Rural Higher Education for Southeast Asia: A Case Study from Lao PDR
The changing landscape of tertiary education and adult learners’ expanding needs and expectations for development and growth call for education that can be delivered in new and innovative ways. Traditional higher education systems with rigid academic curricula and approaches cannot bring the desired changes, particularly in rural communities of developing countries. A multifaceted approach with practical and flexible curricula in new programs becomes what universities and graduate schools need to deliver. Particularly in countries such as Lao PDR and Cambodia a fundamentally different educational process will be needed with an aim to integrate capacity building, training and extension into an holistic educational approach focused on poverty reduction. This live case study examines the start-up and development challenges of a BSc degree program in poverty reduction and agricultural management for rural and district government employees in Lao PDR. The Asian Institute of Technology and the Prince of Songkhla University, in collaboration with agricultural colleges in Northeastern Thailand, are adapting and developing curricula for delivery to up to 3,000 Lao participants. The program is expected to expand. Issues described and investigated include; participatory curriculum development, problem-based learning, conferment of the degree, quality assurance, faculty development, languages of instruction, accessibility and delivery location. This case can serve as a model for appropriate rural higher education delivery in other developing countries in SE Asia, such as Cambodia and Myanmar.
Keywords: Tertiary Rural Education, Adult Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Teacher Training and Professional Development, Organizational Learning
Dr. Nicholas Dimmitt
Assistant Professor, School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology