To address the above challenge, it is essential that the foundation for the TVET system is strengthened at the micro-level as a model for future replication in other institutions nationwide. In this regard, the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), in collaboration with the Office of the Vocational Education Commission, the Thai Ministry of Education and the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports, implemented a five year-development cooperation project, ‘The Development of the Technical College of Vientiane Province’, to serve as a model for a practice-oriented and comprehensive TVET institution that can produce skilled labour and a competent workforce. This will contribute to the Lao People's Democratic Republic’s socio-economic development and productivity in required economic sectors and beyond.
Accordingly, in 1997, TICA, in collaboration with the Office of the Vocational Education Commission, the Thai Ministry of Education and the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports, initiated the first project on the development of TVET institutions at the Phonehong Technical School during the first phase of the project. This first phase focused on the improvement of facilities, curriculum development, equipment provision and capacity building for the respective executives from the Thai Ministry of Education and the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports on TVET policy planning, and for teachers and trainers on specific courses from the school.
Resulting from the success of the first phase, at least four syllabuses at the Phonehong Technical School were developed in collaboration between Thai educational experts and the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports; their curricula met the requirements of the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports, and the number of students attending the school was significantly increased from 1,500 to 3,001 in 2019. Therefore, the status of the school was upgraded to the Technical College of Vientiane Province in October 2010, becoming the first Technical College in the Lao People's Democratic Republic that provides extensive vocational and technical training programmes for students, not only locally but also nationwide.
The second phase of the project was designed to further develop in three main areas: (i) the improvement and construction of facilities within the College, including classrooms and workshops; (ii) the provision for necessary and adequate training equipment for practice-oriented vocational education; and (iii) capacity-building programmes for teachers and trainers at the college. Following satisfactory results from the first phase, Thailand and the Lao People's Democratic Republic closely designed activities focusing on specific courses that responded to the ongoing labour market demands, namely machinery, electrical engineering, construction, carpentry, tailoring, food and beverages, business administration, computer for business, general subjects and basic vocational training. In addition, the courses were improved to be better aligned with the national labour standards as well as ASEAN professional skill standards, and to serve the ongoing demands for labour in specific sectors in special economic zones in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. During this second phase, special attention was focused on curriculum design, the testing and assessment system, as well as methodology and pedagogy. In the second year of implementing the second phase, the focus was on upgrading and strengthening equipment and facilities in order to prepare for the growing number of students attending the College. Since 1997 to date, there have been over 3,000 students attending, and over 10,000 graduates. Currently, the courses provided at the college cover extensive subjects including automotive technology, metal machinery, electro-electronics, welding, plumbing, heavy equipment and agro-machinery, leading to a diploma and higher degrees. It also offers short-term training courses.
The project paves the way for the expansion of quality TVET institutions in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. In addition to the Technical College of Vientiane Province, polytechnic colleges in Savannakhet, Luang Prabang and Dongkhamxang were subsequently selected as three additional TVET institutions to be developed under this project. As a result of the expansion of the project sites in other parts of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, there has been a significant impact in creating decent work and yielding sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This will help the Lao People's Democratic Republic achieve SDG 4 on quality education, and subsequently, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth.
TICA realizes that the recognition of the importance of the implementation of the development project lies at the heart of its sustainability; therefore, from the start, inclusive and participatory cooperation has been incorporated as an integral part of the project. From the project design phase to the implementation, central government agencies of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and local authorities were actively involved and contributed as key players in designing, shaping and altering, when necessary, the project throughout the process. Additionally, the Project Steering Committee was set up with equal representation from both the Thai and Lao sides to provide a regular forum for close and open discussions on project design and its implementation. The Committee has ensured that the project would be of great benefit to the Lao People's Democratic Republic and will be most suitable and beneficial to the people and communities. Similar to all development cooperation projects implemented by the TICA, the project has been part of efforts to ensure that the SDGs are achieved through a strong, practical and sustainable partnership as stipulated in SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals).