Problem Area and Country Setting
Laos is a country in Southeast Asia. It is ranked as the 105th most populated country globally, equivalent to 0.089% of the world population based on statistics done by Worldmeter. (2023). It has a population of 7,425,057, and this constitutes highly diverse people with over 100 ethnic groups, various religious groups such as Islam and Christianity, and several languages are spoken. The official language is the Lao language which is officially taught in school but is not well understood by students from different ethnic groups. Hence, it affects the student’s academic performance. According to the World Bank, Laos is an emerging lower-middle-income economy nation. Lao is characterized by a large informal economy and is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector. It has tremendously made a significant step in advancing economic progress over the past decade, with a GDP growth rate of 6.7% in 2019. Despite these commendable steps Lao has taken in terms of economic development and population growth rate, this diversity needs to adequately comprehend and digest its educational system, which has occasioned a lack of understanding and acceptance of different cultures and beliefs. Looking deeply into the curricula of many educational institutions in Lao, it is clear that they are not tailored to the needs of other ethnic and religious groups. Language barriers can prevent students from accessing the same educational opportunities as their peers.
Education in Laos is indeed facing a serious challenge because of this issue of the country’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity. Most of the population is made up of ethnic Lao. However, there are also several minority groups, including Hmong, Khmu, Mien and Tai, who each have their distinct language and culture. This is the reason behind the lack of educational resources and opportunities for these minority groups of the Lao population. These groups are also underrepresented in the higher levels of education, and there needs to be more support for them to access and succeed in the education system. In order to adequately address the challenges posed by ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity in Laos, several educational solutions can be implemented. There needs to be greater access to educational resources for minority groups to ensure they have the same opportunities as the majority ethnic Lao population. This could be achieved by providing additional funding for schools in minority areas and ensuring enough teachers and teaching materials are available. There is a need to be more support for minority students already in the education system. This could include mentoring and counselling services to help them adjust to the education system and additional resources to help them succeed.
Additionally, there needs to be more emphasis on teaching minority languages and cultures in the classroom. This could include the introduction of religious education programs in schools, as well as the recognition of minority languages as official languages of the state. This would help ensure that all Laos students have access to quality education, regardless of their religious or linguistic background.
Laos faces substantial challenges in providing quality education that adequately considers ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity. This lack of inclusive education has led to a lack of respect for minority cultures, decreased educational outcomes, and perpetuated systemic inequality.
Laos’s government has tried to address these issues of inclusive education. These efforts include setting up programs to provide educational opportunities for members of minority groups and increasing funds for schools in rural and remote areas. However, much must be done to ensure that all population members, despite their ethnic groups, can access quality and inclusive education. This includes providing more resources and materials tailored to the needs of minority groups and increasing the number of qualified teachers in rural and remote areas. The problem of education failing to account for ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity adequately is a significant issue in Laos. Despite implementing new policies, such as the Education Sector Development Plan 2017-2021, there is still considerable room for improvement in this area (Rehbein, 2021). Indeed in Laos, education fails to take adequate account of ethnic, religious, and linguistic. Furthermore, the educational system is often biased towards the majority ethnic group, and there is a lack of representation of minority groups in decision-making processes. This has created some problems that need to be improved for the educational opportunities of many population members.
The most visible of these problems is the lack of access to education for members of minority ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups. Even though these groups make up a significant portion of the population, they are often excluded from the educational system and denied the opportunities that come with it. In addition, the quality of education in many rural and remote areas is often lacking, with inadequate funding and support and a lack of qualified teachers. The language of instruction in Laos is Lao, so there is a need to support students whose first language is different. This has resulted in a lack of understanding of concepts and decreased student engagement.
Furthermore, there is a lack of resources and materials that are tailored to the needs of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. This means these students often need help accessing the same educational opportunities as their peers. The lack of education for members of minority groups has resulted in a lack of economic opportunities for these groups. This has led to higher levels of poverty and inequality in the country and an inability for members of these groups to participate in the country’s economic development. In order to ensure that all members of the population of Laos have access to quality education, it is essential to address the lack of adequate consideration of ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity in the educational system. This includes providing more resources and materials tailored to the needs of minority groups, increasing the number of qualified teachers in rural and remote areas, and increasing funding for schools in these areas, as discussed in the Creative idea section.
