Education That Works

Have you ever wondered why there are so many young novice monks in Laos, especially in Luang Prabang?  Our Buddhist faith in Laos is not as strict as the Myanmar, where it’s their tradition that every Myanmar Buddhist boy average age between 7 and 13 is expected to enter the monastery as a novice for a period of a few weeks to months, it’s considered to be the most important day in the boy’s life.

But in Laos, we don’t have a tradition like that, but yet we see many young novice monks at the local temples.  Back in the olden days, temples were the schools, especially if you’re poor, as there was no formal education system.   This makes sense because the Buddha is a teacher, and monks provide basic lesson in both spiritual and secular subjects, and for some, this might be the only way to get an education, not just in the olden days, but also in today society.

During my visit to Laos and Thailand, after we got stranded at Suvarnabhumi Airport, we went back to Vientiane Laos to catch our flight back home, and we stayed at a hotel that’s not too far from Wat Mixay. I didn’t get to take a picture of the entrance, and this is a borrowed photo from here.


My dad and I passed the temple gate, and saw school children playing in the temple ground and thought that the school must be nearby.  We visited the temple and that’s when I realized that the school is at the temple, kind of surprised me at first because I didn’t expect to see this at all. The children are very happy.

When I was in Ubon Thailand, seeing a daycare at the temple is kind of odd to me also, but makes perfect sense now, this temple is Wat Don Yung.

The monks and novice monks would collect alms every morning, and they’d give some items that they collected to the young children at the daycare, especially juice, milk and snacks.

I thought this was a great idea and I didn’t know before that they have something like this in Thailand.  It’s very much like the daycare in the US, but according to my cousin, they didn’t have to pay for my little cousin to attend, of course in the US, daycare is very expensive and takes precedence over anything else, even your house payment, rent or car payment, and that’s because if you don’t pay, then you can’t bring your child the following week.

A great way to make them smile is to show their picture on the LCD screen afterward, then all I heard was “Take it again…” and a big smile.


  1. The city I grew up have a grade school inside the temple. I attended that same school prior of us leaving Laos. During the last trip back to Laos, I stop by to see if the school is still there and it was. I didn’t take any photo and I wish I had.

    • Hi seeharhed, Wat Mixay also has grade school, this section has the younger kids, and the other side of the Wat has the older students. I visited many temples in Laos but didn’t see any school on the temple ground, so it’s a bit odd to me, but thought it is kind of neat especially when there is so little fund for the school system. I’m from Muang Kao across from Pakse, and the local school is across from Wat, but I never got to attend any schooling in Laos.

  2. Oh I forgot to mention on earlier comment. Nice song by the way:-), it is been so long since the last time I heard this song.

    Yes!!! please send me an angel.. hahahhaha that would be nice:-)

    • seeharhed, you might have to change your name, it tells tale that you’re looking for trouble or a trouble maker. Besides, angels work hard to earn their wings and you’ve to earn your angel, I barely earn mine. 🙂

  3. hi Nye,
    there are other temples in Laos that have schools for laypeople within their compound e.g. Wat Nongbone in Vientiane. there are more in Vientiane but can’t recall their names now. though i find this more common in Thailand (you can even find such ‘temple schools’ throughout Bangkok) than in Laos. & of course both countries have temples with schools for monks too e.g. for Laos there’s Wat Sop & Wat Siphouthabat in Luang Prabang, Wat Sok Pa Luang & Wat Ong Teu in Vientiane, Wat Chom Khao in Huay Xai, etc.

    • Hi Im, I think most of the temples that I visited in Laos are tourist area, so there’s no schooling inside the temple except for novice monks. I think I live in the US for so long that I didn’t realize that the temple offer schooling for laypeople, I thought only for monks and that’s one of the reasons why young boys enter monkshood to receive education. It’s kind of nice to see this, since the govn’t don’t have much funding for the school, and the temple might have more since they’re supported by the villagers. When I saw the school inside the temple, I thought it was a great idea.

      Is there anything like this at where you are?

    • lm, wow.. you know about Wat Nongbon? May I ask if you’re from the area? I attended Wat Nongbon school and moved on to ThatLuang Primary School.

  4. Hi Nye,

    where i am now, the majority are Mahayana Buddhists…there are a few schools, clinics, welfare homes, hospitals, dialysis centres, etc started/supported by Buddhist temples/organisations.


    nope…am not even from Laos 😛 but used to visit a friend who lived in Wat Nongbone. in the grounds of that temple, there’s a little hill/mound…is it a ‘thaat’ that collapsed or…any idea?
    heard that the amusement park opposite the temple was being demolished, prob totally gone by now. had wanted to explore.

    • lm,

      Oh this whole time I thought you’re from Laos:-). Yes, Wat Nongbon have this hill/mound(poan) in the middle of temple. As a kid, we would play hide and seek at that hill all the time. I always remember as being so big and there is this big tree of “mark gork” on top of the hill. During the winter months, we would get up early to go collect the fallen “mark gork”. To answer your question, I dont think that hill was part of any “thaat”. I will ask my parents about it and if they tell me any different.. i’ll let you know.

      yes!!! that amusement park across the road from Wat Nongbon had been abandoned for few years. i heard that they open a water park right next to it but i haven’t been back to laos for 3 1/2 years now.

    • Hi Im, it’s interesting to know that the Buddhist temples are reaching out to the local community in your country, and makes sense for them to receive and turn around to give back to its people, a very admirable gesture they’re doing. 🙂

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