Though literacy and education in Laos have consistently improved since the 1990s, the country still has a long way to go to increase access to and quality of its education. Public education is free in Laos, but it's unlikely that expats will enrol their kids in a local school, given that Lao is the language of teaching.
Vientiane's international schools provide a more appealing option, although at high prices. Expat parents should try to negotiate the inclusion of educational fees into their contracts if they are moving for work.
Public schools in Laos
Since 1996, primary education has been free and compulsory for all children in Laos, following the national curriculum set by the Ministry of Education and Sports. There are four periods of education in Laos: Pre-primary (ages 3–5), Primary (ages 6–10), Lower Secondary (ages 11–14) and Upper Secondary (15–17).
Public education in rural Laos is complicated by poor attendance by both students and teachers who may need to take time off to tend fields.
Private and international schools in Laos
Private schools in Laos are not widespread. Aside from charging school fees and having better amenities and teacher-to-student ratios, private schools are quite similar to public schools in that they have the same curriculum and language of instruction.
The vast majority of expats in Laos enrol their children in international schools. These offer American, Australian, British, French and International Baccalaureate curricula, taught in English or French. Some of these schools may offer Lao as a language, which offers a balance between a learner's home culture and helping their learners to integrate into Lao culture.
Most international schools in Laos are located in Vientiane, though some of them have campuses in Luang Prabang or Pakse.
Special-needs education in Laos
The government of Laos's objective is to include children with disabilities and special educational needs into mainstream schools as much as possible. In practice, however, they are often overlooked, as the education system is already quite strained. NGOs like Caritas Australia and the Lao Disabled Persons' Association run special-needs schools, but these are small and in high demand. Expat parents of children with mild special educational needs may have some luck with international schools, which generally have teaching assistants and accommodations for learners with hearing or visual disabilities.
Tutors in Laos
Tutors are not widely used by locals, but expats may find them helpful. Tutors catering for expats can be found in major cities and online, and Lao language tutors can be very helpful in the move to Laos.