By 2014, Lao PDR had met MDG target on enrolment, with a primary education net enrolment ratio of 98.5 percent. By 2016, the primary net enrolment ratio had reached 98.8 percent. However, survival rate to grade 5 remains low, at around 81.1 per cent in 2017. Although the survival rate has increased by over 10 percentage points from that in 2012, it still needs to be much higher for full achievement of MDG 2, which involves completion of primary education. The Mid Term Review of the Education Sector Development Plan 2011-15 linked the low survival rate to high repetition and dropout.
The early years are a key bottleneck within the country’s basic education system. The low survival rate is a consequence of most children dropping out in the first year of school or not progressing to the next grade level. Children’s lack of school readiness is a key factor. Other causes for dropping out include incomplete schools, the limited capacity of teachers, irregular teacher attendance, poor quality of teaching and learning, the direct and opportunity costs of schooling for families, and insufficient funding for investments in education quality.
The construction of “complete primary schools” has enabled many more children to go to school. The proportion of complete schools rose from 48 percent in 2007/08 to 80.9 percent in 2015/16 of all primary schools. Nonetheless, an estimated 1,500 primary schools are still incomplete, mostly in remote rural areas, forcing children to leave school before finishing their primary education. Around 30,000 primary students drop out from primary education every year.
The access to early childhood education is limited. The percentage of new entrants to grade one having preschool experience in 2017 was 52,7 percent, with most of these enrolments in urban areas. Access to early childhood education varies significantly across districts, ranging from an enrolment rate of 18.6 percent in Toumlarn District to 80.2 percent in Sisattanak District, a 61.6 percentage difference (2013/14).
Secondary education gross graduation rates, which are much lower than gross enrolment rates, indicate significant dropout during the secondary cycle. From 2012 to 2017, the lower secondary gross graduation rate increased to approximately 73 percent, while the upper secondary gross graduation rate increased to around 45.2 percent. Non-completion of secondary education may be due to the low demand from communities, grade repetition in secondary school, which may lead to loss of interest and dropping out, and difficulty in access to secondary schools. The government is expanding the construction of secondary schools with dormitories for children and this has contributed to increasing female enrolment in lower secondary and upper secondary.
Children from certain ethnic groups face particular challenges. Those from non-Lao Tai communities face the difficulty of being educated in a language that is not their mother tongue, which has a direct impact on their ability to learn the foundational skills required to graduate from primary education. Despite the national policy on inclusive education, children with disabilities face difficulties in attending school, even if they are able to enrol at a school.
Although the Government has made significant investments in expanding non-formal adult literacy programmes, progress has been slow. Lao PDR has a low literacy rate, even among youth, possibly because of the large proportion of children not continuing to secondary education. The number of learners within the non-formal education for the lower secondary level has increased rapidly. However, the quality and efficiency of such learning programs need improvement.
Quality education is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals.Learn more about Goal 4 and its targets