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LAOS EDUCATION
 
The traditional temple schools, established during the 17th century to give young boys a Buddhist education, brought basic literacy to the Lao territories.
During the French colonial period the 1917 Law on Education passed by the French colonial government introduced a common education system for its Indochina territories modelled loosely on that of France. However, relatively few elementary schools and just one secondary school (the Lycée Pavie) were subsequently constructed by the French administration in Laos, and most of the country's elite were trained in Hà N?i, Sài Gòn or France.
For the great majority of the population during this period, the wat schools provided the only opportunity for schooling.
After 1955, with American aid, the Royal Lao Government began constructing elementary and secondary schools in major centres of population. Higher education came to Laos in 1958, when Sisavangvong University was established in Vientiane. By 1969 that university comprised three constituent colleges - the Institut superieur pedagogique, the Royal Medical Institute and the Royal Laws and Administration Institute. Regional technical colleges were also set up in Luang Prabang, Pakse (Champassak) and Savannakhet.
Formal arts training began in 1959 with the establishment of the National School of Fine Arts (now the National Faculty of Fine Arts) and the National School of Music and Dance) under the Ministry of Education, Sport and Religious Affairs.
However, by 1975 the Lao education system remained inherently weak.
Considerable efforts were made after 1975 to extend elementary education to all ethnic groups, and an adult literacy campaign was launched, but these efforts were seriously undermined by the exodus of qualified teachers. In 1987 educational objectives were redesigned in the context of overall economic development and in harmony with the New Economic Mechanism, recognising education as the driving force in socio-economic development and giving priority to the development of an education system which could provide the skilled workforce required by a modern economy. Since that time improvements have taken place in the education system at all levels, although across the country the sector continues to be hampered by shortage of human resources, under-qualified teaching staff, inadequate curricula, dilapidated facilities and lack of teaching equipment.
Literacy is currently estimated at around 50 per cent, and only 71 per cent of primary school aged children are in school. Net enrolment rates drop to 15 per cent at lower secondary level, and two per cent at upper secondary level. Another serious issue is the wide difference of enrolment rates between boys and girls, and between the different ethnic groups. The higher the level of schooling, the relatively worse the attendance of girls and ethnic minorities.
The general education system in Laos comprises pre-school education (creche and kindergarten), primary education (five years), lower secondary education (three years) and upper secondary education (three years). Private schools and colleges have been encouraged since 1990.
Following the exodus of teaching staff in 1975, Sisavangvong University was dissolved and carved up into separate colleges, leaving the country with no degree-awarding institution. In the 1970s and 1980s large numbers of graduates from upper secondary schools were able to pursue a higher education in East European countries and the USSR, but by 1990 this option was no longer available. However, in 1996 the National University of Laos (NUOL) was established, grouping together the former Vientiane Teacher Training College, National Polytechnic Institute, College of Medical Science, College of Electronics and Electrotechnology, Vientiane School of Transport and Communications, Vientiane School of Architecture, Tad Thong School of Irrigation, Dongdok College of Forestry, Nabong College of Agriculture and Veunkham Agriculture Centre.
NUOL now comprises 11 Faculties - the Faculty of Science (FOS), the Faculty of Education (FOE), the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS), the Faculty of Economics and Management (FEM), the Faculty of Engineering (FOE), the Faculty of Medical Sciences (FMS), the Faculty of Agriculture (FOAG), the Faculty of Forestry (FOF), the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences (FLP), the Faculty of Letters (FOL) and the Faculty of Architecture (FOAR) - and a School of Foundation Studies (SFS). Further development of the National University is being funded by a loan from the Asian Development Bank.
 
 
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