The Lao-German Technical College (“LGTC”) is a vocational training school under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Sports. It was founded in 1964 as part of (East-) Germany’s development aid in Laos during that time and is supported today by the Federal Republic of Germany.
The LGTC offers different vocational training courses for Lao students who finished lower secondary school or high school. Degrees range from “Skilled worker” to a Bachelor’s degree. More than 1,300 students are currently enrolled, with 670 new students taking up their training in September 2016.
For graduates from lower secondary schools (e.g. our school in Ban Phang Heng), the LGTC offers so-called “9+2” or “9+3” training courses, which means nine school years plus two or three years of vocational training. For upper secondary, i.e. high school graduates the LGTC offers “12+2” and “12+2+1” courses. The syllabus is divided up into semesters: the “winter” semester lasts from September until the middle of March and the “summer” semester from the end of March until mid-July.
The LGTC is divided into six main sections: Automotive, metal machinery, electro-electronics, welding-plumbing, heavy equipment and agro-machinery. Each section has its own workshop; theory lessons are held in the main building.
Since the LGTC is closely connected with Germany and its (unique) dual training system, their objective is to include more and more companies in the training courses on offer, in order to provide a practice-oriented vocational education. Compared to the German system, in which vocational training is split up between vocational schools (theory) and the companies (practice), the LGTC developed a system whereby both parts are (partly) combined in the College. Companies use the variety of machines and training devices in the College to offer training courses they cannot provide in their own workshop due to the lack of machines or personnel. Whenever possible, companies offer in-company training in their own workshops.
Due to good management and equipment, the LGTC cooperates with many different local and international companies, such as Toyota and RMA Ford in the automotive section, Phu Bia Mining in the metal and electrical sections, Kubota in the agro-machinery section, Endress Hauser and Nam Theun 2 Power Company in the electrics section, and BHS Corrugated in the electric and mechanic section.
The LGTC is considered to be the best in the country and has been titled “flagship of vocational training in Laos”, but the level of English proficiency is – with a few notable exceptions – very low or, mostly, non-existent. (English never played a role in the history of the country up until very recently, so this is hardly surprising.) However, English is becoming more and more important because of the growing competition between the ASEAN states in the new common market of the “ASEAN Economic Community” (AEC), officially established in 2016.
The demand for skilled Lao workers who can communicate in English has therefore sky-rocketed in a very short time, but the domestic job market cannot currently meet this new demand. Many of the skilled workers who can communicate in English follow the offer of higher salaries and better job opportunities in Thailand, Malaysia or Korea, as the AEC now also allows the free flow of goods and work forces.
This is why BHS Corrugated and the LGTC started working together on a new “Recruitment and Training Programme” following the model of the German dual system last year, in 2015.
At the same time, the Angel Foundation started its cooperation with the PH Karlsruhe to professionalize the teaching of English at the three AfC schools in Vientiane Province.
When the question arose how any vocational training aiming to meet international standards could not incorporate the development of English skills, the connection was made. Early in 2016, the project leaders of the “Teaching English in Laos” project were asked to teach the LGTC teachers so they would be able to teach their students better in the future. The teachers of “Technical English” and other vocational trainers were also faced with donations of equipment and machinery from various international companies whose instruction manuals they could not understand – because they were written in English (and other European languages). This means the LGTC has great equipment which cannot be used.
Therefore, in February 2016 it was decided to extend the “Teaching English in Laos” project to the LGTC, starting in September 2016. This way, a new partner college was included in our programme, less than six months after the start of the pilot project.
Text and photos by J. Zeck and I. Martin