To make Liberia’s school system the best from mess, a new program to run schools under the Private School Liberia (PSL) was launched at the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday, September 2, in Monrovia.
The program, according to Education Minister, George Werner, will run the day-to-day operations of the schools in collaboration with the private operator to implement routine performance management systems, regular monitoring of teacher attendance, tracking students’ performance, and providing teachers with frequent feedback and support.
Each of the eight providers including BRAC-Liberia, Liberian Youth Network, More Than Me, Omega Schools, Rising Academies, Stella Maris, Street Child and Bridge International Academies will bring a different model to improve learning in the country.
Some of the operators, according to Minister Werner, will focus on small groups of students doing work together; while some will offer technology or provide new learning materials, and others will provide better support for girls.
The 74 selected schools have been divided into categories among the operators. For example, Bridge International Academies will cater to 24 schools across the country; Omega Schools, 19; Street Child, 12; More Than Me, 6; Rising Academies, 5, with Liberian Youth Network and Stella Maris catering to 4 each.
“The government will maintain oversight, and private providers will be accountable to MOE for performance,” Minister Werner said.
The PSL program will accordingly embrace a wide range of school management practices, which will vary by operator. All students in PSL schools will receive an education provided by a private operator authorized by the government, rather than by the government directly.
The launch of the PSL came into effect when academic activities resumed yesterday, which translates into much needed change for a small number of schools and children.
“Partnership schools for Liberia” is a 12 month pilot project in which the country will contract out at least 94 primary schools, less than 2 percent of the system, to test whether children’s learning improves,” Minister Werner said.
He added: “Schools are being contracted to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private companies and other Liberian organizations where a vigorous external evaluation will compare the ‘partnership schools’ to government schools and enable us to see whether there are improvements in learning.”
The program allows the government and partners to closely monitor performance throughout the year to see which schools are making improvements.
“Schools will be free regardless of who operates the school; no fees can be charged. Schools remain government schools to be staffed by current government teachers or recent Liberian teacher training graduates.
“But if (satisfactory) results are not seen, there is no obligation to continue the program,” Werner warned.
Importantly, Partnership Schools address eight of the MOE’s nine “Getting to Best” priorities where there will be primary level testing of what students have learned in literacy and mathematics, respectively.
“There will be more paid teachers in classrooms where they will receive additional training. More girls will likely attend as gender is one of the areas in which providers will have to perform,” Minister Werner noted.
Friday’s launch was attended by other Ministry officials as well as representatives from each of the eight providers, who separately expressed optimism for a smooth academic year.