We just returned from Vang Vieng this afternoon. Vang Vieng is about 120km from Vientiene Capital and takes about 3 hours if you drive straight through. We made a couple of stops on our way including picking out fabric for a beautiful sinh, and exploring a park that is similar to a state park in Montana to see a waterfall. We saw several village schools in action along our travels.
While in Vang Vieng we visited an organic farm that serves many purposes for the local community. The farm not only provides training and a reintroduction to organic farming in an area where chemicals and deforestation were ruining the land, but also employs local people and trains them with skills that can be used elsewhere.
The Organic Farm of Vang Vieng also supports Equal Education for All. Funds from tours and guesthouse stays are not only used to support the farm itself, but also to support local community schools. Transportation to school is very challenging, especially in the remote areas of Lao PDR. In some areas children travel to school by motorbike or bicycle, and sometimes children will have to travel 4km by foot in very treacherous terrain. At times families choose to keep their children home rather than send them to school under these dangerous conditions. The Organic Farm in Vang Vieng supports a school bus, a driver, and the gasoline needed to transport children to school in the local community. This helps improve school attendance and student achievement, while also reducing the drop out rate.
Computer classes and English classes are also offered for young students and local community members. The Organic Farm asks for volunteers to teach these classes, mostly those that stay in the guest houses on or near the farm.
Lao national language and English are very important skills in the Lao PDR curriculum as determined by the Ministry of Education. Lao PDR, Ministry of Education has a goal that 100% of students are proficient or on track for proficiency in the Lao national language by 2020 and all students begin learning English in grade 3. However, particularly in the outlying areas, finding quality teachers is a big challenge. Finding quality English speaking teachers is extremely difficult for sustainability of the English program and in some cases they are unable to do so.
Achan Vongphachan and I also further discussed a small grant opportunity and are considering ways to evaluate teacher quality in Lao PDR. Specifically, Achan Vongphachan is interested in the Charlotte Danielson model and walkthrough checklists developed to support an ongoing review of teaching and learning in the classroom.