Exploring Family Characteristics, Individual Motivations and Social Norms Regarding Women’s Access to Tertiary Education in Laos
In aiming to graduate from Least Developed Countries status by 2020, and in joining the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, the Government of Laos has been seeking to sustain a high rate of economic growth and to develop a skilled and proficient labour force. As such, economic development has been a focus of the government and developing skilled and proficient labour is important. Education, especially tertiary education, has also been a priority of the Government of Laos. However, the gender gap still exists in every education level with high fees just one barrier for women to get into higher education. Promoting women’s access to tertiary education is important for closing the gender gap and improving women’s livelihoods, as well as contributing to the country’s economic development. The research explores the main barriers to women’s access to tertiary education, concentrating on family characteristics, individual motivations and social norms. Utilising a feminist lens, qualitative research has been undertaken through semi-structured interviews. Thirty interviews were conducted, including women who were current students in tertiary education institutions and women who were not in any tertiary education institution. Information regarding tertiary education policies and implementation of these policies was also gathered from key information interviews and secondary information. The research found that family financial status is the main barrier for women to continue their education in higher education. When the family budget is limited, most parents prioritise the education of males. Furthermore, the perception that women have less opportunity to gain a job than men persists widely – and acts as a disincentive for women to access tertiary education.