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Laos Aims to Improve Education and Reduce Dropouts

Source: The Star

The Lao government will step up efforts to ensure everyone is able to attend school in the South-East Asian country, and encourage more young people to study at a higher level after an increase in school dropout rates and an enrollment drop in schools and universities seen nationwide.

Speaking at the ongoing sixth ordinary session of the National Assembly’s ninth legislature, which opened on Tuesday, Lao Minister of Planning and Investment Khamjane Vongphosy said that the immediate target is to get 2,500 students to enroll in courses in natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics in universities and other higher education institutions.

Another target is to raise the enrollment rate of five-year-olds in preschool education to 82 percent.

Khamjane also said that in 2024 efforts will be made to increase the enrollment rate in the first year of primary school to 98 percent, and to 97 percent in the fifth year of primary school.

The Lao government is alarmed by an increase in school dropout rates while the number of school and university applicants has been dropping significantly this year.

Khamjane said the 25,000 students who currently drop out of school will be encouraged to take extracurricular education and vocational training.

He also stressed the need for more young people to engage in research and study a wide range of topics so that they are able to play a greater role in national development.

Lao government has identified education as a key task in the development of communities and a skilled workforce, and is trying to provide everyone with a high standard of education, both in urban and rural areas.

However, a large proportion of the Lao population lives in remote areas and many children find it difficult to attend school on a regular basis. In addition, the student dropout rate is rising, with many families unable to afford the tuition fees and other associated costs of school attendance.

The high dropout rate across all age groups is affecting learning outcomes and consequently the development of the country as a whole. In response, the Lao government and Ministry of Education and Sports will step up efforts to ensure everyone is able to attend school at least up to the secondary level.

The ministry urged all education administrators, teachers and students to support the government in achieving education goals and radically improving levels of literacy.

In addition, Lao authorities plan to create more labor market networks to ensure there are sufficient jobs available for students after they graduate.

Deputy Director General of Higher Education Department under Lao Ministry of Education and Sports Lavanh Vongkhamsan told media in September that the ministry will build partnership with business operators to ensure employment for graduates, in a bid to halt the decline in the number of people attending universities.

Meanwhile, the government is working to ensure that everyone has access to education, by opening more schools in remote areas so that all disadvantaged groups can have equal educational opportunities, Lao Minister of Education and Sports Phout Simmalavong, said at a press conference to mark the International Literacy Day on Sept. 8.

The number of students registering for entrance exams at the four universities across the country dropped sharply in 2023. Only 7,441 students sat entrance exams at the National University of Laos in Lao capital Vientiane, of whom 6,688 will be awarded places, according to an education ministry report in August.