The Ministry of Education and Sports in Laos has introduced measures to tackle the teacher shortage crisis by promoting training courses so that schools across the country have access to qualified teachers.
According to Vientiane Times, the Ministry of Education will work with provincial authorities to provide financial relief for teachers and volunteer teachers by assisting them with accommodations and other living expenses.
Trainee teachers will be appointed to early-age classrooms, from nurseries to primary schools, while students in their final year who are taking a teaching course at University will be required to work in areas where there is a lack of teachers, starting from the 23/24 academic year.
Schools that lack ample staff will not be permitted to transfer teachers to other civil servant positions unless a request has been made and approved by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
The Ministry will also invite successful graduates from vocational institutes to give talks at secondary schools, to highlight the importance of vocational education among students.
As for schools in rural areas, the Ministry will encourage local communities to set up boarding schools that provide lunch, to assist parents in rural communities to focus on their jobs without the responsibility to provide full-time care.
The move comes after several national assembly members pointed out that due to poor pay, many schools lack adequate teachers, affecting the quality of education being imparted.
Not long after, Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone outlined a plan to increase the quota of allocated teachers, postpone retirement for experienced teachers, and coordinate with the defense and security officials for teaching in remote border areas.
The PM also issued a new resolution on 17 July ensuring that volunteer teachers receive the same remuneration and overtime pay as government teachers.
Volunteer teachers are to be placed on the same wage scale as civil servants based on their educational qualifications. This move is expected to alleviate the hardships faced by many volunteer teachers.
In the previous year, the Ministry of Education and Sports approved a quota of 535 new civil servants, with 530 appointed as teachers and 5 as education personnel, all of whom were assigned to areas that were most in need of school faculty.
However, the current economic downturn in Laos has not just affected teachers but also led to an alarming number of students not being able to complete their higher education.
This year, the National University of Laos has experienced a significant decline in student enrollment, reaching a four-year low of 6,688 students. This marks a substantial 26% decrease compared to the academic year of 2020-2021, which had an enrollment of over 9,000 students.
Vice President of NUOL, Prof Dr. Houngphet Chanthavong, spoke about the situation on Lao National TV saying, “The number of students decreasing every year is caused by many factors. Since Laos has a small population, domestic employment markets are limited, hence many students are applying for funds and scholarships to study abroad.”
However, Dr. Houangphet did not point out the current economic situation of the country, which has led to young people joining the workforce early instead of completing their education.
A World Bank report highlighting the situation’s seriousness revealed that nearly half of the affected families in Laos have decreased their expenditures on education and healthcare, as purchasing power has lessened due to soaring inflation and depreciation of the Lao Kip.