For the second episode of the Role Model docuseries, the TV, radio and newspaper teams from the Information Media Center of MoES travelled to Xiengkhouang to document the inspiring story of a public school teacher who is an inclusive learning champion. This project is fully supported by the Australian Government through the BEQUAL program. The objective of this second episode is to inspire and encourage teachers throughout the country to make lessons more inclusive for all children, no matter their ability or ethnicity. The docuseries is now available on the Teacher Development Videos YouTube channel and broadcasted on ESTV. In line with MoES’ and the Government of Australia’s commitment to promoting inclusive education for all, it is dubbed in Lao Sign Language.
For more than 20 years, Ajan Viengkeo Douangprachan has been teaching in a public primary school in Xiengkhouang province, a region with many children with disabilities, often non- or mis-diagnosed. In her school, there are seven students living with a mental or physical disability. Ajan Viengkeo truly believes that every child has a right to education. She adapts her teaching to ensure all students can fully participate, and feel welcome, in her class. She explains “every class group is different and during their career, teachers will encounter a wide diversity of learner abilities, backgrounds, and aspirations. Being a good teacher is about adapting your teaching style to meet these diverse needs. Disability is just one aspect of this.”
With the support of her principal and other teachers, she has developed several approaches to make sure children living with disabilities are supported to participate in school. “First, it is very important to connect with the parents of the student living with disabilities, to understand the story of the child, to ensure the child will come regularly to school. I also discuss how the parents could support their child’s learning at home” Mrs Viengkeo told the team.
The classroom arrangement is also key. “In my class, I have been teaching to 5 different students living with disabilities. Depending on the case, I arrange my classroom differently. I sit a student living with a physical disability or hearing impairment in the front so that it is easier for the child to move around or hear what I say. I can monitor more closely and see if the student has any difficulty. It is important that the student feels comfortable to learn.”
Teaching resources and activities need to be adapted to include all children. Ajan Viengkeo adds “I adapt my teaching according to the ability of the child. For example, the boy I teach this year has some hearing difficulties, so I use images to explain words. The new Grade 1 textbooks are very convenient in that sense as there are many illustrations. I give the boy special homework because he takes longer than other students and I want to be sure he progresses without being discouraged.”
The involvement of other students is important to strengthen inclusion. Every morning in her classroom introduction, Ajan Viengkeo encourages all children to help each other and play together even though they are different. “When I do a group activity, I pair the boy with disabilities with a stronger student who can support him. In the playground, I monitor that they play together and show respect. It has happened that I have heard students calling the boy with disabilities bad names, so I talked to the whole class at the end of the day about respect.”
When you see the smiles on the faces of Mrs Viengkeo’s Grade 1 students when they enter the classroom in the morning, you know those students will enjoy their day, and they will listen, participate, and learn no matter their abilities. It is clear to see how a passionate and inclusive teacher can make a huge impact on the education and future of the new generation.
The story of Ajan Viengkeo can be watched on the ວິດີໂອສໍາລັບການພັດທະນາຄູ Teacher Development Videos You Tube Channel and on Education and Sports TV on Lao Sat Channel 8.