During my visit to Burma and Laos I announced that the Australian Government will focus on increasing educational opportunities for primary and tertiary students, and improving teacher quality.

In Burma about half of the country’s five million school aged children do not complete primary school. In some districts of Laos only one quarter of girls complete primary school.

The Australian Government will provide $86 million over four years for education in Laos to help around 450,000 children achieve literacy, numeracy and other life skills for a better future.

In Burma, Australia will boost services in 43,000 schools and strengthen teacher training colleges for tertiary scholars. The funding ($27.8 million) is additional to Australia’s commitment to provide $24.6 million to promote economic growth and community engagement with the peace process.

Education is essential to the success of the Myanmar Government’s broader reform efforts. Improvements in education will help people develop the skills to take advantage of the expanding economic opportunities.

Australia will work with the Ministry of Education and the World Bank to expand the Myanmar Government’s school grants and stipends program that promotes education for all children. Australia’s investment will help strengthen the education system, train school managers and education officials and help the Myanmar Government decentralise its education management to the provinces.

Australia will also provide 50 long-term Australia Awards for Burmese students to study in Australia in 2015 – and we are also exploring opportunities within the New Colombo Plan to provide Australian students an opportunity to study in Burma.

In Laos, Australia will work with the Ministry of Education and Sports to achieve quality primary education for all Lao children, including the most educationally disadvantaged children – girls, children from ethnic minority groups and students with disabilities. The program will also strengthen the quality of training in eight Lao teacher training colleges and provide basic infrastructure, including the construction or rehabilitation of 300 schools.

As a member of the Global Partnership for Education, Laos will also benefit from Australia’s $140 million pledge as part ofthe Government’s new aid policy framework, and our overall investment in education this year of over $1 billion. Creating opportunities for children to obtain a quality basic education is an important part of creating a skilled labour force, necessary for economic prosperity and poverty reduction.

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