According to UNICEF, MARD proposes several creative solutions to this issue. (2015), the framework and curriculum used are impractical, considering that the country comprises 40 tribes. The remedy to the ineffective framework, as MARD, we devised a creative idea that involves tailoring the curriculum and assessment framework that will consider the needs of Lao different ethnic and religious groups and linguistic diversity in the country. This framework would be based on core principles such as inclusivity, diversity, and respect for cultural and religious differences (Phoumilay, 2019). The framework will also provide teachers with the necessary tools to create more diverse and inclusive classroom environments, considering students the opportunity to learn about their peers’ cultural and religious beliefs. Besides, the framework will also ensure that minority groups are embodied in decision-making processes regarding the educational system. MARD proposes Lao government and other stakeholders create an enthusiastic team of experts to develop and implement the curriculum and assessment framework. This team should comprise representatives from different ethnic and religious groups (Lao, 2020). The team will be fully endorsed to ensure that the framework is tailored to the needs of the diverse population in Laos. The team would provide support to teachers and students, and this will thus ensure the implementation of the framework effectively and operating well.
The curriculum should be designed to account for the population’s cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity. It should incorporate the perspectives and experiences of minorities and the local cultural context (Phoumilay, 2019). The curriculum should also be designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and understanding necessary to succeed in their chosen field. The system will then be implemented gradually, starting with primary schools and steadily expanding to secondary and tertiary education. The curriculum should also be regularly reviewed and updated to remain relevant and up-to-date. It should be accompanied by adequate teacher training and support and supplemented with extracurricular activities adapted to the local context of ethnic and religious background (Macalister & Phonekeo, 2022). To ensure this idea is novel, evidence can include a literature review of existing educational policies in Laos and a comparison with the educational policies of other countries, such as Cambodia’s curriculum system (Yan et al.,2021). To ensure the significance of this curriculum and framework, further evidence can be done through surveys and interviews with students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders being considered. Our creative idea will enhance students in Laos to access quality education, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or linguistic background (Noonan, 2020). It will further reduce educational access and outcomes disparities, leading to a more equitable and inclusive education system.
MARD’s creative solution to the education problem of failing to adequately account for ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity in Laos would be to develop and implement a tailored curriculum and assessment framework. This framework would allow teachers to create more diverse and inclusive classroom environments. Also, this framework will allow students to learn about their peers’ cultural and religious beliefs. Additionally, the framework will ensure that minority groups are embodied in decision-making processes within the educational system. Developing a more inclusive education system is essential for Laos’s economic and social development. With improved access to education, more people will gain the skills necessary to take advantage of economic opportunities in the industry and manufacturing sectors hence creating employment for the young population who could indulge in crime and unethical activities.
Also, inclusivity will significantly contribute to economic development and growth in Gross Domestic Product, enhancing national income and Lao’s citizens’ living standards. Furthermore, such a curriculum system and framework will foster a great understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity, helping create an economic and socially sustainable society and country. For these reasons, MARD is well-positioned to work with the government of Laos and its philanthropic partners to provide practical solutions to this problem. With this implant, we can create innovative strategies to ensure that all community members can access education and make an effort to ensure that the system includes all Lao religions and cultures. Such a project will help drive the country’s economic and social development and ultimately benefit all its citizens. Hence this report is essential, and its implementation will significantly change Laos’ educational and cultural diversity in consideration of the country’s economic and social well-being.
Lao, N. (2020). Reorienting machine learning education towards tinkerers and ML-engaged citizens (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Macalister, J., & Phonekeo, S. (2022). Language Teacher Education, Reading, and Curriculum Change in Southeast Asia: A Laotian Perspective. RELC Journal, 00336882221094389.
Noonan, R. (2020). Education in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.
Phoumilay, P. (2019). Vocational education and training in Lao PDR. Vocational education and training in ASEAN member state: Current status and future development, 81-108.
Rehbein, B. (2021). Laos 2017-2021: Revival of the subsistence ethic. Asia Maior, p. 32.
UNICEF. (2015). Situational Analysis Student Learning Outcomes in Primary Education in Lao PDR Ministry of Education and Sports. https://www.unicef.org/laos/media/331/file
Worldmeter. (2023). Laos Population (2023) – Worldometer. Www.worldometers.info.https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/laos-population/#:~:text=Laos%20population%20is%20equivalent%20to
Yan, Z., Li, Z., Panadero, E., Yang, M., Yang, L., & Lao, H. (2021). A systematic review of factors influencing teachers’ intentions and implementations regarding formative assessment. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 28(3), 228-260.