A delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, conducted a field visit to launch a new AED 20,204,250 (USD 5,500,000) program in Lao PDR titled, ‘Lao Educational Access Research and Networking’ (LEARN). The new program aims to reach 35,000 school-age children and will be implemented in partnership with Plan International Canada, Save the Children and the World Bank.
During the visit, the delegation visited Oudomxay province to monitor the program in its initial implementation stages before continuing on to the capital, Vientiane, where the program was officially launched in the presence of Her Excellency Ms. Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun, Minister of Education and Sports in Lao PDR. Speaking from Vientiane, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares said: “Over the past years, the government of Lao People's Democratic Republic has made significant strides in terms of primary school enrolment. However, drop-out rates remain high, particularly in remote and rural areas. Through this new intervention, Dubai Cares aims to support the country’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) in achieving its 2016-2020 policy objectives related to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system, by reducing dropout rates and repetition and improving learning in the early primary school grades.”
According to the United Nations, Lao PDR met Millennium Development Goal 2 (MDG) target on enrolment by 2014, with a primary education net enrolment ratio of 98.5 percent. However, the retention rate to grade 5 remains low, at around 78.3 per cent in 2014/15. Although this retention rate has increased by over 7 per cent from the level at which it stood in 2012, it still needs to be much higher to ensure full completion of primary education.
The mission of the LEARN program is to improve the readiness of pre-primary school boys and girls in their transition to primary schooling by helping targeted primary schools to be more student-oriented. The program will promote health, sanitation and good nutrition, helping to make the learning process more fulfilling for young children, encourage parents to be actively involved in their children’s development and education and provide children with an accelerated model of pre-school activities to prepare them for primary school. In addition, it will provide education material and books, along with training and assistance to teachers that will support them in taking a more balanced and inclusive approach to gender-related issues in education and consequently benefit students.
Dubai Cares’ LEARN program will contribute to key indicators in the new Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP) in Lao PDR by increasing the gross enrolment rate of 5-year-old girls and boys in school readiness from 66% in 2015 to 80% in 2020; reducing grade 1 repetition from 15% in 2015 to 3% in 2020; and reducing the dropout rate in grade 1 from 9% in 2015 to 3% in 2020.
Commenting on the launch of this new program, Mada Al Suwaidi, Senior Country Program Officer said: “This program aims to test out different models of education, with the ultimate goal of improving the learning outcomes and retention rates of children in the early grades. It will also generate the evidence required to influence key policies and processes regarding education reforms in Lao PDR. We hope to help children gain their rights by ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
The new program’s activities will be implemented by Plan International Canada in four districts of Oudxomay Province – Houn, Namo, Nga, and Pak Beng - and Save the Children in the Nambak, Ngoi, and Phonthong districts of Luang Prabang Provinces.