Last September, Grade 1 students nation-wide started the school year with a new curriculum. The new Grade 1 curriculum materials are the first step towards an improved primary curriculum developed and implemented by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), with support from the Australian Government and the European Union. MoES will revise one grade per year through to Grade 5. The main feature of the new curriculum is the student-centred pedagogical approach focused on active learning. Using this approach children learn through activities, by sharing ideas, and applying what they have learned.
A team of 38 writers from the Research Institute of Educational Sciences (RIES) conceptualize, draft, design and write each lesson for the teacher guides and the student textbooks. The team is divided by subjects: Lao Language, Sciences and Environment, Mathematics, Morals, Arts and Handicraft, Music, Physical Education, English (starting in Grade 3) and Social Studies (starting in Grade 4).
With the new teaching and learning materials, teachers learn to facilitate learning rather than just provide information.
Students learn by doing meaningful, hands-on activities and reflecting about what they are doing. Under the new curriculum, children are active participants in their own learning, helping each other, interacting with the learning materials and experimenting through activities. To enable this new pedagogy in the classroom, the curriculum writers design lessons with activities that engage the students and encourage them to process new information and apply new knowledge. They also include in the teacher guides more detailed guidance on how to teach the lesson in a way that makes the students participate and interact more with the learning process, as opposed to passively taking in the information.
Curriculum writers regularly attend professional development workshops to strengthen their skills for the challenging task of designing and developing materials for active learning.
During the 5-7 February Professional Development Workshop at RIES, Grade 3 curriculum writers practiced writing lesson introductions to foster engagement and enthusiasm, examined the principles of active learning,
and increased attention to gender equity and social inclusion in teaching and learning materials and practices. They also explored the identification and use of locally available materials like stones for counting, sticks for forming shapes and objects, sand for writing, rice baskets for measuring and traditional sin for identifying patterns and learning about of Laos’ ethnic groups.
The writers also simulated teaching in a Grade 3 classroom to determine the “teachability” of their lessons. Writers from each of the seven curriculum areas wrote and practiced their active learning exercises with peers and received feedback for improvement. The activity was designed to help writers understand the challenges faced by teachers in schools across Laos and to enhance their skills to develop engaging, interactive lessons with practical and realistic learning objectives that can be delivered within the lesson period and supported by locally available resources.
The RIES curriculum writers will continue to improve their ability to design learning exercises that will help Lao children improve skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Teachers nation-wide will teach the new Grade 3 curriculum from September 2021.