LAO PDR (Vientiane Times) - An education project benefiting 7,000 children will get underway this year which officials expect will improve school governance, assist with school readiness and develop basic literacy and numeracy skills among pre-school and primary school students. Called ‘Inclusive, Childfriendly Environments and the Improvement of the Quality of Learning Outcomes of pre-and primary schools in Vientiane and Oudomxay provinces’, Aide et Action Laos launched the 5-year, 8.5 billion kip (US$1 million) project on April 25 with the expectation that it will help alleviate some of the educational challenges the country faces. It was developed after pilot projects were conducted by Aide et Action in Vientiane province and is aligned with the 8th Education Sector Development Plan of Laos (2016-2020) which aims to ensure access to inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Attending the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in Vientiane last week were Director General of the External Relations Department, Ministry of Education and Sports, Associate Prof. Dr Sisamone Sithirajvongsa and the Country Programme Director of Aide et Action Laos, Ms Vithanya Noonan. The project will focus on creating inclusive, child- friendly school environments and improving the basic literacy and numeracy learning outcomes for preprimary and primary school students in 30 schools of seven districts in Vientiane and Oudomxay provinces. Over the last decade, the education sector in Laos has made considerable progress by building more schools and raising teaching standards. However, low literacy and numeracy skills amongst primary school children in remote rural areas remains an ongoing issue. Particularly challenging are the areas where children speak an ethnic language only. Teaching techniques and learning materials need to be developed and improved in these areas and school administration systems need to be strengthened also. Many school grounds need improvement with regards to access to clean water and proper sanitation. Schools need to be safe and friendly spaces for children to learn. Extra curricular activities need to be developed to enhance children’s practical knowledge, skills and experiences. Aide et Action Laos has been contributing to the development of the education sector in Laos for more than 10 years.