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Lao PDR commits to ‘education for people and planet’ at national GEM Report launch

©UNESCO

Education’s central role in enabling all development goals and Lao PDR’s commitment to harnessing this potential were the main themes of the national launch of the 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report.

National Launch of the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report
Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
31 January 2017

More than 100 education officials, students, teachers and representatives from education institutes and civil society organizations from across the country gathered in Vientiane recently for the Lao PDR national launch of the 2016 GEM Report.

The 2016 GEM Report is the first of a 15-year series that aims to explore the complex relationship between Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education and the rest of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The theme of this year’s report is “Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all”, focusing on six pillars: planet, prosperity, people, peace, place and partnerships.

Lao PDR recently integrated SDG4 into its national education and sports sector development plan, making the GEM Report launch a timely platform for stakeholders to learn about global and regional developments in education as well as to raise and propose solutions to national challenges related to SDG4.

SDG4 AS DRIVER FOR DEVELOPMENT

UNESCO Bangkok Chief of Section for Inclusive Quality Education, Maki Hayashikawa elaborated on some of the report’s findings at the launch regarding the broad and holistic nature of SDG4 and the need to work cross-sectorally to achieve it.

She also presented evidence showing that while advances have been made in education in Asia-Pacific, wealth, geographic and disparities persist. Lao PDR is no exception in this regard, Ms Hayashikawa said – the country has made remarkable strides in addressing educational barriers, though much work needs to be carried out in light of the new education agenda.

Dr Khamphay Sisavanh, Vice Minister of Education and Sports, said his government is committed to these goals, and cited the GEM Report as supporting his government’s view that “education should be one step in advance of the SDGs.”

“Education development has always been the key focus of the government,” he said, “and will also be reflected in the progress of other SDGs, whether on poverty, nutrition, health, infrastructure and sustainable industrialization, environment protection or water and sanitation.”

He also spoke to Lao PDR’s unique development challenges, particularly dealing with unexploded ordnances (UXOs). As it did in the MDG era, the country has added its own goal to the Agenda for Sustainable Development, “SDG 18”, which aims to make lives safe and remove UXOs in a country that is the most heavily bombed nation in the world, with an estimated 30% of the UXOs dropped on it between 1964-1975 having failed to detonate.

Returning to education, Dr Sisavanh highlighted his country’s success in eradicating illiteracy at the primary level among those 15-24 years old in all districts last year and said that efforts to provide equivalency programmes to eradicate illiteracy at the lower secondary level are underway.

Dr. Sisavanh noted also that the country’s education law was revised to make lower secondary education compulsory in addition to primary education. “The expansion of compulsory education is challenging for the education sector, but works towards the global education agenda’s ultimate goal to leave no one behind,” he said.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Improving education quality in Lao PDR was a key focus of discussion at the launch and a point also raised by Dr Somsy Gnophanxay, President of the National University of Laos (NUoL), regarding training institutes and universities. He said both must make the quality of training a top priority to ensure that students are qualified to enter the world of work.

At the national level, many of the challenges faced during the Education for All (EFA) period remain in the SDGs period, said Dr Bounpanh Xaymountry, Director-General, Department of Planning, Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES).

He said that after years of efforts to achieve universal primary education and gender equality, for example, the country continues to grapple with issues such as student retention and gender disparities, particularly at the higher levels of education.

Ensuring the quality of teachers, effective teacher deployment and education financing are also roadblocks to SDG4, he said.

“For Lao PDR, when we look at education investments or allocation of funds in the education sector, a large part goes to salaries of civil servants,” he said. “At the same time, there is a mismatch between what is needed on the ground and actual teacher deployment.”

OPTIMISM ON ‘LONG ROAD TO SDGS’

Despite these challenges, Dr. Xaymountry remained hopeful about the country’s progress toward SDG4, pointing to positive advances, such as the recently organized national consultation to localize the SDG4 targets into the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) and the education and sports sector development plan (ESDP) 2016-2020.

Ensuring that these developments will carry over from policies on paper into policies in action is essential, Dr Gnophanxay said. “How do we go about implementing policies?” he asked. “What environments and coordination need to be put in place to ensure that policies are properly implemented?”

One positive step in this regard is the establishment of a systematic monitoring mechanism for SDG4-Education 2030.

Mr Maaly Vorabouth, Acting Director of the Education and Sports Statistics Center, Department of Planning, MoES, said the country has been active in strengthening cooperation and collaboration in statistics and monitoring of education. The statistics center and relevant technical departments will be linked and aligned to the overall information of the education and sports statistics center.

National discussions have led to 62 national indicators to monitor SDG4. Lao PDR is also in the process of mapping its education sector activities and the statistics center will conduct statistical and data analysis trainings from central to sub-national level.

Closing the launch, Vice Minister Sisavanh remarked that the government has dedicated 17% of the country’s national budget to education, a reflection of its commitment to SDG4. He remarked on the broad and holistic nature of SDG4 and the need to reflect on what “education for the 21st century” means for Lao PDR. “The SDGs is a long road and we have to travel together – for us, particularly for SDG4,” he said.

The national launch of the 2016 GEM Report in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR was co-organized by the Ministry of Education and Sports and UNESCO Bangkok – Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, and hosted by the National University of Laos.

Download the full and summary report (EN), here.   

Download: 2016 GEM Summary Report (Lao language)

Download: Lao PDR Fact Sheet (2016 GEM Report data)

 



01.03.2017