A few thoughts on how the education system could be improved – by Bounleud Sengsavangvong and Souvanh Navong

All Posts, Laos, Teaching experiences, The Lao teachers

After having lived in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for three months, with another one to come, it is time to reflect on the larger framework of our work here. During my time here, my whole day revolved around the topic of teaching, education, and teacher-training. I got a partial insight into the Lao education system, a system that needs to be developed and supported. There is already a lot of help in Laos via foreign organizations from all over the world, but in my opinion the Lao teachers should not only rely on foreign guidance, and they don’t. NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that want to help Laos long-term help the people by helping them to help themselves.

The article by Johannes Zeck on the history of the formalized Lao education system points out in a detailed way that this history is still very young, so there are still many opportunities to develop and shape the way education is being understood and defined in Laos.

This article is the joint work of my two tandem-teachers/students, Bounleud Sengsavangvong and Souvanh Navong. During our daily teacher-lessons, they asked me to help them improve their writing skills. So, over the course of one week, we started to think about suitable topics to write about. After having shared our ideas, we followed Souvanh’s suggestion and agreed to write about how to improve Lao education. Based on David Nunan’s How to teach English to Speakers of other Languages, we structured our writing and editorial work along the 13 steps, including self-evaluation, external-evaluation by the Lao teachers, and a final conference, during which we merged both articles into one.

To keep this article as authentic as possible, I did no editing in particular to it. For readability and conveying our message without transmitting any misunderstandings, I guided my tandem-teachers/students through editing certain paragraphs by themselves.

Bounleud Sengsavangvong: How to give poor children a chance

In Laos country, we had many ethnic groups lived together. Every group used their own language for communication in their family but when they go to other places, they have to use Laos nationality language for communication. If they use to their own language for communication. There are many people in the country hard to understanding because in our country many people live together. Some people can only communicate by speaking but they can’t read and write. They don’t have the chance to study in the school such as the children, who lived in north part of Laos. They lived in the country side villages and their village is far from school. They can’t come to school because they are different with the children lived in the big city or capital city. We had many wars in our country. Rarely we were development many things together after end of the war because it was short time and most the people in our country just the leaders and the person worked in the Army. They had the basic for education but for the public didn’t have chance to study only a few people studied in the temple or they learnt listening and speaking from the monk when they went to the temple but they didn’t have material for study. It had only a few in capital city or big city so it was a reason. It was difficult to development for our education in Laos country. Usually most people worked in the farm or they grew only rice, vegetable and feed the pet for eat in their family. If they wanted to visit their cousin in other village. They rode their bicycle to there. For their children only stayed at home with their parents. Most of the people in our country. Rarely people knew the literacy. They couldn’t read and write but now in our country. We were more development than forty years before but we aren’t successful enough. We have to development many to be better such as education, the road, academic and other things. First we should development education more higher and we should get the more chance for the children. Who lived in the north part of Laos.
The poor family. They don’t know in literacy. The Laos should have some project to each villages or every provinces. After that every head of the villages. Then they should get the list of children. Who aren’t know literacy. Next the Laos government should get the chance for these are children. I think it isn’t successful in the short time but they should start as soon as possible.

I think the Lao government should support finance for education in first step. Then they should built more school buildings for children. Next they should have enough teachers in every school. Then they should support more teaching materials for teaching. Next they should open the teacher training once in a year. They should tell them about the more skills and more technics to possible, before they will teach to the students in the classroom. They have to be sure and confident with that thing. If the teachers do something mistake, the students will be follow. This a important thing for teaching and all the teachers. The finally thing all teachers should prepare lesson before going to teach. The government should get the chance for the children who live in a poor family and who didn’t complete the basic level for primary school, secondary school and high school. The government have to do the rules for education. Every child have to study in the kindergarten for the beginner because they will can practice their writing, speaking, reading and other skills. Then if the children are 6 years old already. Every child have to study in elementary school and they have to finish this level. Then they have to continue in secondary school. Then they have to continue in high school and they have to get finished and the certificate for three levels. After that they had the basic for reading, writing others skills in education. If they use their knowledge for do some small business and learn more experience from their parents then they will be quite good in their life but if they want to more knowledge or more higher than three basic levels. They have to study continue in the college or university for up their level more higher. Then they can fine many good jobs. Maybe they can choose many jobs because it is more faster to successful in their life and they can stay to longer with that job.

