The thrust of this fourth article of the series centered on the indispensability of reforms, from time to time, of individuals, institutions, and nations, is on the attending costs or price one must pay for a proper reform that lasts and benefits all. There is a general principle, reality and experience that most good things, most things of lasting value come at a price. Reforms are no exception. They do come at a price. What are the costs to be paid for enduring and beneficial reforms? How being aware of the price of reforms can help lessen the burden of reforms? How may one pay the price of reforms? Let us explore below. The third article on some key suggestions as to how reforms may be carried out successfully noted the following points:
Reforming is a demanding engagement because it asks those the reforms are going to affect (negatively or positively) to change. And change is always a hard thing to ask of people. Most people are conservative when they have to change their mindsets and attitudes. They really have to be convinced before they can consent.
Therefore every well-meaning and radical reform under democratic conditions must be preceded by wide consultations and accurate dissemination of what is envisioned among all those concerned. People must know what the desired result might be and the processes leading to it. The costs and benefits have to be clearly spelt out. The one driving the reforms has to listen to both supporters and critics and build a consensus before proceeding formally.
Many around the world have had successful reforms of their educational systems such as Singapore, Britain and the US. Those concerned should make an effort to study those reforms and learn from them to make ours work. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Hasty and not well thought-through approaches need to be avoided. True reformers cannot listen to every side noise but must listen to those whose opinions matter (legislators, parents, DEOS, CEOS, communities, and students through their official representatives). When once a consensus is found, hard decisions have to be made for the long term good of education in all its aspects. The reformer must be bold, firm, and willing to take criticisms. She/he may learn from some of the criticisms but must proceed where they are judged not helpful to the process. Liberia indeed needs reforms of its educational system but those reforms have got to be approached in the right way: wide consultations, repudiating methods that are unilateral, and the willingness to stand criticisms and pay the price of reforms.
One of the costs of true reforms is managing criticisms. Reformers will be criticized for all sorts of reasons. Some people may criticize reforms because they know that the reforms are against their vested interests. Others may criticize because of ignorance or they do not believe in what is envisioned. Still others may criticize out of hatred for the powers that be. Still further others may criticize constructively to help those leading the reforms to consider key factors that may not have been taken into consideration. A true reformer must be ready to handle criticisms, positive and negative, to her/his advantage as a means of propelling her/him to do more towards the envisaged goal.
All who engage in reforms and benefit from them in one way or the other must be willing to pay the price of change in time schedule, costs, new ways of doing things and of doing more than was required in previous times in terms of work/study and paying more for quality. If we want genuine change and quality we have to be willing to share the cost of the change needed to correct and improve what we have now that requires reforming.
For example, if we want a better educational system than what we have now, we have to be willing to pay a price in terms of change in school calendar, paying more tuition for quality, more patience, and spending more time and energy to get things done better. A fundamental attitude change is what is required and that does not come cheap for anybody. Teachers, students, school administrators and proprietors and parents who are used to unethical ways of getting more income and passes must now pay the price of doing things differently. Teachers and students must now spend more time and energy to achieve intended goals.
Let us all pay the price and get things right and will in the long term save more. It is better to pay the price of discipline, study, sacrificing a lot now for values than to pay the price of ignorance and inability to deliver what one is expected and required to deliver. Somebody has rightly said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” If we think reforms are costly, keeping things as they are will cost us a lot more.