A Quality Education for All: A History of the Lao PDR Inclusive Education Project 1993-2009

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic Inclusive Education Project started in 1993 and during a 16-year period, ending in May 2009, it aimed to support the participation of all children in school, with a particular focus on disabled students. The main strategy to enable this involved working to change the education system through the introduction of child-centred approaches to teaching and learning in 539 schools across the country. In this article, we consider the success of this approach, highlighting some of the achievements of the project and also the tensions involved in trying to facilitate the evolution of policy into practice across a national network of schools, referring to evidence collected and analysed during an evaluation of the project in 2008–2009. Our findings indicated that there was some evidence of these new approaches to teaching being used in schools and also that schools appeared to be performing well in significant areas including student enrolment, retention, grade completion and primary completion. There were also significant challenges which still needed to be met. These included a lack of provision for students with more complex needs, such as children with sensory loss, and significant numbers of disabled students who did not attend school.