ID-4-PAPD: Greasing our Development Wheels (Part 8)

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ID for Better Education

By J. Tiah Nagbe, MSF, ChFC

You may have thought of different ways in which biometric identification can support national systems; but I am not sure you have considered education. This benefit should, however, not surprise you because biometric identification is often valuable to systems that involve a lot of people. Education covers thousands or even millions of people, and this is why a unique identification is important to people who provide or use educational services. Two major benefits are control of academic records and financial services.

But before we go any further, let’s just recap our last week’s discussion, which was about the use of biometrics to support telecommunication services. In that article, we pointed out that telecommunication services have changed the way we live today, but that progress has also come with its own downsides. Some of the problems that are associated with telecommunication services are electronic money laundering, electronic funds transfer fraud, criminal conspiracies, theft of intellectual property, dissemination of offensive materials, electronic vandalism, telemarketing fraud, and facilitation of other crimes. We showed that biometric identification can help in solving these problems.

Towards Trusted Education Records

Hundreds of thousands of young people go through our school system. Each of them earns marks for their academic work and these marks lead to degrees and certificates, which give employers the confidence to recruit them. For a small population, like what Liberia used to be thirty to fifty years ago, it is difficult to create fake degrees because people know much about you. But for large populations, like the one that we now have, it is easier to create fake documents. Compounding this problem is the fact that people move about quickly and higher educational institutions can now be found all over the country. So, if someone claiming to be a graduate of Lofa Community College goes to seek employment in Grand Kru County or another person claiming to be a graduate of Bomi Community College goes to seek employment in Grand Gedeh County, how will we know that these people are saying the truth?

And even more confusing, how do we know that the student who is transferring at D. Tweh High in Monrovia is actually a 10th Grade Student from Ganta Methodist School? These challenges can also extend to public exams, where people sit high school exams, college entrances, and even college exams for others. These are some of the problems that the educational system faces today, which biometric identification can help solve.

With a unique identification of each student, based on biometrics, student records can be centrally stored. This will allow only authorized school authorities to see these records. This means that the student claiming to be from Ganta Methodist will only need to provide his/her national ID number, and the principal of D. Tweh will use that ID number to gain access to the National School Record Computer System to retrieve that student’s records. Such a system assures the authenticity of the academic report and further gives us confidence that the record truly belongs to this student.

Making Sure the Right People are Getting Educational Services

There can also be problems with funds and supplies that are allocated for educational services. Some corrupt school authorities inflate enrollment numbers to get funding and benefits that they do not deserve. This means that other more deserving students will be denied these benefits. To curb these abuses, school authorities can rely on biometric identification to eliminate ghosts on these lists.  

Wrapping up

Education is vital for our national development, but it faces many challenges in areas such as fake academic reports and misuse of funds or resources. Biometric identification of students can help in dealing with these issues for the benefit of our educational system. Next week, we will look at some ways in which biometric IDs support a country’s transport system.  

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