Decentralization of Lower Secondary School Education in the Lao PDR: Structural Transformation and Policy Impediments
Thomas Jones, Meiji University
Sisonexay Chansamone, Ministry of Home Affairs, Lao PDR
Despite being a one-party system, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has witnessed varying degrees of decentralization since 1975. Recent policies have focused on administrative decentralization or deconcentration, as when the Ministry of Education transferred certain Lower Secondary School responsibilities from provincial to district level authorities in 2009. This study used a mixed method approach to assess implementation from a Lower Secondary School perspective, with semi-structured interviews conducted with 22 school principals in four districts of Vientiane Capital. Results show that although more responsibilities have theoretically been transferred from provincial to district level, the exact division is still misunderstood and does not always meet the actual needs from the perspectives of principals. Principals place more importance on meetings with the provincial rather than the district authorities as the former remain the ultimate decision-makers for most lower secondary school matters, even though the district authorities are geographically closer and more accessible to the schools. The policy thus needs greater promotion and adjustment to reflect local needs, while more capacity building is also recommended, especially at district level.