On 7th February, Dr. Onekeo Nouannavong, Director General, Research Institute of Educational Sciences (RIES) and Ms. Anna Dyason, First Secretary, Australian Embassy, opened the Committee for the Approval of Curriculum and Instructional Materials (CACIM) meeting for Primary Education Grade 4. This year, to ensure COVID-19 prevention the CACIM meeting was conducted in a blended online and face-to-face forum.
Dr Onekeo said “the objective of CACIM is to finalise and approve the Grade 4 textbooks, teacher guides and learning materials that will be distributed to all primary schools in Lao PDR for the 2022-23 school year. I want to congratulate all the subject teams who worked tirelessly and overcame COVID-19 challenges. I want to thank the Australian Embassy for their continuous support through BEQUAL. I am looking forward to seeing our primary students’ improved learning with the new curriculum.”
For Grade 4, three subjects, Lao Language, Science and Environment and English, received the full support of the Australian Government for the development of the materials, their production, their nationwide distribution as well as the training of all Grade 4 teachers.
“Australia is very pleased to be partnering with the Research Institute for Educational Sciences and Ministry of Education and Sports to support the development of the new curriculum” said Ms Anna Dyason. “I believe we are all excited to see that another grade of new materials will be provided to all Lao children. The new primary curriculum responds to rapid changes in the 21st century and will improve learning outcomes for Lao students to be able to compete in the ASEAN region.”
During three intensive days (7th and 8th February for English, Sciences and Environment, Moral Education, Physical Education, Music, Arts and Handicraft and Social Studies and 21st February for Lao Language), each subject team leader from RIES will deliver a presentation on their subject, highlighting the new approach, improved pedagogy and respond to questions from the CACIM members chaired by Dr. Anouloom Vilaiphon, Deputy Director General of RIES. CACIM members will then make recommendations for the finalization and approval of the instructional materials.
The development of these materials was constantly disrupted due to COVID 19; however, the various subject teams successfully overcame those challenges including the second COVID-19 related lockdown in April 2021 and the subsequent restrictions throughout the rest of the year. The subject teams had to completely re-think the way they were working together, switching from full face-to-face workshops to online interactions where some collaborative work such as designing textbook page layout is more difficult. Some teams, such as the English subject writers, did more than 50% of their writing workshops online.
The implementation of the new primary curriculum started in September 2019 with Grade 1 and is progressing with one new grade per year. The new teaching and learning resources are designed to promote active learning so students are required to process, practice and apply new learning. The new Grade 4 materials are carefully aligned with the previous grades materials. They build upon and extend content and topics covered in Grade 3 to reinforce existing knowledge and skills and promote progression in student learning in key topics within each subject from one grade to the next.
Every Grade 4 teacher, PA and trainer will receive a set of textbooks and teacher guides. The teacher guides include scripted lessons, guidance on assessment, how to use local resources and create extension activities for students. The guides also include strategies and activities to support teachers teaching non-Lao speaking students. Following feedback from teachers and trainers who implemented the first years of the new curriculum, there is more multigrade teaching information in the general Grade 4 introduction. There is additional guidance on multigrade teaching in a Grade 3/ Grade 4 class with updated example lesson plans for Science and Environment, English, Lao Language and Moral Education. There is more information for teachers that explains and demonstrates how to adapt the scripted lessons for a multigrade context both in the introduction and in the scripted lessons steps. Each subject has also incorporated a greater variety of learning activities based in active learning principles.
In addition, Grade 4 teachers will receive two busy picture posters, one urban, one rural. The posters come with instructions on how to use them for activities across subjects with a specific focus on multigrade and independent learning activities. Teachers will also receive magnets for Science and Environment lessons on magnetism, and sets of flashcards with phonics, pictures, story words, sight words and decodable words to support English instruction. Each Grade 4 teacher will receive a USB with teacher development videos on the new pedagogy and teaching techniques and audio tracks with English and Lao Language stories that could be used in the classroom. They will also receive brochures on curriculum overview, continuing professional development and textbook care posters to display in the village.
Every Grade 4 student will receive a set of new textbooks for Lao Language, Science and Environment and English. Textbook designers have created colourful and attractive books with illustrations, photographs and page layout to help with understanding, attract attention and improve memory retention of young learners. The imagery used in the textbooks is more gender balanced and inclusive. The English textbooks include ethnic characters, Hmong, Khmu and Thai Dam and students with disabilities who appear in stories and in the classroom.
Following CACIM approval, the printing and the distribution of these materials to every primary school of the country will be one of the main tasks for MoES. With support from Australia, 546,000 textbooks and 42,600 teacher guides for Lao Language, English and Sciences and Environment will be distributed as well as 14,000 teacher resource packs containing USBs, brochures, magnets, and posters. As with the implementation of previous grades, Grade 4 teachers and Pedagogical Advisors across the country will undertake training and receive support to familiarise themselves with the new curriculum and the additional learning resources.
In September 2022, all grade 4 primary students and teachers will start the school year with the new educational materials.