I was at the Vientiane Career Fair recently (listen to my Interview with the organizers here) and it was quite amazing how many people showed up (400 in the first two hours). According to the Vientiane Times most students were looking for an job in accounting. Why that? I think, and some experts in this field told me so as well, that most students have no idea what a job is and means. Accounting sounds like a well paid office job, and this is why so many want to work in this field.
Now here comes something in play my friend Titi mentioned at the recent Laos Business Meetings in her talk about career pathways. Indeed people do not know what companies require, what a career pathway actually is. Students are just not prepared for the business life. They have certificates, but no clue about what is actua happing in the company they applying for a job. She is looking for ways to change this.
Nearly all foreigners were complaining about the lack of professional skills within the young Lao community. This is true, but I also think that this is quite natural since most people are between 20-25 and have of course not much of an experience. While someone mentioned the need of a education were also internships and trainings are supported as well as craftsmanship (like German system, where you are an apprentice for 2 years with school added), what many people do now is job hopping for getting experience.
So how to solve the problem? I think there is still a need for a major change in (public) education, with a radical change in curriculums. Also, there must be a closer relationship between universities and the business community, so the first can be aware of what the latter actually needs. It might be helpful to use the summer break for mandatory internships (I know internships are already required, but what I learned was that they are over-regulated. Just let the people work in a company for a month). Oh and as long as Manadarin is not taking over yet, more important than using Excel is speaking English. It IS the business language, period.
I really like the idea of the Khan Academy, where you learn online (at home) on your own pace and the classroom becomes the place to reflect and discuss what you learned (formally know as homework). There are also TED talks, so no excuse of "we do not have the materials".
And don't even think the above is a Lao problem or in any way linked to "Lao culture". Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have exactly the same issues, and I guess it might even similar in Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.
What is your idea?