Understanding the impact of teacher development programsResearch 22 Nov 2023 6 minute read
A multi-year study has found students are more engaged in the classroom following the introduction of a new curriculum in Lao PDR.
Study participants reported improved levels of student participation, interest, engagement, and wellbeing. They attributed these improvements to the introduction of a new Lao language grade 1 curriculum in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), supported by the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) program.
Led by the Lao PDR Government, with support from the Australian Government, BEQUAL has been implemented in 32 disadvantaged districts across Lao PDR. Phase 1 of BEQUAL (2015-22) supported the Ministry of Education and Sports to roll out the new primary curriculum in schools, starting with Grade 1 in 2019. Specific teaching practices were introduced, including active and student-centred learning, formative assessment, and a phonics approach to teaching reading. These represent a substantial change to the former curriculum. BEQUAL support included teaching and learning materials, orientation training on the new curriculum, and education grants which supported additional in-service support to teachers.
The new study led by ACER, investigated how BEQUAL improved teaching quality and student learning. Data was collected in 2019 (baseline), in 2021, and again in 2022. The study is part of a multi-year series initiated by the Australian Government’s Education Analytics Service to better understand the effectiveness of their support in 3 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The promising positive changes in student engagement are important findings given the early stage in the reform, and need to be fostered. The study data suggested that the new curriculum supported more students to enjoy Lao language lessons and engage in school. The next step is to support greater engagement in learning.
A significant body of international research suggests that student learning is about more than academic outcomes. Engagement has consistently been associated with a range of desirable outcomes for students, including achievement, academic success and wellbeing.
It is critical for teachers and students to be supported to translate initial gains in student engagement into better learning. This requires teachers to further develop and refine their skills and knowledge, and have tools to use evidence to target their teaching to the needs of learners. A collaborative and targeted approach involving education systems, schools, parents and community that provides consistent expectations and supports for learning is also needed.
One study participant at the national level said, ‘I have observed that students are more interested and pay more attention than before.’
Another participant responded that the new curriculum, ‘makes it more exciting for the students. More eager.’
The study also found that BEQUAL has strengthened elements of teaching quality. However, more time, encouragement and support are needed to continue to build teachers’ understanding of new approaches to teaching and assessment. They also require support to incorporate these approaches fully and consistently into practice. A long-term and systematic approach to continuous professional learning is needed.
'It’s a big change for teachers,’ said one national participant. ‘It takes time to adapt to student-centred learning and move from the old curriculum.’
Results from the study show some improvement in student literacy outcomes after the introduction of the new curriculum, but students need more time and the right support to meet Lao language curriculum expectations. This was expected at this early stage of a complex reform process, particularly with COVID-19 disruptions to schooling.
The final study report provides detailed recommendations for policymakers under 3 key focus areas: design of curriculum implementation supports; investment in ongoing professional learning; and investment in collecting and using student learning data. These recommendations can be used to inform the next phase of BEQUAL support and improve teaching quality and student literacy in Lao PDR.
Learn more about ACER’s education and development work.