The ongoing fight to improve Liberia’s educational system has experienced a setback following the revelation that authorities at the Ministry of Education were paying more money to teachers that are being classified as “untrained” than those who are “trained” to teach.
The Director-General of the National Commission on Higher Education, Dr. Michael P, Slawon made the disclosure during a presentation Wednesday, April 23, at a one-day national symposium on higher education and early childhood development.
The day-long symposium was hosted by the MOE under the theme, “Higher Education and Early Childhood Development—the Awakening.”
Dr. Slawon presented a paper on the topic, “Higher Education in Liberia: A Destination for Early Childhood Development.”
According to him, too few students graduating from the nation’s high schools are prepared for tertiary education. This situation made Dr. Slawon question the role of educational authorities regarding the improvement of early childhood education in the country.
He narrated his experience leading to the discovery of difficulties and expense of upgrading the credentials of teachers at the pre-primary and primary levels.
He said the early grade reading assessment data has shown that too few students graduating from the nation’s high schools are prepared for tertiary education; with 100 percent of 25,000 high school graduates who took the University of Liberia’s (UL) last administered entrance exam failing.
“No student who sat last year’s examination administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for Liberian high schools scored in Division 1, and only 100 achieved a Division two pass. In the other WAEC countries, only Division 1 and 2 students are considered prepared for tertiary education.”
He noted that qualified and dedicated teachers are the most important elements in educating students.
“In Liberia,” Dr. Slawon said, “the shortage of qualified teachers is a major impediment to reforming the nation’s education system.”
He proposed that all teachers and school administrators become eligible to hold their positions through an itemized system. He said teachers should only be licensed to teach after meeting requirements such as a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Education or its equivalent and an A-Certificate; for Upper Basic Education (Junior Secondary) Teachers and Administrators.
“At least an Associate’s Degree from a recognized teacher training institute and a B-Certificate from the authority established under the educational Act empowered to issue Teachers’ Certificates should be required,” he said.
He continued, “For Lower Basic Education (Primary Schools) teachers and administrators,” Dr. Slawon said, “at least an Associate Degree for grades (4-6), and a high school diploma with a year of post-secondary teacher training at a recognized teacher training institution; the person must also possess a minimum B or C-Certificate, because the overwhelming number of students are in the pre-primary and primary grades.”
Reading from 2012 Public School Census data, Dr. Slawon reported that there was a total of 1, 593 schools, with 9, 655 teachers assigned. Of those teachers, he said, 38.5 percent of them are “trained,” while 37.5 are untrained; leaving the rest in an unknown category.
Of the “trained” teachers, 0.7 percent holds an A.A. Certificate; 2.6 percent B. Certificate; 36.2 C. Certificate; with only 0.2 percent holding University degrees, but the rest were placed in an unknown category.
“Most teachers are under-educated. The overwhelming numbers of students in these primary grades are in classes with too many students to achieve optimum results,” he explained.
Other individuals who presented papers included the president of the Stella Maris Polytecnic University, Sister Mary Laurine Brown, and deputy Education Minister for Planning, Research and Development, Dr. Kalipha Bility among others.