The West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), formerly General Certificate Examination (GCE), is a type of a standardized test to be administered for the first time in Liberia beginning today, April 3, 2018.
Since Anglophone countries in the West African sub-region began using this form of evaluation for senior students, Liberian students have not participated in it but the West African Examination Council (WAEC) designed certificate examination.
According to sources at the Ministry of Education, Liberia should have begun the process in 2008 but was delayed due to unexplained circumstances, one of which is presumably lack of adequate support to the education sector.
The WAEC Examination has over the years been characterized by fraud to the extent that students obtained copies of the test well before examination day. Both students and schools have in the past relied on examination fraud to pass the WAEC.
For WASSCE, it allows students to express in constructive sentences their knowledge in a particular subject or solve a mathematical problem convincingly. This new method of testing may not allow the students to cheat as it had been the case with the WAEC multiple choice questions.
It will also prove to the sub-region how efficient and effective our education system is as output of students in the examination will determine the efficiency and effectiveness of schools and teachers. It can be recalled that when the announcement about WASSCE surfaced, students converged near the Ministry of Education on 3rd Street in Sinkor and called for the cancellation of the test because they were not prepared for such a standardized examination.
Some of them raised concerns about the lack of laboratories and libraries to do research, while others expressed concerns about exorbitant fees. As stated by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that the education system was “a mess,” there are problems, the causes of which can be attributed to teachers, students, school administrations, parents and government.
Under teacher-caused problems, it is glaring that many of our teachers are not fully prepared and, as a result, they only present lessons they are familiar with, rather than what is required to be taught in accordance with the approved syllabus.
Moreover, a lot of them have the mindset of extorting money from students for grades and sexually exploiting female students. Early this week media reports referenced a teacher raping a 14-year-old student in Bomi County.
Government teachers have been reported to be charging students every test period to pay test fees and, whoever does not comply, fails the test. Compliance with such unwholesome requests means passing even if a student does not write the test.
Student-caused problems emanate from the growing propensity on the part of students to indulge in pleasurable activities rather than studying their lessons, a mindset of bribing teachers and causing disturbance in school under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
As regards problems caused by school administrations, most private schools have administrations that commercialize education by awarding students undeserving grades in return for money. Some have policies that forbid students from failing even if they deserve to, all because they try to avoid potential loss of income induced by students leaving their schools.
Parent-caused problems are a phenomenon wherein parents go all-out, including bribing teachers to ensure that tuition fees paid are not spent in vain, even if their kids deserve to fail.
Problems caused by Government includes the failure to provide adequate and improved learning facilities in the country as evidenced by lack of public libraries, laboratories, technological equipment that facilitate learning, as well as revised textbooks.
Teachers continue to complain about low salaries while others are yet to be placed on the payroll. While we pray for the best to see Liberian students perform successfully, all these problems leave clouds of doubt that many of these students who are barely able to write good sentences can perform the miracles they will need to pass the WASSCE.
As our students begin WASSCE for the first time, we at the Daily Observer wish all of them well to and pray for their success.