The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the World Bank has launched an ambitious US$47 million project, which aims to improve the country’s poor senior secondary education system and to support the nation pressing needs for more skilled workers.
The project, which runs up to 2023, focuses on improving equitable access to education and learning environment, as well as supporting girls to education and the installation of digital skills of senior secondary students and the availability of teaching and learning materials.
Although the Improving Results in Secondary Education (IRISE) project ambition is huge, it comes at a time when quality education in terms of learning outcomes across the country remains poor.
According to Dr. Khwima Nthara, World Bank Liberia Country Manager, the IRISE project goal is to support the government of Liberia’s efforts to address one of the most critical pathways to poverty reduction and shared prosperity—quality education.
“The quality of education in terms of learning outcomes (in Liberia) remains poor. This is evidenced by the poor results in the annual West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination,” he said. “This needs to change since senior secondary education provides a critical foundation for the development of skilled workers. People cannot be truly empowered if they have not attained more primary education, and Liberia’s economic transformation will critically depend on having a skilled workforce.”
Dr. Nthara added that the arrival of the 4th industrial revolution driven by digital technology and artificial intelligence is creating an “opportunity for us all to think differently about the traditional education system and prepare students to become workers with a high level of competence and skills.”
“Once a person is educated, they are empowered to take advantage of various incoming earning opportunities and are better equipped to deal with various other challenges in their lives. For Liberia to rise, education has to be the key to its human capital development,” Dr. Nthara said.
The World Bank Liberia Country Manager further indicated that through a set of innovative intervention and a result-based financing mechanism, the project is expected to benefit approximately 140, students and 6,800 teachers across the country.
“IRISE will improve the learning environment of all 156 public schools and provide scholarships to approximately 3,000 girls,” he said. “There is a well-recognized urgency around the world and especially in Africa to accelerate intervention in developing human capital for socio-economic transformation. Business as usual will not lead to a result.”
The IRISE comes at a time when currently statistics on human capital development are not very flattering for Liberia.
According to the Human Capital Index, which is a composite index based on measures of health, education and nutrition, a child born in Liberia today can expect to live up to the age of 62, benefit from only 4.4 years schooling, and only be 32 percent as productive as they would have been if they had access to full health and education benefit and services that would have allowed them to reach their full human capital potential.
In brief remarks, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, who launched the project, told the gathering that the initiatives speak to the intent of what should be done, providing opportunities to the education sector for young people to be able to get the required training to rise.
VP Taylor added that enhancing the digital skills of Liberian students is cardinal to developing the country’s youthful human development. According to the VP, when the curriculum is revisited thereby making some adjustments in it, it reduces the burden on students and improves their efficiency.
Imagining a child in the third grade doing 12 to13 subjects; it makes that child’s learning ability to be very poor,” VP Taylor said, thanking the World Bank family for supporting the government to build the country’s educational system.