The Basic Education Sector Development Program (BESDP) is the first intervention in Lao PDR aimed at lower secondary education. It is also the first program to provide much needed support to Government in policy areas that are key to moving the education sector forward towards more holistic development.

Access to basic social services is limited for women and girls. More than 85% of Lao women live and work in farming households, and perform the bulk of household work. Girls help mothers in agricultural and domestic duties such as water collection and childcare. Some factors that influence parents' decisions to send their daughters to school include distance to the school, cost of education (e.g., school fees), safety, and teaching quality. While these factors are also applicable to boys, the opportunity cost of sending girls to lower secondary schools is much more significant.

A Gender and Ethnic Group Development Plan was prepared for the project to address these barriers to lower secondary education for girls. Some specific actions include:

  • Out of 1310 lower secondary student grants for poor ethnic students, at least 2/3 will be reserved for girls.Education development grants will be provided to 77 rural lower/complete secondary schools to improve school conditions and initiate activities to attract female and ethnic groups students.
  • Establishment of student-parent associations in each of the 77 rural schools. At least 40% of the association members, wherever feasible, will be women. At least 1 girl and 1 boy will be student representatives.
  • Ensure that the new curriculum (grades 1-12) and curriculum guides are responsive to gender and ethnic group issues and do not carry negative biases.

The Gender and Ethnic Groups Education Unit (GEGEU) within the Ministry of Education (MOE) will be given new responsibilities under the project including (i) representation in project management unit for BESDP, and (ii) implementation oversight of the Gender and Ethnic Groups Development Plan. To help facilitate evaluation of the targeted interventions GEGEU will conduct an impact assessment study in the third year of BESDP implementation. Findings of the study will help refine and/or modify targeted interventions. The GEGEU was established under ADB's Basic Education (Girls) Project. Recently, it prepared a draft gender and education policy, which was submitted to the Prime Minister's office for approval.