VIENTIANE, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government is facing an increase in school dropout rates, and the number of school and university applicants has dropped significantly in 2023.
The Lao Ministry of Education and Sports held a meeting on Aug. 21, to discuss ways to battle issues that remain a challenge for the education sector and report on the implementation of the education and sports development plan for 2022-23 and the plan of work for the academic year 2023-24.
In the 2022-2023 academic year, a total of 11,976 people registered to take entrance exams at the National University of Laos (NUOL) in the Lao capital Vientiane, of whom 6,990 were accepted. This year, only 7,441 students sat for entrance exams, of whom 6,688 will be awarded places.
Vice President of the NUOL, Houngphet Chanthavong, told the media on Aug. 17 that there is great concern over the decline in student applications for courses at NUOL and other universities, which he said could be attributed to several factors.
The main reason for the fall in the number of applicants is Laos' small population, combined with the fact that employment opportunities in Laos are severely limited, he said.
The number of students registering for entrance exams at other universities also dropped in 2023.
Only 271 people sat the entrance exams at Savannakhet University, which has 1,516 places available on various courses.
Champasak University is offering places to 1,450 new students this academic year, but only 221 people have registered to take the entrance exams.
At Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang province, 1,566 places are being offered in the coming academic year, but only 484 people have registered for courses.
Meanwhile, another main concern is the drop in the secondary school Grade 4 enrollment rate, which dropped from 68 percent in the 2021-22 academic year to 65 percent in the 2022-23 school year.
Student enrollment in every school grade has fallen, while the dropout rate has increased in both primary and secondary schools.
The main reason for this crisis is the current economic situation of the country. The escalating cost of living, inflation, and the devaluation of the local currency have collectively impacted the higher education pursuits of students.
The increase in school dropout rates and decline in student enrollment across the country have also made the headlines on social media in Laos, with the public expressing concern over this crisis, calling on the government to take stronger action to urgently address the problem.
During the fifth ordinary session of the National Assembly (NA) of Laos on July 3, Lao Prime Minister (PM) Sonexay Siphandone highlighted various factors contributing to the alarming decline in school-going rates.
He attributed this decline to personal circumstances, poor school conditions, and financial hardships faced by parents.
To resolve this issue, PM Sonexay emphasized that the government would extend support to financially disadvantaged students by ensuring access to basic educational materials and exempting them from paying school fees. Schools in rural areas will undergo improvements as well, to ensure that residential facilities are made available for students. ■