The former Assistant Minister for Teacher Education, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson, said that the education system of the country will never experience the changes and improvements it desires unless those who are trained in education and considered as experts take the mantle of the education sector.
Jackson said the educational system continues to be placed in the hands of people, or group of individuals, who have no expertise in the field of education, “thereby worsening what has already become mantra, which resonates over the length and breadth of Liberia – the ‘Education sector is a mess’ a statement from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – that continues to be misquoted and misconstrued,” he said.
He spoke yesterday when he served as the commencement speaker at the second Convocation Exercise of the 96th Graduation of the University of Liberia (UL). The exercise yesterday was the graduation at the William V. S. Tubman College, which had 92 graduates obtaining degrees in Primary and Secondary Education.
Mr. Jackson said the assertion that “Education is a mess” could be logical, but not true, “because I am concerned that there are people who continue to repeat this assertion in a mediocre way, since I did not hear the President say ‘education is a mess.’”
According to Mr. Jackson, what the President said instead was, “This whole education system is a mess and needs serious overhaul.”
He spoke on theme, “The Cacophony and Conundrum about Education Reform in Liberia: People Mess or System Mess?”
He said because Liberians always seem to have “itchy ears” and love cherry picking, “That is why everyone, including the President’s inner circle and horn blowers, instead of dissecting the construct of her assertion or leaving it with the pundits who are savvy with educational knowledge and conversant with the ramifications of pedagogy, have jumped on the bandwagon by continuously branding the nation’s education system as “mess.”
However, he said, if we agree the system is a mess, and then the layman is correct to say the education it produces is a mess; then, “The passengers in a defective vehicle may not be defective, but they could get dust all over their bodies if the defective car went along a dusty road. It is based on this syllogism that I concur to some extent that our education is a mess,” he said.
He said the President is correct in saying that the system requires a serious overhaul, which suggests an education review or an education reform.
The unasked question, though, he said, is: “Is the President’s proposal a review or a reform? Of course the president would answer, ‘I leave it with the experts’ or, ‘Call the experts.’”
According to Mr. Jackson, as an alternative to calling the experts, all and sundry, especially those who usually agree to everything the President says for the sake of their livelihoods, “have taken upon themselves to audaciously venture into our profession; and attempt to speak our language,” he told the graduates.
He said the way the reform exercise is proceeding under the present regime by frequently replacing education management teams, is puzzling as a conundrum, and confusing as a cacophony, “because we cannot determine if it is the people who are managing education who are the mess, or if it is the system that is the mess.”
“This is one of the reasons we have all of the current confusion and mystery about education, people who do not know education are brave enough to mount education pulpits and preach education sermons, while those who own the profession are placed at the back of the congregation.
“I was anxious to consider the assignment as the commencement speaker because it served as an opportunity or chance to set the pace to vindicate the teaching profession; an opportunity to blow a professional educational horn whose message will reverberate from Cape Palmas to Cape Mount, from Lofa to the Atlantic Ocean,” Mr. Jackson stated.
He wondered though at what point did education, which has produced so many renowned Liberians and many foreign nationals, become a mess?
“Was it because of the civil war? Or due to the lack of political will of the new breed of leaders, and the personal philosophies they carry under their breasts?
“Is the mess caused by the people who are given responsible to manage education? Or is the mess a result of the current education system we have in place? This is why we should critically analyze what the President meant when she said ‘this whole education system is a mess that needs overhaul’ Did she mean a review or a reform?
Mr. Jackson’s expression was punctuated by long rounds of applause from both the graduates and the faculty.
He then recommended that a review of the education system is generally considered to involve a less fundamental change than a reform, adding that it usually involves having to examine aspects of the education system, and making some improvements such as revising the curricula, removing administrative bottlenecks and providing technical support needed to improve teaching and learning outcomes.