Traditionally a monastic education has been the only option for young Lao to improve their lives. Many monks and novices come from very poor families in the countryside who are unable to provide any education, and also at times struggle to feed their children.
Today, growing numbers of boys come to Luang Prabang in the hope of being admitted to a temple as a novice so they can receive regular meals and a full education supplemented with studies on Buddhist topics.
The Buddhist Secondary School of Luang Prabang was established in 1955 and was originally situated within the town. It soon expanded both with a growing body of students and also in its locations as the original building started to exceed its physical capacity. The local Buddhist community, called the Buddhist Sangha, recognised the need for additional educational facilities and acquired land in an area called Vat Pa Pha O, some 10km north of Luang Prabang. Their ambition was to create a secondary and tertiary teaching facility with living and meditation quarters, open air teaching rotundas, a traditional arts and craft school and a temple for formal ceremonies. All of this with new services and an infrastructure.
The Foundation initially provided a capital grant to fund the construction of purpose built classrooms and administration rooms. Any building work undertaken was cognisant of the traditional Buddhist methods. Once the first school building was completed, it became apparent that there was an ever increasing demand for student places. The Foundation then provided a second grant towards the construction of a new wing. By this time, local and external interest had grown so much so that the majority of funding for the new wing came from the local community in the form of donations and physical labour.
The number of students at the school has increased each year, as has the demand for school places. To accommodate growth of the school, the Foundation provided a third grant towards an additional school building. There are now three school buildings with facilities for over 350 students, including a library and an IT centre.