This blog post is part of a series of GPE country results stories. The stories highlight the value that the Global Partnership for Education brings to its developing country partners. In each country, the partnership tailors its support to the specific education sector needs. The value of the Global Partnership is how it engages with all education partners in a country to prepare sound education sector plans which are then funded by GPE and other partners.
Sometimes education challenges require innovative approaches that reach beyond the education sector. The school meals program in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) supported by the Global Partnership for Education is such an example.
The challenge: Poor children miss out on education
Girls from rural ethnic populations are among the most disadvantaged children in Lao PDR. The endemic poverty found in 47 districts has had a particularly negative impact on their educational success, leading to high dropout rates and low rates of transition from primary to secondary school. The government recognized that education, food security, and health are equally important in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
The solution: Providing meals in school to improve attendance and learning
The ambitious goals of Lao’s Education Sector Development Framework 2009-2015 include:
- ensuring equitable access to education services
- improving the quality and efficiency of education services
- improving education sector governance and performance management.
Lao PDR joined the Global Partnership in 2010 and is supported by the Global Partnership and AusAid with a $51.4 million grant (2010-2015) for comprehensive reforms in the education sector. The Global Partnership’s contribution is $30 million.
One of the early successes of the sector plan has been an innovative School Meals Program (PDF) funded by the Global Partnership. The program is a unique development intervention that leverages the effects of other social initiatives in health and nutrition. It was piloted in 66 schools by the Ministry of Education and Sports in 2012.
The result: An innovative and sustainable program
The School Meals Program is based on the fact that good nutrition promotes good mental and physical development and improves overall health. As a result, children learn better and go to school regularly.
But this innovative program has gone beyond addressing students’ nutritional deficits. It also promotes self-reliance, community ownership, and sustainability through integrated local food production and the active involvement of community members. Intensive training of participants at the local, provincial, and district levels has been key to its success. The program also promotes linkages with other school interventions such as access to safe water, other basic health and nutrition services, and personal hygiene.
The early success of the School Meals Program is demonstrated by increased school enrollment (especially for girls), higher transition rates from primary to secondary school, improved nutritional status, reduced household expenses, stronger student-teacher-parent and community relations, and strong links with key ministries and civil society organizations.
Members of the Global Partnership who are implementing the program are planning to expand it to nine districts in five provinces by 2014, with a gradual handover of the program to the Ministry of Education and Sport by 2015.
Since joining the Global Partnership, the government of Lao PDR has demonstrated its commitment to education by increasing domestic public education expenditure as a share of the GDP by 24 percent.