At least 13,000 candidates wishing to enter the state-run University of Liberia to pursue Bachelor’s degrees have completed their placement entrance examinations in English and Mathematics, amidst uncertainty that they will cross the bridge this year after an unimaginable failure last year.
Scores of candidates this newspaper came across on Saturday, June 7, did expressed confidence that they could challenge either of the subjects or both; they hoped, however, that what happened last year does not repeat itself, so that their time, efforts and financial investment would not be wasted.
“This test is the cheapest UL has ever administered, and I believe a lot of people will pass — except if they don’t follow instruction as one guy did by writing with a pen instead of a pencil,” one candidate stated.
Some, on the day of the entrance exams, were opinionating that the UL Administration has complained over the years about huge enrollment numbers at the university, and was finding ways to reduce the number.
Wondering and doubting whether the entrance exams would go well, some of the candidates were heard saying, “We are going to try this time [and see] if UL will not do what it did last year. Sometimes the people do not want to take students, but they cannot come out to say because they also want money. We will still try, [we] don’t care what they do.”
The 2013 exam results proved disastrous and disappointing, for all of the undergraduate candidates, none of whom were able to meet the 70% and 50% bench marks set for English and Mathematics, respectively.
Giving the results on August 21 last year, Vice President for UL Relations, Dr. S. Momolu Getaweh, noted that of over 24,000 candidates that sat the entrance, no one could earn 70 percent in English or 50 percent in Math; and as such, failed the exams.
However, considering the mass failures and the need to not leave the Liberian students in despair, the UL Administration scaled the standard down to 50 for English and 40 for Math, which then qualified 1,626 candidates to enter the institution. They were then required to do remedial courses on zero credit for two semesters.
During the announcement of last result, then Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Wede Elliot-Brownell, said the mass failure was the result of mechanisms put into place so that “business as usual” would not take place.
“Entering UL is no longer business as usual as it has been in the past, and we can assure you that the result is the real result because people did not pay money to pass as has been the case. This result shows the kind of education Liberian children are achieving in the country,”Dr. Brownell asserted.
Following the announcement, there was public outcry that the results were unbelievabl,e with Minister of Education, Etmonia David-Tarpeh, doubting their credibility on radio.
Prior to the mass failure at last year's exams, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in March of 2012, had described Minister Tarpeh’s sector, the Education system as a total “Mess.”
In response to concerns raised by the public, Vice President for UL Relations, Dr. S. Momolu Getaweh, acknowledged on the BBC that Liberian students do not read and write English, and that the administration was standing by the results of the entrance without compromise.
Last year entrance results, however, was one of the allegations against Dr. Wede Elliot-Brownell, by the faculty association of UL, which then pushed for her exit.
She is being replaced by Dr. Walter Wiles. Atty. Vulate Hage is the new Director for Testing and Evaluation at the University of Liberia.
Efforts to contact testing authorities on examination day proved futile, as all eyes were focused on the administration of the exams.
However, it was observed that the administration prepared ahead of time and selected supervisors, and that the process was well monitored.
Given the hope and optimism candidates have expressed about the just-ended entrance exams, Dr. Wiles and his team will soon prove the candidates right or wrong, and may once again demonstrate that business-as-usual is no more the order of the day at the UL.