Meet Ms Keo Laoly, an energetic 18-year-old woman from the Akha ethnic group. She is one of the BEQUAL Ethnic Teacher Scholarship Program beneficiaries. She graduated from Luang Namtha Teacher Training College in July this year and is now back in her community teaching in Luang Namtha Province.
“My parents are proud I received this scholarship; not many people in the village speak Lao and have the opportunity to go to college. So, my story is a good example for the young generation. I now teach at an Akha village primary school. The main difficulty is that the young Akha students don’t always master Lao language well enough to follow the lessons. So, I repeat several times and use different techniques to make sure that they understand. I really want them to succeed.”
Ms Keo’s dream was to become a teacher to inspire the people in her community and make them understand the importance of education. This dream has now become reality.
“The people in my village don’t encourage their children to go to school. I will prove to them that knowledge is important. If their children don’t study, they won’t be able to engage with society and find a good job.”
Meet Ms Yomala Yavalath, 24, another recipient of a BEQUAL Ethnic Teacher Scholarship. She graduated from Salavan Teacher Training College last July and is now teaching in Salavan Province.
Ms Yomala is a very dedicated new teacher who strongly believes that education is a major priority. “I would like to eradicate illiteracy. I will encourage all children in the community to study. I want to help them have a better life. If they are illiterate, it will be difficult for them to make a good living, have a decent job or even go out as they can’t read the signs.”
As a new teacher, Ms Yommala is very grateful to receive extra pedagogical and mentoring support from the program. “Before graduating, I attended orientation workshops on teaching techniques for mathematics, Lao language and multigrade.
Meet Mr Senhak Bounmy, a 38-year-old teacher educator from the Katang ethnic group. He is the Deputy Head of Primary Education Office at Salavan Teacher Training College. Mr Senhak started a Master of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the National University of Laos in March this year with the support from BEQUAL.
“It is challenging to continue my studies while still working. Every Friday, I have to travel from Salavan to Vientiane, go to the University on the week-end and then on Sunday evening return to Salavan to be back at work on Monday. My wife is a teacher and we have a four-month-old child. My wife really supported me in my decision. We did it for the future of our child and all the young learners in Laos. We strongly believe in the value of a better education. I enrolled in the course because I wanted to learn more about pedagogy and new teaching technics. I want to know how to change the focus from teaching and learning by memorizing to learning by thinking, practicing and applying knowledge in daily life. I learnt a lot during my master’s degree and really improved my understanding of teaching practice, curriculum development, and research skills. I have the ambition to help improve the education environment in Laos by better training the future primary teachers in Salavan Teacher Training College.”
Meet Mr Phailath Sythong, a 39-year-old teacher educator from the Phu Thai ethnic group. He is the Deputy Head of Academic Office at Savannakhet Teacher Training College. Mr Phailath received the support from BEQUAL this year to start his PhD in Mathematics Education in Thailand.
“I chose this field of study because I found that there are many challenges in teaching and learning mathematics in Laos. For example, the learning outcomes of students are weak and many teachers focus on a teacher centred approach in their pedagogy. I think we can improve this situation by changing our way of teaching. We will allow students to practice thinking by themselves and solving problems autonomously; not only memorizing the theories. They should be able to apply their new knowledge in daily life.
In addition to that, I have been involved in many Ministry of Education and Sports activities supported by BEQUAL, such as monitoring the trialling of the new primary curriculum that will be implemented in September 2019 or engaging in professional development activities for teacher trainers and teacher curriculum development; I am very grateful to the program for supporting my PhD.
I am now a full-time student at Khon Kaen University, Thailand, which takes me away from my family. I miss my children, but I call them almost every day and sometimes teach them over the phone. But thinking about the contribution I can make to improving the quality of education in Laos gives me the energy to keep on with my studies!”