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Investing in teacher development: Building an evidence base in Lao PDR

A four year study in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) is investigating the extent to which investment in teacher development improves teaching quality and student literacy in Lao language.

Lao PDR is an ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse landlocked country with 50 official ethnic groups and an estimated 84 languages spoken. Around 67 per cent of the population live in rural areas and are primarily dependent on family farming livelihoods. The official language of instruction is Lao, which many remote communities do not speak. Children in these areas have very limited exposure to print prior to schooling.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of its investments in teacher development in Lao PDR. The study is focused on one component of the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) program, in 32 of the most educationally disadvantaged districts in the country.

BEQUAL is supporting the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports to implement its new primary education curriculum, including through developing new teacher guides and other teaching and learning materials, as well as providing teacher training and support grants. The new curriculum is being rolled out in stages starting with Grade 1 in September 2019. The new curriculum emphasises a number of particular teaching practices, including practices that promote inclusive education (that is, student-centred learning and localised curriculum adaptation), active learning, and formative assessment of student learning.

The Lao PDR study will investigate:

  • To what extent and how does teaching quality change following the BEQUAL-supported in-service program?
  • To what extent and how do students’ literacy outcomes change following the new curriculum implementation?

Key features of the study include:

  • Mixed methods research: The study uses a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data. This involves undertaking surveys of teachers and principals, Lao literacy tests of Grade 1 students, and case studies involving interviews with teachers, principals and pedagogical advisers, as well as classroom observations of Grade 1 classes.
  • Multi-year design: The study timeline spans four years, from 2019 until 2022, and includes baseline (2019), midline (2020) and endline (2021) data collection. For the baseline, data was collected prior to BEQUAL’s in-service support and the rollout of the new curriculum.
  • Longitudinal design: The study will be tracking individual teachers, principals and students over the course of the study.

The study is part of DFAT’s Teacher Development: Multi Year Study Series, which was initiated in response to the Office of Development Effectiveness 2015 evaluation report, Investing in Teachers. A Conceptual Framework was drafted by the ACER-managed Education Analytics Service (EAS) to guide the design and implementation of the series of teacher development studies in Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Lao PDR, ensuring consistency and connections across the studies.

Year 1 data collection was completed in June 2019. The findings from the first year of the study will be released in early 2020.

The ACER team undertaking this research is led by Debbie Wong and Hilary Hollingsworth. Debbie and Hilary presented with their colleagues on this work at the 2019 UKFIET Conference held at Oxford University in September. ■

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About the author

Debbie Wong is a Research Fellow in ACER’s Education and Development research program.

More [rd] articles by Debbie Wong

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About the author

Dr Hilary Hollingsworth is a Principal Research Fellow in ACER's Educational Monitoring and Research program.

More [rd] articles by Hilary Hollingsworth

View selected works of Hilary Hollingsworth

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