BEQUAL Steering Committee
Friday, 26 February 2016, 8:30-12:10, Mercure Hotel
Opening remarks by John Williams, Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR
H.E. Madam Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, Minister for Education and Sports;
Bryan Fornari, A/g Charge d’Affaires, Delegation of the European Union;
Provincial Governors, Deputy Governors and Directors of Provincial Education and Sports Services;
Our senior colleagues from the Ministry of Education and Sports, our BEQUAL management team and members of our NGO consortium;
Other distinguished guests, friends and colleagues.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to co-chair today’s BEQUAL Steering Committee meeting.
From the outset, I would like to congratulate our Chair, Mme Sengdeuane, on her recent appointment as Acting Minister for Education and Sports.
It’s, in my view, recognition of her leadership and commitment to improving education outcomes in Laos. And it’s an excellent result for BEQUAL.
I wanted to acknowledge too my co-Chair from the European Union, Bryan Fornari. Australia and the EU have recently embarked on an exciting new collaboration in basic education.
A substantial EU contribution of €11.5 million will enable this project to provide more Lao children with the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed in life.
It’s also a positive step forward on donor coordination, as we welcome the EU as a co-chair, alongside Australia, of the Education Sector Working Group.
Support for basic education is at the very heart of Australia’s aid program here in the Lao PDR.
BEQUAL seeks to build on more than 15 years of Australian collaboration with our partners, primarily in the Ministry of Education and Sports.
It’s a project that in many ways represents a new way of working – drawing on our experience that projects sitting outside the Ministry can achieve impressive results in the short-term. But often have a more limited long-term impact.
That’s why BEQUAL is working to support the Ministry’s core business, working directly with the Ministry at the central, provincial and district levels.
I am sure Mme Sengdeuane would agree, that in its first eight months BEQUAL has achieved impressive results at each of these levels of government. Together we have:
- started 16 initiatives to support better education outcomes across Laos
- including selecting and mobilising a first cohort of 217 students to receive ethnic teacher scholarships; and
- embarking, together, on a process of primary curriculum renewal which will see the Ministry of Education and Sports revise the primary curriculum, textbooks and teacher guides over the next 6 years.
- BEQUAL has also set project priorities through the first annual plan and four-year plan;
- It has developed an approach to strengthen the Ministry’s financial, information and professional development systems;
- recruited and deployed 41 Lao and international staff throughout the country;
- and re-established provincial coordination mechanisms.
We have also developed an impressive package of activities to increase participation in schools, to be delivered by a consortium of quality NGOs – vital partners in BEQUAL.
Mme Sengdeuane, from Australia’s perspective, the key to this early success has been the quality partnership that has been developed among colleagues at the Ministry of Education and Sports, provincial and district officials, the BEQUAL project management team, our NGO consortium and my own education team at the Embassy.
It’s a partnership that instils real confidence in what BEQUAL can potentially achieve.
In the end, of course, it will be the Ministry’s ownership and leadership that will ensure BEQUAL’s long-term success.
In this, today’s meeting is vital, to ensure BEQUAL priorities and core decisions are driven by the Ministry.
I am particularly pleased representatives from the offices of Provincial Governors and Provincial Education and Sports Services have been able to join us today.
At its heart, BEQUAL is about helping disadvantaged boys and girls go to school, stay in school and learn at school.
It is at the provincial and district level – through the direct management and oversight of schools – that BEQUAL will make a difference.
So we are 8 months into this first four-year phase of BEQUAL. The next three years and four months will bring both exciting opportunities and complex challenges.
Today is an important opportunity to discuss some of these challenges and opportunities and agree together on how we will respond. I look forward to hearing your views on this.
Thank you again for all your support for BEQUAL, and your extensive efforts over the first 8 months of the project.
I look forward to continuing to work closely with you all to ensure more Lao children receive a quality education, and are given the opportunity to reach their potential.
Your input today will be a valuable part of this. Thank you.