Joint Announcement of the Basic Education Quality and Access Program with HE Dr Phankham Viphavanh, Minister for Education and Sports

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His Excellency Dr Phankham Viphavanh, Minister for Education and Sports.

The Principal, Somvan Sithongbai.

Teachers, students and members of the Ban Hom Neua Primary School Community,distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Sabaidee. Thank you tothe girls for their beautiful welcome dance.

I am delighted to be here today, with Minister Phankham, to announceAustralia's new $86 million investment in basic education in the Lao PDR.

There is no more important area, I believe, where we should be working tosupport this country's economic development.

Our goal, working with the government of the Lao PDR, is to achieve primaryeducation of good quality for all Lao children. This is a vital step inbuilding a skilled workforce, and achieving long-term economic prosperity.

Australia and the Lao PDR are very different countries, but we share somecommon challenges, including in education. Challenges like deliveringquality education to remote communities and delivering the skills to meet thechanging needs of industry. These common challenges make us good partnersin education. In Australia, Laos has a long-term partner committed tohelping ensure Lao children remain in school to grade 5 and beyond.

Building on Australia's long history of cooperation in Lao education, thisnew program will assist around 450,000 disadvantaged children, including girlsand those living with a disability, to to get to school and to stay in school.

Under this new program, the Australian Government will improve the quality ofteaching and learning in eight teacher training centres across Laos. Wewill train more than 500 teachers from ethic minority groups, 70 per cent ofthem women, to teach in their communities. We will develop high qualityteaching and learning materials to promote reading, writing and numeracy.We will build and renovate 300 schools, and provide school meals every schoolday for 76,000 students in 614 schools for three years.

This is a big agenda, but we believe it is an important one for Laos' future.

I recognise the strong leadership and determination of the Lao Government, inparticular Dr Phankham and his colleagues at the Ministry of Education andSports, in working to strengthen Laos' education.

We look forward to continuing our cooperation, for together we can pursue thegoal of education for all, with a strong focus on gender equality and assistingthe most disadvantaged.

I extend my thanks to the staff and students of Hom Neua Primary School forhosting my very special visit today. This has been a wonderful opportunityfor me, to meet students and members of the school community and visit yourschool.

I know that the children at your sister school – Ainslie Primary School inCanberra, Australia – will enjoy receiving your pictures. And, thestudents at Ainslie Primary School wanted me to pass on to you how special yourfriendship is to them.

Dr Phankham I am a former Education Minister, before I became a ForeignMinister, so I take particular joy in seeing the impact on children's lives of aschool community that is dedicated to their education and their future.

I wish everyone every success in the journey ahead.

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