In order to reinforce uptake of the new national Grade 1 curriculum materials in disadvantaged areas, the Australian Government and the European Union, through the BEQUAL program, provided Education support Grants (ESGs) to 24 eligible districts in the six provinces of Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Khammouane, Savannakhet, Salavan and Sekong provinces. The total amount of the ESGs for the school year 2019-2020 was 676,000,000 LAK (104,000 AUD). The grants were designed to enable District Education and Sports Bureaus (DESBs) to provide regular pedagogical support to Grade 1 teachers and monitor new curriculum implementation. Thanks to the grants, the 24 DESB were able to make 3,664 school visits, 1,710 classroom observations and 512 cluster meetings between October 2019 and May 2020, and this despite the shortened school year following school closures in response to COVID-19. The districts were encouraged to give priority to visiting low performing schools and to focus on the progress of the new Grade 1 curriculum implementation.
During the school visits, the Pedagogical Advisors coached school principals to improve support to teachers, conducted classroom observations, provided feedback to teachers with constructive solutions on how to address difficulties and challenges, encouraged teachers to do self-study as well as peer learning activities, and guided them with the development and implementation of lesson plans.
The Education Support Grant is outputs based that if the DESBs achieve their targets with savings they would be able to use the savings to conduct new curriculum implementation related activities based on their priority.
7 districts excelled in their efficient management of the grants. Long, Sing and Nalae districts in Luang Namtha province, Phongslay and Gnot Ou districts in Phongsaly province, Xebangfai and Boulapha districts in Khammouane province were able to save altogether 19,962,810 LAK (3,071 AUD) from the ESG funds.
Using their savings, they organized extra activities to address priority issues identified during the school visits. District pedagogical advisors and provincial trainers delivered Grade 1 curriculum refresher training workshops to selected groups of teachers and principals who needed extra support with the new curriculum. Some districts did a general refresher while other districts targeted specific topics, such as the new Lao Language teaching techniques, multigrade teaching strategies and how to use the new formative and summative assessment approach. The refresher training workshops lasted from 1 to 3 days depending on needs.
The teaching of the new Grade 2 curriculum started this year and the ESG mechanism will continue to support the most disadvantaged areas and low performing schools. 28 districts will be trained in October and school visits will start in November.