So I am really sure. If the education in Laos more higher similar like with national education in the Europe. I believe and really sure. There are many things in our country will more faster in development so I think, the first step we should improve education more than others job.

Souvanh Navong: How to improve our teaching

The Lao story: Twenty years ago when I visited in Lao countryside, I saw there are many villages not enough school, so that the Lao students just studied at primary school. All the students started at primary school, twelve years old.

Some people or family they have money, they can learn until finish secondary school and high school, but they can’t have job. Some people studied at university finish they also no have job. So that I think of Lao students not interested for learning because when they want to work in Vientiane, they don’t know how to speak English. The Lao teacher’s teaching at primary school or secondary school. Just three years for studied at the teacher training college, I think it is not enough for teaching because they have not experience. If who come to be a teacher, must studied finish master, example: the English teacher come to teaching just following the text book. When the Lao teacher work with the foreigner, they don’t know how to speak English. I think sixty years need for development of Education, and teaching. Example: in my school I think the director can speak English in this school, the director is important for working. Also the director should have experience of working with foreigner. The director must know English because in this school so, we have many English teacher from Germany or other countries. This is very important for working to getter or communicate so to get the knowledge.

If you are English teacher, but you can’t speak, what do you do? I think you must improve by yourself, then you can learn from internet, you tube, movie, read English book and from your friends, if you teaching you try to practice all the time. The Lao teacher could have a lot of experience of working with foreigner. Sometime we learning from the textbook, sometime we learning from outside after that we should have a lot of material making lesson plane, prepare very Unit, making flashcard. Grammar Map, vocabulary box, setting homework every day. Sacking understandings.
Now I think so many province we need to improve the teachers to be good teacher and the must setting homework to the students after School. The teacher must explain how to do the homework and tell students try to do by them self’s when they come to school. The students come to read and write on the board the teacher must checking understanding of lesson, so that the teacher must improve of teaching all the time. Because use the perfect of lesson. and must have lesson plan of all the unit or lesson, the teacher must teach by the ministry of Education must teaching finish the textbook and the teacher must teaching different way. Because need the students not boring, so that the teachers must have a lot of experience to be a teaching the teacher must finished study at university of Laos five years or five years, than is the good way. The students have rules for everything must improve for learning all the subjects, the students should respect the teacher, the students must have uniform and the student must know the people used the school rules if the students should do the homework every day. This way is good for learning all the time at home because learn step by step try to understanding or try to practice with their friends Now we know the students not learn, write, read, speak, practice and not interested about it of learning so that we must talking all the time and explain or compare the good things or good student from other school. Before no have English class room they are  never learning ,so that some people come from countryside or some village ,they never heart English subject, they only speak Lao some students studied at primary school and stop, some students continue at secondary school and high school but they no have good job now we know the teacher is important thing the same father number two of the student because they are teaching of the students all time send to knowledge for students, after they can have good job. The teacher teach how to speak, how to draw, how to write, how to learn and how to read.

David Schrep

I’m very impressed by my two Lao teacher-students. I am very thankful for all their hard work and the effort they have put into this project over the last months – and indeed, since this project started, in October 2015. Their joint article details from their own perspectives that Lao education needs to be further developed, and they also name some concrete steps which should be taken in our particular sector. We look at these issues as opportunities opportunities to change something and to help other people. We are very grateful to have these opportunities and to be able to have an impact on the education in this wonderful country.

Text by: B. Sengsavangvong, S. Navong, D. Schrep

Photo by: S. Stoehrer

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