School attendance of 6, 10 and 15 year olds


School attendance is defined as attendance in any regular accredited educational institution or program, public or private, for organised learning at any level.  Each individual was asked whether he or she had ever attended school, irrespective of whether they were currently at school or had left school.

The data collected by the National Population and Housing Census provide an interesting complement to the statistics of the Ministry of Education, which are based on data collected at school at the beginning of each school year (October). However this does not allow for the calculation of school attendance rates.

According to official statistics, 66.6% of all children aged 6 to 9 were reported as currently at school. This rose to 81.2% for children aged 10 to 14 and dropped back to 41.5% for adolescents aged 15 to 19. This is illustrated on the three maps which show a high percentage of school attendance at the age of 10 throughout the country. Furthermore we can see that relatively high attendance rates among 6-year-olds occur mostly in and around major urban centres (Luangprabang, Phonsavan, Vientiane Capital and Pakse) and along the Mekong River, (noticeably in the southern part of Xayabury, close to Thailand, and in the western part of Saravane).

Dramatically lower attendance rates are found in most areas referred to as remote rural areas, where the majority of people do not identify themselves as Lao or Tai. But certain groups of villages in areas such as the centre of Huaphanh and the south-eastern part of Luangnamtha, which are close neither to urban centres nor to the Mekong River, show surprisingly high attendance rates among 6-year-olds. Despite the general wide spread percentage of 10-year-olds attending school, the upper northern part of Luangnamtha and the upper northern and eastern parts of Phongsaly, along with a stretch on the Vietnamese border from Khammuane down to the south-eastern part of Attapeu remain pale pink or even white corresponding to less than 20% attendance.

School attendance is influenced by a number of factors, including ethnicity (compare with Maps F.2 and F.4), available infrastructure (Map D.1) accessibility (Map D.2), livelihood security and poverty (Map I.1), etc. Even though it is not possible to identify the importance of each factor individually, the correlation with ethnic groups is most revealing. When we look at people who have never been to school in terms of their ethno-linguistic groups we see much lower rates for Lao (11.8%) or Tai (16.5%) in comparison to those for Khmu (32.9%) or Tri (79.8%).

In today’s Lao PDR, the prospects of ever going to school are radically different depending on whether you are born in an area where the government emphasis is on infrastructure development, whether Lao is spoken at home, whether you are a boy or a girl born into a family of an ethnic majority or minority, and so on. The special role of gender will be discussed in the following map, but it can be said already that measures important for improving school attendance include expenditures on the recruitment and training, particularly of female non-Lao-Tai teachers, and to their posting to all areas of the country, ensuring that the entire school curriculum is taught during regular school hours, and adapting school programs to local seasonal cultivation imperatives.




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