17th March, 2015
In mid-2014, Prof Peter Windsor of the Mekong Livestock Research (MLR) Team of the University of Sydney (USYD) Faculty of Veterinary Science, assisted by Mr Sonevilay Nampanya, conducted a curriculum review of the new veterinary degree at the National University of Laos (NUOL) at Nabong campus, near Vientiane capital, Lao PDR. This initiative, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), followed an OIE-led PVS (Provision of Veterinary Services) mission several years ago, when it was recognised that Laos needed to produce veterinary graduates capable of delivering day one competencies (DOC) in veterinary public to meet the SPS (Sanitary & Phytosanitary Services) needs of the country, particularly with increasing Transboundary, Zoonotic and Emerging Disease threats.
NUOL Nabong campus produced the first cohort of 26 BVSc graduates in May 2013 with limited staff and facilities following commencement of training in 2008. Several initiatives are under discussion to provide continuing external support in veterinary teaching at NUOL, particularly with training in clinical practice and upgrading of courses in the veterinary public health disciplines, plus collaboration with USYD research and teaching projects. A proposed upgrade of the current 5 year BVSc to a 6 year DVM was suggested, to harmonise with similar degrees in the region. A new curriculum for the DVM was proposed to build more clarity in the learning for staff and students, and many new initiatives including innovative teaching methodologies in each Unit of Study were suggested to increases the responsibility of students for their own learning. Despite a range of opinions on the numbers of veterinarians required in Laos, there is some consensus that 25 to 30 new vets should graduate per annum, although placing these in employment will require considerable effort in building close stakeholder community partnerships, with several likely to be employed in a new livestock development project funded by ADB and IFAD, and in two new research projects funded by ACIAR, all now commencing in Laos.
The new ACIAR-funded projects are ‘Development of a Biosecure Market-driven production system in Lao PDR’ and ‘Enhancing Transboundary Livestock Disease Risk Management in Lao PDR’, both involving collaboration of the MLR of the USYD, with the Department of Livestock and Fisheries and the National Agricultural and Forestry research institute, plus NUOL and Savannakhet universities. Text books from USYD were presented to Dr Vannaphone Putthana of the Nabong campus Faculty at both a curriculum review workshop for ADB in late 2014, and an ACIAR project inception meeting workshop in Vientiane in February 2015, linking the NUOL curriculum review with current and future activities aimed at building TAD’s and EAD’s capacities in Laos and addressing food security and rural poverty through smallholder livestock development.
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