As the implementation of the new revised primary curriculum reaches the halfway point, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), with support from Australia, organized a Primary Curriculum Stakeholders Forum. It was held on 4th February 2021 in Vientiane, to review progress to date and to seek feedback and exchange on lessons learned. The curriculum implementation began two years ago with Grade 1 in September 2019 and was followed by Grade 2 in September 2020. Grade 3 materials are currently being finalized for the start of the next school year while the planning and writing of Grade 4 and 5 commenced last month.
The Forum was chaired by Dr Onekeo Nouannavong, Director General, Research Institute for Educational Sciences (RIES), and co-chaired by Anna Dyason, First Secretary, Australian Embassy. It was attended by more than 100 representatives from relevant MoES departments, the curriculum writing teams, the 8 Teacher Training colleges (TTC) and the 18 Provincial Education and Sports Services (PESS). PESS representatives were accompanied by 21 teachers selected from public and private schools who have demonstrated excellence in teaching the new Grade 1 or 2 curriculum.
Speakers included Dr Onekeo Nouannavong, subject team leaders from the RIES Curriculum Development Unit and BEQUAL informing participants on the key changes made to the primary curriculum and the rationale behind the changes. These included the new pedagogical approach based on active learning principles, a revised assessment methodology using rubrics, new guidance for teachers on multigrade lesson planning, and advice on teaching and learning materials distributed to date. Representatives from the PESS and TTCs received updates and provided feedback on the challenges of administering the new revised curriculum at provincial and district level while the selected group of excellent teachers shared their experiences of successes and overcoming some of the challenges of teaching the new curriculum to grades 1 and 2. Teachers reported back on the new approach to Lao Language, their experience in using the assessment rubrics, strategies for teaching in multigrade classrooms, and the use of the new curriculum materials. Their feedback and recommendations will inform the development of Grade 4 and 5 teaching and learning materials as well as actions to support future teacher training in the new pedagogy.
The implementation of the new improved curriculum is a huge endeavour requiring the commitment and support of all stakeholders, from national, provincial, district and school levels. The Primary Curriculum Stakeholders Forum provided stakeholders at all levels the opportunity to share their experience and provided encouraging and thoughtful feedback to improve the continuing development and implementation of the future primary grades. The new national primary curriculum and associated teaching and learning resources will make an important contribution to the quality of the learning outcomes of children. It will help more Lao girls and boys of primary school-age, particularly those experiencing disadvantage, achieve functional literacy.