In a multiethnic society, we engage in activities that support the education of children in regions that have a large number of ethnic minorities.
Background of Activities
In Laos, where fifty ethnic groups live, children are taught in school in Lao, the official language of Laos. Teachers are poorly equipped with knowledge, techniques, and materials necessary to effectively teach ethnic minority children who learn Lao only after they begin elementary school. While the urban areas in Laos have grown economically, the educational gap between the cities and rural areas has widened. In farming areas, there are many ethnic minority children who cannot speak Lao, the official language. In addition, children have been placed in poor learning environments with many unresolved issues, including teachers’ lack of knowledge and techniques, shortage of teaching material, and aging school buildings.
What We Do
We are working to improve the quality of education in the northern part of Laos, where people are faced with various problems, including the educational gap between cities and rural areas and minority ethnic children who cannot speak Lao.
With a shortage of school buildings and the aging of existing school buildings, the learning environments of children in the area are far from adequate. To help with this situation, we are building schools in areas with the highest needs to provide children with safe schools and learning opportunities. We work with the province’s Department of Education to build schools, prioritizing residents’ direct involvement in the construction work, such as wood preparation and land leveling. Once a school is built, we provide teachers and students with hygiene education so that they will become accustomed to hand washing and cleaning and be able to keep their school building clean over a long period of time.
In the northern part of Laos, over one third of the schools employ multi-grade teaching, where a teacher teaches two or three grades at the same time. However, many teachers have difficulty managing their classes and this has been significantly affecting children’s learning outcomes. We work with educational authorities and teacher education schools to develop material for multi-grade teaching and provide teachers with training so that they can give classes in a practical manner. Our goal is to expand the impact of our efforts across Northern Laos.
In most schools in the farming areas in Laos, children have little opportunity to encounter books. We provide the children of these schools with opportunities to experience the pleasure of reading, through our mobile library services, which includes storytelling, paper theater (KAMISHIBAI), and recreation events. We also distribute picture books to elementary schools and encourage them to set up corner libraries so that children can read books whenever they want. For teachers, we hold training sessions on library circulation, book management, and storytelling techniques. In addition, we are actively publishing/reprinting ethnic minorities’ folktales and our original picture books that children from ethnic minority groups who are not native Lao speakers can relate to.
Activities So Far
Since we launched our first project in Laos in 1992, we have contributed enormously to the improvement of the quality of education in the country, as well as the protection of its cultures.