Laos is a culturally and linguistically rich country, with four main ethnolinguistic groups and over 50 languages. When children begin school, they are fluent speakers of their home language, but around 40% of grade 1 children are not yet confident speakers of Lao. This creates challenges for students and teachers, as children need to learn to read and write in Lao and also need to learn the curriculum content of the various subjects in Lao.
Mr. Khamchan Latthayord, Deputy Director General of the Research Institute for Educational Sciences (RIES) and Mr. Bob McLaughlin, Policy, Strategy, and Governance Manager, the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) Program opened the training of trainers’ workshop for the Spoken Lao Program (SLP). Fourteen Master Trainers from Research Institute for Educational Science (RIES), Ban Kheun Teacher Training College, Sathid Primary School in Dongkhamxang Teacher Training College and Thonkgang Primary School will be participating in this one-week workshop. The training will focus on the contents of the revised SLP materials and effective techniques for developing students’ oral Lao language skills. Participants will also prepare to train teachers on adapting activities to suit the language level of their students, using games to create an enjoyable atmosphere for language learning, and using students’ first languages to support Lao language learning. The implementation of this new phase of the SLP will receive the support of the Government of Australia and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the BEQUAL program.
Mr. Khamchan commented “the objective of this training is to provide Master Trainers with a good understanding of the revised materials and confidence to pass on their knowledge to the Grade 1 teachers who will implement the Spoken Lao Program from September 2023. We’re grateful to the governments of Australia and the United States of America for assisting the Ministry of Education and Sports to reach the goal of quality education for all children in Laos’.
Mr. Bob McLaughlin added “If students aren’t competent in the language of instruction, it is extremely challenging for them to understand the teacher, participate in activities and achieve the expected learning outcomes. Australia and USAID, through the BEQUAL program, are honored to support the efforts of the Ministry of Education and Sports to introduce remedial support for students that start school not yet able to speak Lao. Together, we are working towards a more inclusive education system in Laos.”
Ms. Phonesiri Outthaivanh, Lao Language Research Center at RIES explained: “In 2019, MoES with the support of the Australian government launched the Spoken Lao Pilot. The pilot consisted of an additional five hours of Lao language lessons each week (in addition to normal school hours) to improve grade 1 students’ Lao speaking and listening skills. SLP was previously trialed in 7 districts with large numbers of ethnic students who do not speak Lao at home in Phongsaly, Bolikhamsay, Khammouane and Salavan provinces between 2019 and 2021. Drawing on lessons learned and teachers’ feedback from this pilot, the Spoken Lao materials and approach were improved, and further user tested by teachers through classroom trials. Our dedicated division for Lao Language Research was established to lead on these developments and the pilot was upgraded to a Program. The revised materials were formally approved for use in April 2023 by the Committee for the Approval of Curriculum and Instructional Materials. An expanded trial of the new materials will be carried out in 21 districts in 10 provinces in school year 2023 – 2024.”
In July the Master Trainers will deliver the Spoken Lao Program training to teachers and pedagogical support staff in 10 provinces across Laos. Teachers will be given hands-on training on how to deliver the new program effectively and how to support students’ Lao language development more broadly. The training will also be an opportunity for teachers and pedagogical support staff in each province to connect, share experiences, and create an ongoing community of professional support.
In addition to the Spoken Lao Program, MoES with the support of Australia, is currently producing a role model teacher video in which a teacher in a remote village in Phongsaly shares her experiences of teaching ethnic students who speak a language other than Lao at home. This documentary will be available soon. Teachers can also watch a training video on techniques to support ethnic students, which is available on the ວິດີໂອສໍາລັບການພັດທະນາຄູ Teacher Development Videos YouTube channel.
Mr. Khamchan concluded that: “We are looking forward to the roll out of the revised SLP and to providing ongoing support for teachers to improve the education outcomes of children who speak a language other than Lao at home.”