Education Sector Coordination in Lao PDR
Australia has been hand in hand with the Ministry of Education and Sports in the sector coordination for over 15 years, providing both financial and technical support.
Australia first promoted education sector coordination as part of the “Access to Basic Education in Laos Program” (ABEL) in 2006 through the emergence of the donor–government Education and Gender Sector Working Group. The group aimed to strengthen policy dialogue and sector-based programming. The Education and Gender Sector Working Group had agreed terms of reference, an annual work plan and contributed to significantly improved coordination between the donors and the Government of Laos in the education sector.
This group became a formal Sector Working Groups under the framework announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the coordination of the Department of International Cooperation (DIC). Australia agreed to be one of the Co-Chairs (together with UNICEF) of what would be known as the Education Sector Working Group (ESWG). Education was one of eight Sector and Thematic Working Groups that bring together representatives from government and donor agencies, and NGOs in the following key areas of Health, Education, Infrastructure, Rural Development and Natural Resource Management, Governance, Macroeconomics and Private Sector, Mine Action and Drug Control. The purpose of all sector working groups are to be forums to discuss and build consensus about development priorities identified in the NSEDP and improve sectoral aid coordination and effectiveness as set out in the Vientiane Declaration Country Action Plan.
Australia responded to an MPI/DIC recommendation for a review of Sector Working Groups in May 2007 supporting a discussion among key senior managers from MoES together with development partners. The overall review highlighted a number of recommendations, including the need to strengthen government ownership. As part of the push for strengthened government ownership, Australia provided technical support to the Department of Planning of MoES.
In 2009, Australia funded a Senior Education Advisor position g to support development of education sector plans and coordination of development partner support and in 2011, provided funding for a Policy and Operations Coordinator position, again based in the Department of Planning at MoES, together with a budget to support activities linked to ESWG and sector coordination.
Australia supported an internal review of the ESWG working principles, undertaken in 2012 in response to a need to strengthen and to increase in-depth technical discussions under the ESWG mechanism. This review was led by MoES and the two co-chairs (Australia and UNICEF) and led to the establishment of Focal Groups and several Technical Working Groups (TWG). Revised ToRs of the ESWG, including Focal Groups and TWGs were endorsed on 8 December 2013.
In March 2015 EU replaced UNICEF as ESWG Co-Chair and Australia has continued as Co-Chair.
By 2016 it was recognised by MoES and the two Co-Chairs of several barriers to the effective functioning of Focal Groups: that there was lack of Focal Group’s quarterly, semi-annual or annual operational plan, short notice of having a meeting, a lack of coordination among the focal group members and chair and co-chairs, the meetings becoming more and more formal and lesser technical in-depth discussions. Therefore, the original purpose of having a forum at the Focal Group level to deepen technical discussion that contributed to the implementation of the ESDP did not happen.
Australia supported a meeting of Focal Group Chairs and Co-Chairs to discuss key issues, opportunities and lessons coming out of the various Focal Groups, and to get Chair and Co-Chairs input on the next steps for responding to these issues. The meeting was held on 24 October 2016. Australia continues to monitor the effectiveness of Focal Group processes to ensure that strong linkages between Focal Groups and ESWG occur to improve the quality of discussions regarding improved sector coordination. A recent example is Australian support to the Department of Planning for a mapping of projected inputs from development partners to the ESSDP 2021-25 3-year operational plan.
Australia (together with UNICEF) is also a Coordinating Agency of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for Lao PDR, Part of this role is to ensure that all members of the ESWG are fully informed about GPE requirements and to facilitate ESWG consensus about proposals for grant funding from GPE, particularly to ensure that GPE funded activities are consistent with education sector plans and complement support from other development partners. The Coordinating Agencies also support MoES in identifying Grant Agents to manage GPE funds.