The main challenge facing the Ministry of Education and Sports and its development partners is the need to ensure that many more children complete primary school.

Currently, only 77.5 percent of all children attending primary school in Laos actually complete their studies. The ministry’s aim is to raise this figure to 95 percent by 2015 as one of the targets set under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Speaking at a press conference in Vientiane yesterday at the start of the 2014-15 academic year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Sports Dr Phankham Viphavanh called on state and private school administrators and education officials around the country to step up efforts to address the challenges facing the sector.

Figures show that only about two-thirds of children nationwide complete their primary education, with children from remote villages in the most educationally disadvantaged districts facing the greatest hurdles.

In particular, Dr Phankham said there is an urgent need to tackle issues such as poor school conditions, overcrowding, drug abuse, and literacy rates, along with the high dropout rate.

“Making sure that children are able to stay in school and complete the full five grades of primary school remains a major challenge,” he said.
With time running out for the 2015 MDG deadline, Dr Phankham emphasised the need for all groups to work together to overcome educational disparities and achieve equitable quality education for all.

While education has seen significant progress in recent years, greater efforts are essential to break through the barriers that still prevent many children, especially rural girls, from entering and staying in school, he said.

Making sure that everyone benefits from a good education is critical to unleashing the country’s human resource potential and ensuring Laos graduates from least developed country status by 2020.

The ministry reported that national primary school enrollment rates have risen to 95.2 percent, up from 94.1 percent in the 2011-12 academic year. The gap between male and female enrolment has also narrowed, from 7 percent to 2 percent.

High levels of malnutrition in early childhood linked to rural poverty also represent a particular cause for concern, as hunger impairs brain development and diminishes children’s ability to learn.

Expansion of primary and secondary education, and improvements in literacy rates, especially for women, are also high priorities.

Drug abuse is also hindering the ministry’s attempts to achieve the education goals set under the MDGs.

To address this issue, all schools around the country must tackle the problem in an effort to declare every institution drug-free by 2015.

Last academic year, hundreds of schools across the country were awarded drug-free certificates including 65 schools in Vientiane, according to the ministry.

Dr Phankham emphasised that the drug issue has become an increasingly pressing threat to social order and security while posing a significant danger to the younger generation.

Source: Vientiane Times
Published on September 01, 2014