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Society

State structure

Following the abolition of the monarchy, the Lao People's Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 2 December 1975.

According to the 1991 Constitution, the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), modelled on the Vietnamese Communist Party, is responsible for general policy. The Council of Ministers is the highest executive body and the Vice-President of the Council supervises the work of the other ministers. The President has many powers and, after approval by the National Assembly, can appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and the government. In fact, the Central Committee has already cooked this up.

The National Assembly, consisting of 99 members, meets twice a year and is elected for a period of five years. The Assembly oversees the work of the government and the judiciary and legislation is also in the hands of this body.

Most members are members of the LPRP, and anyone wishing to stand for election must seek permission from the Lao Front for National Reconstruction (LFNR), an umbrella organisation for civil society groups. The LFNR is supervised by the LPRP. The judiciary is also closely associated with the LPRP.

Administrative and political bodies such as the Central Committee and the Permanent Secretariat are closely linked to the LPRP Politburo, which makes all policy decisions. The Secretary General of the Politburo is the most powerful man in Laos.

National Assembly elections were held in December 1997. These were reasonably fair and the people themselves did not vote according to the party's recommended order of precedence. The population particularly favoured younger technocrats. The Lao Women's Union had been very effective in advocating the cause of female candidates, and currently around 21% of the parliament is made up of women. The army, of course, is still very strongly represented. For the current political situation, see the history section.

Administrative division

Laos is administratively divided into seventeen provinces or 'khwãeng'. Provinces are divided into districts or "méuang", which in turn consist of two or more villages or towns (bâan).

Education

It was not until the French era that a tradition of 'secular' education was established. Before that time, monks provided education in temple schools for 'novices', but also for 'ordinary' pupils. Education has been compulsory for six years since 1955.

Since 1976, a campaign has been conducted to combat illiteracy. Illiteracy among children fell from 75% in 1976 to 10% in 1985. Although the aim is to give all children access to primary education, this has still not been fully achieved. The illiteracy rate among the adult population is still very high, about 35%.

According to the World Bank, 90% of all households in Laos now have a primary school in their village or town. Nevertheless, there are still many problems to overcome, both in terms of quality and capacity. For example, there are schools without upper classes, there is little money for teaching materials and teachers are underpaid. In remote areas, there are many one-class schools.

Many children fail and the drop-out rate is very high, especially among children from ethnic minorities. Of all the children with a right to education, only 70% make use of it. Only 30% of children attend school for more than three years.

From the age of six, children can follow five years of primary education (pathom). This is followed by three years of lower secondary education (mathayom) or three years of higher secondary education (udom).

After upper secondary education, they can go to university in Vientiane. Secondary and vocational education is also provided in monasteries and temples, and there are even some private schools. Since 1991, Vientiane has also had an international school. The largest groups there are Americans, Lao, Dutch, Koreans and Australians, with more than 20 other nationalities.

Vientiane has had one major university, the National University of Laos (NUOL), since 1995. Approximately ten schools of higher education and a college of agricultural education have merged into this.


Sources

Boon, H. / Laos : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Cummings, J. / Laos
Lonely Planet

Te gast in Laos & Cambodja
Informatie Verre Reizen

Waard, P. de / Laos
Elmar

Zickgraf, R. / Laos
Chelsea House Publishers

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated January 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info