Effective teachers are crucial for student learning. Trainee teachers need strong orientation in the curriculum they will be delivering, mentoring on how to help children learn in the classroom and sufficient time to practice teaching. However, the curriculum currently used to train teachers is not well aligned with the curriculum used in primary schools and is not sufficiently focused on classroom practice. BEQUAL represents a unique opportunity to strengthen the current Lao primary teacher education curriculum, link it to classroom practice and ensure the primary curriculum and the primary teacher education curriculum are well aligned.
In March 2017, more than 200 people from all departments related to primary education, including representatives from the Teacher Training Colleges – in charge of training the future teachers – and from the Research Institute for Educational Sciences (RIES) – in charge of writing the revised primary curriculum, gathered for a two-week workshop to reflect on the future curriculum framework. It was the biggest and the most important workshop yet to be conducted in this area.
“To have more effective teaching, it is essential that teachers understand the curriculum being taught to students at primary school” said Mme Varadune Amarathithada, Former Deputy Director General, Department of Teacher Education, Ministry of Education and Sports. “The main achievement of the workshop was to enhance participants’ understanding of the revised primary curriculum of RIES; now they can see the student learning competencies identified by RIES; they can make the links with the teacher training, see the gaps and adjust the teacher education curriculum.”
Many other issues were discussed and guiding principles proposed such as the need to bring theory and practice better together; the importance of all practice subjects being guided by key theoretical principles and the need to relate “theory” subjects to classroom practice. Participants agreed that the program should contain at least 20 weeks of practice teaching.
Participants also recommended that Lao Language should be given the highest priority in the revised primary teacher education curriculum. Indeed, language is key to all learning, and student learning outcomes in Lao remain poor. In the last Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) reading and comprehension test done in 2012, only 42 per cent of grade 5 students understood what they read.
The foundations have been laid down, but the work has only just started. The next step will be to reach final agreement on the curriculum structure and the composition of the curriculum development teams. After those decisions are made, the actual curriculum writing will begin.