Laos: It's alive!

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Name of project: Young People Transforming Education

Organisation: Participatory Development Training Centre - PADETC

Country : Lao PDR

Organisational type: Non-governmental organisation (national)                                

Year in which it was started: 1998

Brief description:
The Objectives of the program are to improve the quality and relevance of education; and to give opportunities to young volunteers to be agents of change.
While staying within the prescribed curriculum of the Lao Ministry of Education, PADETC organized a team of teachers and educators to design and rewrite lesson plans to promote child-centered learning.  These “standard” lesson plans promote creativity and discovery learning.  They are flexible and have ample options of tools and activities to choose from – making them appropriate for both rural and urban schools.  About 50% of the total 1,400 hours of lesson plans for the 5 grades of the primary school were rewritten and field tested in 10 urban schools.  After one year of implementation, it became evident that the teaching and learning improved significantly in the pilot schools.  In the second year, 2007, the programme was expanded to more than 100 rural and urban schools. The results will be assessed at the end of the year. 
Additional new skills are required by teachers to move away from teaching and towards facilitating and managing learning. This transition was facilitated by introducing trained young volunteers from universities and high schools to be the interface between teachers and primary school students.  They were trained by PADETC to facilitate “Play-and-Learn” activities and to introduce “Project-based Learning” in these 10 pilot schools. The teachers, students and volunteers all gain useful experiences and skills and enjoy the learning process through this method.
Many different types of simple teaching tools are made available to help teachers teach their students better.  In order to insure relevance of education, indigenous knowledge was introduced to be part of the 20% local curriculum. 
A system of regular monitoring and evaluation was set up among teachers, schools, volunteers, and among education officers at the district level.

Principal target groups covered by the project:
Children (from 5 to 15 years)
Primary and secondary school children
Primary and secondary school teachers
Youth groups

Main education and communication methods used:
Small group discussions or workshops
Extra-curricular activities inside schools
Youth camps

Other: Real life learning and practices in schools and communities

What is exceptional or unique about this ESD initiative:
Quality education is the key to for sustainable development.  And this key must be used to unlock the young people’s intelligences, goodness in their heart, and their sense of responsibility.  As the present education does not do all of these, PADETC trained its young volunteers to catalyze these changes. 
The uniqueness of this project is that it has proven that the young people can bring about these changes successfully.  In addition, it has included the monasteries and the elderly (for indigenous knowledge) to become more active and pro-active in reviving philosophies and practices that have been proven sustainable for thousands of human generations.  While relying on old traditions, it does not hesitate to use video film to promote ideas and practices to scale up the process as well as to help maintain some degree of quality control of its work. 
Its approach is to transform education to transform the society as a whole.  The demonstrations are not practiced in isolation but are integrated into the government’s education and development system.   The lesson plans have been accepted by the Ministry of Education for larger scale experimentation.  The young volunteers have been adopted into policy for nation wide implementation. 
The project has inspired people from all walks of life.  It has inspired monks, members of the communities, young people, and the elderly. 
PADETC’s approach to education for sustainable development is that it sees the inter relationship and interdependencies between Education and Sustainable Development.  From a developmental point of view, education and development are mutually reinforcing and supportive and complementary.

Visually interesting places, people or activities/events that can be filmed in this project:
Since PADETC’s work is pretty much field based and activity based, the following things should be interesting activities to film.

  1. Volunteers in actions: youth, monks, members of the community
  2. Teachers using simple teaching materials to help students learn easily and in a joyful way.
  3. Various ways of making learning fun and relevant in and out of the school environments.
  4. Young people demonstrating their leadership skills in schools and in the communities.
  5. Community participation in making school the centre of the community
  6. How the  idea spreads and adopted by other youth groups, communities, and schools
  7. How the instructional video films are used and appreciated by other actors.
  8. Pride and confidence of the people involved can be obtained from interviewing them
  9. Government officials are available for interviews

In addition PADETC has its own in-house video film production capacity.  If appropriate some of the old footages can be utilized.