National Assembly Members Raise Alarms Over Soaring Dropout Rates

National University of Laos (NUOL) (Photo: NUOL)

National Assembly members have raised concerns over the rising school dropout rates and the acute teacher shortage plaguing both Vientiane and rural areas of Laos during the 6th ongoing Ordinary Session of the 9th National Assembly Legislature.

Kethmany Yandasack, a National Member from Vientiane Capital, urged the government to address these pressing issues during a recent debate.

In a startling revelation, Kethmany disclosed that the dropout rate in Vientiane’s secondary schools has doubled, primarily attributed to the financial strain faced by families struggling to cover school fees. The economic hardship has compelled many students to abandon their studies and seek employment to support their families.

According to Kethmany, Vientiane schools are grappling with an average of 150 students dropping out annually. This exacerbates the existing teacher shortage, as many teachers have transitioned to other professions or opted for retirement, leaving schools in a dire state. This shortage has reached a critical point in many Vientiane schools, compromising the quality of education delivered to students.

Kethmany implored the government to tackle these challenges, emphasizing the detrimental impact on education standards if the government addresses the issues immediately. She also expressed concern about the impending resignation of volunteer teachers, further compounding the teacher crunch in both the public and private sectors.

Recently, a rumor that over 600 students have dropped out of the National University of Laos (NUOL) after two months sparked a debate about the challenges facing students in Laos. However, teachers at NUOL revealed to Media Laos that the dropout number is from the previous academic year, which had a total of 555 students dropping out for many reasons, including receiving scholarships to study abroad, getting a job, financial problems in families, being academically challenged, and health problems.

The country has experienced a decline in enrollment in recent years.  Especially at NOUL, as it recorded a decline in the number of enrollments compared to previous years, which is the lowest since 2018, from over 9,000 students in 2020–2021 to 6,688 students in 2023.

In response, Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone has proposed a comprehensive strategy to tackle the dropout crisis, encompassing state-funded school lunches, vocational training opportunities, and business sector involvement, alongside additional measures such as providing allowances and dormitories for disadvantaged students, curriculum modifications, waiving tuition fees, and addressing the teacher shortage through increased quotas and potential retirement postponement for healthy and experienced educators.