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Ministry, Partners Seek to Ensure all Children Finish Primary School

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The main challenge facing the government and its development partners is the need to ensure that many more children complete primary school.

The Ministry of Education and Sports has set new nationwide enrolment targets. An enrolment rate of 51 percent is the new target for the 3-5 age group, while for lower secondary schools the target is an enrolment rate of 85 percent, up from 82 percent, within 2017 or beyond.

The figures were quoted during discussions at the ongoing National Assembly Ordinary Session.

Currently 82 percent of all children attending primary school in Laos complete their studies, an increase from 79 percent last year. The ministry’s aim is to raise this figure to 98 percent by the end of 2020 as one of the targets set under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To achieve this target, the ministry called on state and private school administrators and education officials around the country to step up efforts to address the challenges facing the sector.

Figures show that only about two-thirds of children nationwide complete their primary education, with those coming from remote villages in the most educationally disadvantaged districts facing the greatest hurdles.

A ministry official, experts and researchers told Vientiane Times this week there is an urgent need to tackle issues such as poor school conditions, overcrowding, drug abuse and literacy rates, and the high dropout rate.

Making sure that children are able to stay in school and complete the full five grades of primary school remains a major challenge, they said.

While education has seen significant progress in recent years, greater efforts are essential to break through the barriers that still prevent many children, especially rural girls, from entering and staying in school, they noted.

Making sure that everyone benefits from a good education is critical to unleashing the country’s human resource potential and ensuring that Laos graduates from Least Developed Country status by 2020.

The ministry reported that national primary school enrolment rates have risen to 95.2 percent, up from 94.1 percent in the 2011-12 academic year. The gap between male and female enrolment has also narrowed, from 7 percent to 2 percent.

High levels of malnutrition in early childhood linked to rural poverty also represent a particular cause for concern, as hunger impairs brain development and diminishes children’s ability to learn.

Expansion of primary and secondary education, and improvements in literacy rates, especially for women, are also high priorities.

Source: Vientiane Times