With support from the Australian Government and the European Union, the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR launched a series of 366 training workshops right after the start of the school break in July. The objective is to provide Grade 2 teachers with an orientation on the new curriculum, and to enable them to become familiar with some of the basic knowledge and the skills required to teach the new Grade 2 curriculum starting in September. The scale of the training is impressive with eighteen teams of 597 provincial trainers deployed across the country to train 9,883 Grade 2 teachers and 421 pedagogical advisors over a period of only six weeks. Each face to face training session lasts five days. Participants are orientated on the new Grade 2 curriculum materials and on the content, structure and pedagogy used in the new National primary curriculum. They look at how the different Grade 2 subjects have changed and identify new content and new resources. The training introduces active learning methods.
The new pedagogical approach recognizes that participation of learners is the key to their learning. Thereforeit is essential that teachers get trained on how to encourage students to be more engaged in the learning activities so theydevelop critical thinking and are able to apply their knowledge to everyday life. During short practice teaching sessions, the participants have the opportunity to explore, try out and reflect on different classroom activities built around active learning. They discover techniques such as using questioning to engage students and activate their existing knowledge on a topic. Teachers are also learning how to arrange their classroom in a way that best supports active learning. The training focuses heavily on Lao Language as this subject represents 40% of the curriculum in both Grades 1 and 2. There is also a specific training session on multigrade teaching to look at different classroom management strategies and provide suggestions for how to deliver combined lower/upper grade teaching.
After this initial training, the teachers will be able and are encouraged to use a range of self-study activities from the training handbook and the “ວິດີໂອສຳລັບການພັດທະນາຄູ Teacher Development Videos” YouTube channel to review a technique, prepare a lesson and extend their learning. The 18 Provincial Education and Sports Services and 148 District Education and Sports Bureaus (DESB) have been coordinating, budgeting and supporting the organization of this massive training series using Education Support Grants provided by the Australian Government and the European Union through the BEQUAL programme. This year, they put a special focus on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. Group size of each workshop has been limited to ensure social distancing in each training room and posters on COVID-19 awareness and prevention and handwashing have been provided in all training locations. Some PESS and DESBs have also taken the initiative to provide face masks, hand sanitizers and hand soap for workshop participants. Initial feedback from the early sessions of the training are very positive. The Grade 2 teachers are eager to use the new curriculum materials and active learning methods to teach children more effectively from September!