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 modeled 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.
the great majority of the population during this period, the
wat schools provided the only opportunity for
After 1955, with American aid, the Royal Lao Government began
constructing elementary and secondary schools in major centre 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 Institute
superior 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
However, by 1975 the Lao education system remained inherently weak.
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
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.
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 Electro technology, 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.
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