Improving methods of teaching and learning while upgrading the quality of research and turning out qualified graduates are the three main goals pursued by the Faculty of Agriculture at the National University of Laos.
Over the 40 years since the Faculty was established, it has produced over 7,000 graduates. Most new graduates find jobs with the government because the demand for trained personnel in this sector at government agricultural institutes is increasing every year.
The Faculty on Friday proudly celebrated the 40 years of its existence (December 9, 1975 to December 9, 2015) at a ceremony headed by the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Associate Prof. Dr Oudom Phonkhampheng.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Oudom said that when it first opened 40 years ago the Faculty struggled to undertake any research because there were only 20 lecturers who held only diplomas and higher diplomas in agriculture.
Now, however, the Faculty is playing an important role in the development of Laos as indicated in its mission to provide higher education in areas required for agricultural research development. Staff and students carry out research in natural and agricultural sciences and provide research services for private and government bodies.
Today the Faculty has 67 lecturers, most of whom have undertaken studies in neighbouring countries. Ten staff have doctorates in agricultural research and 38 hold a master's degree while another 19 hold bachelor degrees. Nine staff members are women.
The Faculty has developed new curriculums for bachelor, master's and doctorate degree programmes. It offers master's degrees in crop growing, livestock farming and agricultural economics. There are now new bachelor degree programmes in cultivation methods, plant protection, livestock, veterinary practices, fishery, agricultural economics technology and food.
Dr Oudom said “We have three master's degree programmes: agricultural resource administration, livestock science, and cultivation science.”
The Faculty has also improved its teaching and learning methods. “We have helped to create new curriculums and improve curriculums at Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang province and at the universities of Savannakhet and Champassak, as well as other institutions under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.”
In response to the need for better qualified human resources at the National University of Laos, the Faculty encourages its staff to undergo further training in neighbouring countries.
Since 2000, the faculty has engaged in 27 research projects, including studies on higher yielding rice varieties and other agricultural products.
The Faculty incorporates IT in its new curriculums, its teaching and learning activities and training courses. Teachers and students now have more access to modern technology for research and learning purposes, which helps to improve standards and facilitate research.
Also on Friday, the Faculty officially opened a new building housing teaching and laboratory facilities. These will enable a greater focus on plant health and better enable the university and government bodies to regulate and ensure plant health, which is important when it comes to the import and export of plants.
The new building has a surface area of 13,000 square metres and cost about US$500,000 to construct. It contains five classrooms, 12 labs and five offices.
Friday's ceremony was attended by the President of the National University of Laos, Prof. Dr Soukongseng Xayaleuth, Director General of the Department of Planning and Investment under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Xayladeth Choulamany, and Asian Development Bank representative to Laos, Mr Shunsuke Bando.