BEQUAL, managed by Australia and the Ministry of Education and Sports—with additional funding provided by the European Union—will help an estimated 450,000 Lao girls and boys achieve literacy, numeracy and other life skills. By targeting the most educationally disadvantaged districts, it will strengthen the quality of teacher training, improve school infrastructure, provide learning materials, and increase participation of the most disadvantaged children – girls, children from remote areas and students with disabilities.
The BEQUAL Steering Committee was chaired by H.E. Madam Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, Acting Minister for Education and Sports (at the time of the meeting, now current Minister for Education and Sports), and co-chaired by Mr John Williams, Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR and Mr. Bryan Fornari, Acting Chargé d’Affaires, European Union Delegation to Lao PDR. Among the 70 participants were Provincial Vice Governors, Heads of Provincial Education and Sports Services offices, Senior Managers of Ministry of Education and Sports departments and Teacher Education Institutes, representatives of other central line ministries, BEQUAL technical advisers and development partners.
The meeting reflected on the significant progress achieved during the program’s first eight months, including provision of 217 scholarships to ethnic teacher trainees and commencing renewal of the National primary curriculum. The meeting also endorsed the priorities and outcomes for BEQUAL over the next four years.
Acting Minister Sengdeuane, said the Ministry of Education and Sports has cooperated closely with the Australian Government and European Union for many years, including as joint co-chairs of the Education Sector Working Group. She said that the BEQUAL program, which sees Ministry of Education and Sports staff take the lead, is new for the Ministry.
“It is a large-scale, long-term program that will help disadvantaged students access a better education,” said Acting Minister Sengdeuane.
Ambassador Williams said that education was at the very heart of Australia’s aid program in Laos. He also pointed out that building on Australia’s longstanding investments, BEQUAL was supporting the Ministry’s core business, working directly with the Ministry at the central, provincial and district levels.
“Through BEQUAL, Australia is working side by side with the Ministry of Education and Sports to develop the curriculum, teachers and schools needed to ensure children go to school, stay in primary and learn in school,” said Ambassador Williams.
Mr Fornari highlighted the partnership between the Ministry of Education and Sports, the European Union and Australia as a good example of effective donor coordination in action. He said BEQUAL was a comprehensive program with a wide range of strategies and actions that will help improve the quality of basic education and address multiple education challenges.
“The European Union is pleased to partner with the governments of Australia and Lao PDR to help more Lao children access a quality education,” said Mr Fornari.
BEQUAL is designed to be rolled out over 10 years, in three phases. The first phase, from 2015–2019 will work to focus on 66 of the most educationally disadvantaged districts in Laos.