BEQUAL technical staff supporting IPS from Songkhon district, Savannakhet province with digital monitoring tools

Teacher professional development is key to strengthening teaching quality and improving student learning outcomes

The Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR (MoES), with support from Australia through the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) program, launched a series of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capacity building workshops in three target Teacher Training Colleges (TTC) in June 2024. The three targeted TTCs are Luang Namtha TTC, Khang Khai TTC and Savannakhet TTC. The workshops were targeted at TTC technical staff responsible for providing ICT support to 1,044 Internal Pedagogical Support (IPS) providers in 30 districts across seven provinces (Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Phongsaly, Xiangkhouang, Houaphan, Savannakhet and Khammouane). The IPS providers and TTC technical staff responsible for teachers’ professional development have been provided with tablets and a monthly data allowance to facilitate the development of ICT skills.

Mr Keth Phanhlack, Director General of the Department of Teacher Education (DTE) said: “There are still many challenges with ICT access in Lao PDR, for example access to computers and the internet, and low levels of ICT literacy. It is very positive that the Government of Australia, through the BEQUAL program, is supporting our TTC technical teams and IPS teams with the provision of tablets and training for staff to develop their technical skills in using digital teaching and learning resources”.

Mr Keth added “BEQUAL collaborated with District Education and Sports Bureaus (DESBs) to establish IPS support networks in target districts and equip them with knowledge and skills to support teachers. As a result, 98% of IPS providers can now access the internet using tablets and they are using this resource to support over 8,000 primary teachers in disadvantaged districts.”

Luang Namtha TTC core team doing demonstrations on providing remote support to IPS to solve their day-to-day issues

Remote regular call with IPS in remote districts

Beyond equipment, one challenge is people’s low level of ICT skills. To address this and ensure there is a sustainable mechanism for ICT users to access support, Australia supported Luang Namtha TTC, Khang Khai TTC and Savannakhet TTC to establish ICT specialist teams in early 2024. These teams collectively consist of 30 members, half of whom are women. The teams have been trained to provide remote ICT support to TTC, Provincial Education and Sports Services (PESS) and DESB staff responsible for teacher professional development, in addition to the 1,044 IPS providers.

Vanessa Hegarty, First Secretary, Australian Embassy in Lao PDR said “Teacher continuing professional development (CPD) is key to strengthening teaching quality and improving student learning outcomes. Integrating ICTs into teacher CPD will enable the many stakeholders located in different offices and parts of the country to work collaboratively while ensuring that teachers in rural and remote locations have equal access to professional development opportunities.”

The ICT related capacity building provided by MoES with Australia’s support is wide ranging. Teams have been trained in information management using shared online workspaces, enabling staff across different offices to work collaboratively in real time. Digital tools have been developed to monitor CPD activities and collect and share real time data. Online meeting tools are being used to deliver remote support and CPD inputs. Tablets are being used to expand access to the Khang Panya platform that hosts primary curriculum teaching, learning and training resources, and Teacher Development Videos hosted on YouTube.

Savannakhet TTC core team using Teacher Development videos YouTube channel to explain teaching techniques

Vanessa Hegarty concluded: “Many teachers in Lao PDR work in difficult and remote conditions. Incorporating new approaches to teaching based on the revised primary curriculum is challenging and will take time. Australia is committed to support teachers with this change. The tablets and ICT training will give CPD providers easier access to teaching and learning resources to share with teachers as well as tools and techniques to respond to the challenges teachers may face.”

BEQUAL is a program led by the Lao Government with support from the Australian Government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program focuses on enhancing educational outcomes for the nation’s youth, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged. BEQUAL is focused on ensuring gender equality and promoting inclusive education across all activities.