- Siamphone Buakhamvongsa, Education Specialist, UNICEF Lao PDR
Laos has achieved universal access and gender parity in primary education. Its primary net enrolment rate stands at 98.8%. However, primary completion remains unmet. The primary survival rate (79.6%) is the lowest in South East Asia and the Pacific and shows poor learning outcomes. Adding to that, the repetition rate in early primary grades is high, 11.5% in grade 1, which indicates lack of school readiness of children.
The Government of Lao PDR, with the support of UNICEF, is trying to change this situation. One of the obstacles that prevent children from learning is the low capacity of teachers, and linked to this the fact that they have little supervision and support, having an impact on their teaching practices. Pedagogical supervision, therefore, has been considered the best approach to support primary school teachers’ performance.
Pedagogical advisors of Ta Oi and Saravan Districts assessing current teaching
and learning needs during the capacity building workshop.
Pedagogical advisors of Ta Oi and Saravan Districts
preparing a lesson plan to address the teaching
and learning needs identified in the first part of the workshop.
“Improve pedagogical supervision with increased knowledge and skills of the district pedagogical advisors (PAs) is critical,” explains Takaho Fukami, Chief of Education, UNICEF Lao PDR. That is the reason why the learning oriented capacity building of pedagogical advisors was introduced with UNICEF support in late 2016, shifting away from theory and going towards a much more practical approach, where training is mostly conducted in real schools and where advisors follow actual classroom situations.
“The beauty of this approach is that it is conducted in a real setting. Pedagogical advisors are confronted with real case scenarios and they receive regular feedback from the trainers who are Government officials from the Ministry of Education and Sports at Provincial level,” states Ms. Fukami.
Through this capacity building exercise, PAs have gradually gained necessary knowledge and skills to help teachers to effectively address the teaching and learning needs of individual schools in the entire district. For many trainees, this has been a life-changing experience. “We have been able to apply what we have learnt into real situations. As a trainee, I have observed others and this has allowed me to gain knowledge too. I highly appreciate this process of learning by doing. The feedback I have received will help me to do better my job, explains Somkhit Mathavong, Head of the Pedagogical Supervision Unit of Ta Oi and Saravan Districts.
With improved knowledge and skills, especially in multi-grade teaching, the PAs have progressively been able to change their supervision methods, using demonstrating, coaching and mentoring techniques. The improved pedagogical supervision has greatly resulted in changing teachers’ teaching practice and has made a difference in the quality of learning.
Mr. Somkhit leading a session on teaching practices
“I really appreciate this kind of learning as we can immediately apply the knowledge and skills in our supervision practice. Our supervision methods and techniques have been increasingly improved from general observation and thanks to the advice and mentoring from the coaches, who have focused on very practical tips that will allow us to have a positive impact on students’ learning,” said Somkhit Matthavong, Head of Pedagogical Supervision center of Ta Oi District Education.
The results of this approach and training can already be seen. “We have noticed that in our district teachers have changed some of their practices,” explains Mr Matthavong.
|Grade one non-Lao speaking students are enjoying their learning.|
As some training participants acknowledged, there are still critical challenges to address in terms of teaching and learning at district level, particularly related to how to deal with teaching non-Lao speaking students and multi-grade teaching. UNICEF will continue to provide support to the Government in order to build capacity, knowledge and skills in these areas.