Books for Asia in Lao PDR
The Asia Foundation first began contributing books in Lao PDR through its Books for Asia program in 1958 and, over the past two decades, has donated over 42,000 books to institutions in the country.
Status of Education in Laos
The government of Laos is dedicated to improving the nation's educational indicators. Laos continues to face numerous challenges in achieving its goal of graduating from the list of least-developed countries by the year 2020, including the crucial areas of literacy and education. Recent measures indicate an adult literacy rate of 72.5% (79.6% of men and 65.7% of women) in this country of 6.67 million.
The school system consists of five years of primary education, three years of lower secondary school, and three to four years of upper secondary or technical education. University is generally a five-year program. The number of students enrolled in Lao higher education institutions has been growing steadily in recent years. In 1975, there were only 146 students in college level courses throughout the country. By 1995, this number grew to 7,270 students; and by the 2004-2005 school year, nearly 40,000 students were pursuing higher education. There are now approximately 30 colleges in Laos.
Though English is compulsory beginning in third grade, very few books are published in Laos, and institutions generally have very little money to purchase books from abroad. As Laos continues to increase its engagement with other nations in commerce, diplomacy, and all other sectors, the demand for up-to-date educational materials, including those in English, is increasing.
The Books for Asia program in Laos distributes about 17,000 new English-language books to Laos annually, and the program is growing in response to increasing requests from both educational and governmental institutions throughout the country. The types of books range from English language instruction and primary school textbooks and picture books, to higher education and professional materials in such topics as economic development, agriculture, management, and international relations. Books for Asia also places special emphasis on law books to complement The Asia Foundation's partnership with the National Assembly and Lao Bar Association.
Read more about The Asia Foundation's work in Laos.
Project and Partner Highlights
The National University of Laos. The university's Central Library is Books for Asia's partner in Laos and provides crucial support, including the day-to-day management of the program, warehousing, and logistics. Laos Library and Information Consortium (LALIC). This initiative is the country's first network of libraries and information centers. By expanding inter-library lending and sharing access to Internet archives and e-journal subscriptions, LALIC helps libraries make better use of their limited collections. Members include the National Library of Laos, the National University of Laos, and numerous other institutions.
Room to Read Laos. Since 2008, Books for Asia has helped Room to Read Laos provide more than 30,000 books to more than 530 school libraries in 9 provinces.
Major publisher donors: McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Lynne Rienner, W.W. Norton & Company, Scholastic, Island Press, and Abrams.