By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
August 7, 2012
The Ministry of Education and Sports will provide up to 200 scholarships to students of the 53 poorest districts to study in four state-run universities, in order to strengthen the capacity for communities to fight poverty at the grass-roots level.
The planned scholarships represent an increase from the 188 awarded last year and cover subjects based on local human resource needs, primarily in the agricultural sector, a technical official of the ministry’s Planning and Cooperation Department told the Vientiane Times yesterday.
She stated that the government plans to award this particular scholarship programme until 2015 – the year when the government will conclude its national five-year socio-economic development plan that aims to reduce poverty in poor families from 17 percent to less than 10 percent.
District committees will scrutinise students and award scholarships based on the development needs of local communities.
The official explained that this special scholarship programme is aimed at strengthening capacities in rural communities, so the criteria for academic performance might not be so strict as normal scholarship programmes.
She said an important part of the programme is that students must promise to return to work in their communities in order to receive the scholarship.
This particular scholarship programme hopes to address the issue of insufficient personnel working at grass-roots levels, because many graduates are not willing to work in underprivileged communities.
Apart from this programme, more than 80 scholarships will be awarded to students of ethnic schools nationwide, Deputy Director General of the Planning and Cooperation Department of the Ministry Mixaykone Vannachith said.
The special scholarship programme is distinct from the normal 30 percent scholarship programme which the ministry announced to provide additional opportunities to students from poor communities.
This academic year, the ministry announced it will award scholarships for up to 30 percent of total students studying in each faculty in the four universities. This does not include agriculture and teaching courses, where up to 80 percent of total students who attend the courses will receive scholarships.
The ministry also suggested provincial authorities choose scholarship applicants in the normal scholarship programme using performance as the main criteria. Female students from ethnic schools and students from poor families in remote communities will also be given special consideration when it comes to the scholarships.
The 36 students who received the awards of excellence known as ‘red diplomas’ from their secondary schools and more than ten students who excelled in individual subjects including mathematics and chemistry during the national exams will be awarded university scholarships automatically.