The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane supports Laos’ efforts to reach its development goals through investment in education.
Since 1992, The U.S. Embassy provides support to the education sector through the provision of English language training and resources. The Embassy sponsors the National University of Laos’s annual Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESOL) conference, which in 2012 included representatives from teachers at schools in all 17 provinces. Additionally, the Embassy supports the National University to host an English Teaching Fellow who works with faculty to improve English teaching methodology. In 2011, the Embassy created the Fulbright English Teacher Assistant (ETA) Program, which has since enabled the National University to host eight American ETAs as undergraduate English language instructors. Support for English language education is not just limited to the college level. In 2011, the Embassy launched the ACCESS Microscholarship program, which provided specialized English tutoring to 60 disadvantaged secondary school students over the course of two years. For mid-career government officials, the Embassy partnered with the Ministry of Public Works in 2012 to create an English for Special Purposes (ESP) program under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) which provided specialized instruction to over 150 Lao officials.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy offers free educational programming and access to computers, books and reference materials at its Information Resource Center located inside the Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Section. Educational programming and materials are also available at the two “American Corners” supported by the Embassy (one in Luang Prabang and one in Vientiane) and at the “American Bookshelves” located at the Savannakhet Public Library and the Pakse Public Library.
Educational exchanges are another avenue through which the U.S. Embassy supports education in Laos. Since 1992, high-achieving Lao scholars have been eligible for the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, which allows foreign students to pursue graduate degrees at Universities in the U.S. Additional exchange programs have been created since that time, and currently the Embassy offers scholarships at the secondary school, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. In total, approximately 30 Lao students are awarded scholarships each year.
Additional U.S. government assistance to the education sector comes in the form of the School Meals Program administered by World Food Program. This program encourages children to stay in school and progress further in their studies by providing a nutritious snack each day. In 2012 more than 150,000 schoolchildren in six provinces benefited from this program.
Finally, the USG assists the education sector by building schools and other education infrastructure projects in those provinces where there are ongoing MIA recovery operations and education programs for children in areas affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO).