Since 2015, the Australian Government, through the BEQUAL program, has been supporting national primary curriculum reform led by the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR (MoES). As part of the program, grants are provided to target districts to support increased and improved in-semester teacher support activities. Women in district education offices in Laos often face a number of barriers to achievement, including entrenched gender roles and norms and hidden gender discrimination in promotion practices. Through training and capacity building activities for relevant district staff who are responsible for managing and implementing grant activities, Australia and MoES actively promote the equal participation of women in BEQUAL district level teacher support activities and grant management.
Ms Sysai Panyachack has been working in Samuay District Education and Sports Bureau, Salavan Province, since 2014 and was promoted to Pedagogical Adviser (PA) in 2020. She is the first female PA in Samuay District and there are 4 other male PAs in the team. Since becoming a PA her involvement in BEQUAL supported activities have enabled her to rapidly improve her skills and capacity, and she has become a very well-respected PA and part of the district team. Sysai was the only PA from her district to be selected as a Provincial Trainer (PT) in 2021 for the Grade 3 primary curriculum training. In the same year she was allocated responsibility for the management of the BEQUAL district grant in her district. She is the team leader for this activity, overseeing 6 staff (4 male) and is responsible for the preparation of plans and budgets, as well as acquittal and reporting. She is also responsible for coordination of online data collection and reporting using KoBo. In this role she has participated in a number of BEQUAL supported workshops and has demonstrated a strong technical and organizational capacity, confidence and desire to learn. The quality of the BEQUAL grant administration and implementation in 2021-22 has increased markedly due to Sysai’s management.
Since becoming a PA and taking on BEQUAL program responsibilities, Sysai has been able to rapidly grow and develop her skills and confidence. Other PAs in her team, who have been in the role longer than her, report that they ask her for support and input regularly and find her knowledge and skills invaluable for their work and team. The district leadership has also acknowledged her strong capacity and commitment to providing well planned, quality teacher pedagogical support and training. They acknowledge her key role in ensuring that Samuay district performance in BEQUAL grant management has improved markedly from previous years. All staff at the district have developed a deep respect for Sysai’s contributions, both for her commitment to quality teacher support and for her continued desire to improve and learn in all areas. The Salavan Teacher Training College has also recently identified Sysai as the best performing PA in her district.
Sysai says “I feel comfortable working in the PA Centre with the team and they respect my contributions and effort. In the future I would like to undertake further study to upgrade my pedagogical knowledge to support teachers better.”
May the story of Sysai inspire more women and men to be active advocate of gender equality and opportunities for women in implementation of program activities.