the group. In Xiengkhouang province, where large populations belong to ethnic groups, this activity is very important for improving children’s literacy skills.
Thinking back to her classroom of 20 pre-school children, Souliya explains that a key need is a safe and clean classroom space appropriate to young learners. She explains that she currently uses an available, if not imperfect, primary school classroom. Nonetheless, her 20 students like coming to school and she is quick to stress that parents in her community support this and understand the importance of education.
“You think we are teaching children, right? In fact, we are also learning a lot from children!” she says with a big smile. “Every child is different; finding the best learning approach for each individual child is our role,” she adds.
Ultimately, ensuring teacher can apply new knowledge gained from the pre-school teacher training is the most important objective of the training provided by the Government of Japan, UNICEF and MoES. Commitment for ongoing coaching and mentoring from provincial and district education offices is key to this.
Back inside the the Khoune district office of education, a training instructor encourages his peers. “Learn new things, apply and adjust to your class’s context and think about how you can improve further. When we support each other, we can always be improving,” he says.
My dream: what I want our children to experience in the future
In the future, she wants to provide better quality ECE learning to children to make sure that children will be ready for Grade 1. In the long term, I want to see my children complete university which I couldn’t have done. I believe it is possible. I hope Japan and UNICEF will continuously support children of Laos.