Literacy and education    

Education is generally considered to be a powerful instrument for reducing poverty and inequality, improving health and social well-being, and laying the groundwork for sustained economic growth. The National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) identified education as a key focus area to assist in poverty eradication efforts. In line with the Millennium Development Goal Number 2, which seeks to achieve universal primary education by 2015, the Lao PDR is committed to the enrolment of all primary-school-aged boys and girls in school. Even though quantitative and qualitative progress in education has been made in the Lao PDR in recent years, important challenges remain. Furthermore, economic growth coupled with rapid population growth is increasing the demand for education services and for vocationally qualified people. Given the fact that 50% of the population is younger than 20 years of age and the low percentage of youngsters finishing high school it becomes clear how important current efforts in education are for the future development of the country.

For a better understanding of these challenges and for the design of promising strategies, an understanding of the present situation is crucial. This was reflected by the questions asked in the National Population and Housing Census of 2005 concerning educational issues. These questions included:

“Have you ever attended school?”
“What was the highest level of education you achieved?
   (basic and vocational education)”
“Can you read and write Lao?”

Even if these questions seem to be of quite limited content, a wealth of information on literacy and education could be generated by relating the answers to other characteristics of the respondents (sex, age, ethnicity, place of residence, etc.). Furthermore, at the level of each village, it was also asked if the village had a primary school and if this school offered full primary education (grades 1 to 5) or partial primary education (grades 1 to 3).
The following section presents maps on some of the key features of literacy and education. It is interesting to further compare these maps with other sections, such as ethnicity (Section F), economic activities (Section G), or poverty and inequality (Section I).