Government policy regarding compulsory education, foreign language teaching in primary schools, rights and obligations of teachers and students were highlights at the National Assembly (NA) debate on the amendment to the Law on Education.

The assembly took a half day yesterday to debate the latest draft amendment to the law, with the previous amendment passed in 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Sports, Dr Phankham Viphavanh introduced the draft amendment.

The Law on Education was established and promulgated first in 2000. It had 12 chapters, and divided to 54 articles. The law amended and promulgated in 2007, had 12 parts which included 79 articles.

Dr Phankham noted the need for amendment to the law of 2007 to meet the requirements of post-2015 trends in education of the region and the world, and administration and management mechanisms with responsibilities not clear across authorities at various levels.

At the debate, NA member for Champassak province Dr Phonethep Pholsena praised the draft amendment and the government’s promotion of preschool age education, health and basic nutrition in schools.

However, he wanted where the policy would be implemented to be clearer, saying despite it being realised at primary school, it should also be in pre-primary schools.

“It is very important for the nutrition policy to be implemented in pre-primary schools because children of that age are growing fast, and malnutrition would have long term affects on a child’s development into the future,” Dr Phonethep said.

NA member for Huaphanh province Mr Khamvone Bounthavong wanted students to be rewarded for their outstanding academic achievements.

Mr Khamvone also wanted for the law clarified regarding fees collected by education institutions, saying the existing law was open to loopholes for them to make extraordinary claims from students.

The law says places of education have the right to collect fees for a certain period, except for compulsory public education.

NA member for Xaysomboun province wanted article 41 changed about learning foreign language (English) to make it required from grade one, but the law currently makes it compulsory beginning from grade three.

He wanted travel to school by public buses to be free to minimise the burden on parents using private vehicles for children and reducing road accident risks.

Regarding article 52 about teachers, Mr Khamdeng Silavong wanted it stipulated the aim was to promote quality teachers.

At the debate, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Ms Sengdeuan Lachanthaboun, representing the drafting subcommittee, commented on NA members’ opinions. She said the subcommittee would further improve the teacher policy stipulations.

Regarding nine years compulsory education with all students completing at least lower secondary school, she said the determination was necessary despite the additional investment needed as it was a requirement for international integration.

She said it would be good if some schools could start teaching English from grade one which some NA members wanted, but the law took into account the overall situation throughout the country.

She explained it would be difficult for children of small population ethnic groups to learn a foreign language at the start of school because they have to learn the national language.

“We want children to be strong in the national language before learning a foreign language. Therefore, starting to learn other languages at grade three is appropriate,” the deputy minister said.

Source: Vientiane Times
Published on July 17, 2015