All Grade 1 students and teachers started the school-year last September with new textbooks and a new pedagogical approach based on active learning.
In addition to new learning materials and training of all Grade 1 teachers, the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR, with support from the Australian Government and the European Union through the BEQUAL program, provided Education Support Grants (ESG) to 24 eligible districts in the provinces of Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Khammouane, Savannakhet, Salavan and Sekong provinces. The grants were designed to reinforce uptake of the new grade 1 curriculum in educationally disadvantaged districts, by enabling DESBs to provide regular pedagogical support to Grade 1 teachers and monitor new curriculum implementation.
Thanks to the grants, the 24 District Education and Sports Bureaus (DESB) were able to carry out 1,900 support visits to individual schools and over 200 visits to school clusters. During each visit, DESB staff gathered data on five key areas for the successful curriculum implementation. They checked if schools had received the teaching and learning materials, if those materials were used in the Grade 1 classrooms, if the community is aware of the new curriculum, if all Grade 1 teachers and principals have been trained and if professional development activities are happening.
The results were analysed by DESBs and BEQUAL and despite the unprecedented disruptions to the school year caused by COVID-19 there are signs that good progress was made on the implementation of the new grade 1 curriculum. 98% schools received all new curriculum resources on time to start the new school year and in sufficient quantities to cover all Grade 1 students, teachers and classrooms. 98% of the Grade 1 students observed were using the new textbooks and 94% of the Grade 1 teachers observed were using the new teacher guides and teacher resource packs. The commitment of the teachers to upgrade their skills and understand and use the new pedagogical approach is also very encouraging: 94% of the teachers teaching Grade 1 this year had attended Grade 1 in-service training. 68% of the Grade 1 teachers monitored were following up their training by engaging in self-learning using BEQUAL-provided tools and materials, including teaching demonstration videos, their training handbook, and by keeping a teaching journal. 1,710 Grade 1 teachers in those target districts received one-to-one support from pedagogical advisors answering technical questions on the new curriculum.
Communication between schools and the community also increased. DESB monitoring found that 83% of school principals had reached out to parents of Grade 1 students to share information about the new curriculum, through meetings, first day of school events, Village Education Development Committee’s consultations and word-of-mouth. Studies show that involvement of parents in the education of their children is a key to successful learning.
The educational TV program Learn Together created to support the learning of Lao Grade 1 children alongside the new national primary curriculum is also showing signs of a good uptake by the community. Principals and teachers at schools visited estimate that around 50% of families have watched Learn Together.
These results are very encouraging as the Ministry of Education prepares to roll out the new Grade 2 curriculum in September 2020.