Is Liberia Ready For WASSCE?

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Discrepancies in the WASSCE curriculum and the presently used Liberian Ministry of Education curriculum makes students inadequately prepared.

By Solomon Quaye (BSc. Geology)

Liberia joined the West African Examination Council — an organization which was established in 1952 — in 1974 with the aspirations of:

  • Harmonising and standardising pre-university assessment procedures
  • Awarding certificates acknowledged by examining authorities in the United Kingdom.

This ultimately is to ensure that students acquire applicable proficiencies the world over.

The Ministry of Education in collaboration with WAEC piloted the administering of WASSCE in 2016in attempts to upgrade the presently administered WAEC exams to WASSCE taken by all final year students in the sister countries. Though a brilliant idea aimed at standardizing exams so that there is international accreditation for certificates issued to individuals who successfully pass the exams, as to whether Liberian students are adequately prepared for this year’s exams is questionable.

The academic structure affords for the effective administration of WASSCE in Ghana for instance, a country which has been part of the West African Exam Council since its inception.

The 9th grade WAEC results provide WAEC with information about the academic standing of students. This is highly influential in determining which senior high school a student is to attend for the three year period since WAEC does the posting.

Though the senior high school education is a three year program as exists in Liberia, the subjects taught are categorized into cores and electives. The core subjects are mandatory and provide basic understanding in General Science, English, Math and Social Studies. Instructions are given in accordance to standards stated below:

  • General Science covers basic concepts in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Agriculture.
  • Social Studies provide surface information about selected concepts in Economics, Human Geography and Civics.
  • English language includes oral and written English

The elective subjects are completely the students’ to discriminate between, of course under the supervision of a counselor. The student is obliged to select at most four courses in disciplines such as Arts, Social Sciences or General Science.

Arts cover study of languages, Visual Arts, Home Economics among others. Social Science covers Economics, Geography, History and the like. The Arts and Social Sciences have related subjects which can be blended.

The Science course makes it compulsory for students to study elective math — which covers introduction to calculus, physics and chemistry — both of which require at least a 3 hour practical session a week. Biology or technical drawing is to be chosen by the student depending on his/her inclination – Biology for those desiring to be in the medical field and technical drawing for those gearing towards engineering.

WASSCE is administered in line with the set format for instruction. There are core, elective and practical papers. The grading system is given below:

SSSCE Grades
(before 2007)
WASSCE Grades
(since 2007)
Definition Interpretation Equivalent
A[1] A1 Congratulations 80% – 100% 1
B[2] B2 Very good 70% – 75% 2
C[3] B3 Good 65% – 69% 3
D[4] C4 Credit 60%- 64% 4
x C5 Credit 55% – 59% 5
x C6 Credit 50% – 54% 6
E D7 Pass 45% – 49% 7
x E8 Pass 40% – 44% 8
F F9 Fail 0% – 39% 9

 

In Liberia, however, instructions are given on subject basis without categorization into either core or elective subjects. It therefore, is very vague which class of papers a student in Liberia will be taking. In the science subjects for instance, since there are no practical classes attached to all three-biology, chemistry, physics-, these subjects can be considered to be in their core stages. If this is established, it might then require that a student in Liberia takes only General Science which is the core science paper with all three aspects embedded into one exam.

Again, mathematics split into geometry, trigonometry and algebra will cover only one paper, core Mathematics since it does not cover all the topics projected for elective math.

The English paper will be core English without oral English since students have never been introduced to oral English in most schools.

Since social studies is not taught in the senior high school in Liberia, an exam cannot be taken in the subject.

The issue as to whether students will be taking elective History, Geography and Economics will surface. Under such condition, all students in Liberia will be considered to be Social Science oriented.

Discrepancies in the WASSCE curriculum and the presently used Liberian Ministry of Education curriculum makes students inadequately prepared. Information about the new texts for Literature in English has not been disseminated properly. Situations have been aggravated by the scarcity of the texts.

In view of all the challenges such as shortage in qualified teachers in the senior high division, inability of senior students to construct essays and write legibly and the rather high cost of WASSCE, it is worth enquiring if Liberia is ready for the WASSCE.

References:
www.larnedu.com/wassce-waec-syllabus/#google_vignette
Chief examiner’s report on SSSCE 2015/16 Academic year
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Senior_School_Certificate_Examination
http://www.liberiawaec.org/

3 COMMENTS

  1. During the Civil War, refugee students in Freetown topped classes in renowned high schools. It suggests that our kids can do better with apt preparation and tools. Thus rather than “if Liberia is ready for the WASSCE”, the question should be reframed to, do politicians care enough to solve the problem of substandard public school education, especially at senior high school level to make adequate funding commitments? For instance, when we attended high school in Freetown during the 1960’s, WAEC (West African Educational Council) exams’ fees were paid by government, and every 12th or 14th (form 5 or form 6 upper) high school student who passed and got the required college admission grades went on full scholarship – boarding, tuition, books, quarterly stipend, three meals a day, and transportation. It is different today we are told, but that is what committing to quality public education should be.

    The point being made here is that preparing teachers and students require huge financial investments successive administrations at home didn’t undertake.

    Perhaps, because of a mistaken belief that educating children ought to be the duty of parents, not government. Or a lukewarm attitude towards public school education copied from some American politicians who would abolish their Federal Department of Education were they to have their way. In developing countries, such as ours, however, educating a future workforce is key to continuing development; and well – funded, well – staffed, and well – run high schools critical in achieving that overarching policy goal. Lest we forget, in addition to school instructions, students preparing for WASSCE need access to other learning resources – Internet, public libraries, or private evening classes organized by teachers, etc. All of which, by the way, cost money; no wonder then in the US, high school students are given vacation jobs. How can we talk about vacation jobs, anyway, when high school and college graduates are searching for jobs too?

    We have been engaging this topic not because of a background in education, but for its import on the stability of the state. Educated young people transition to tax paying workers and an informed public which hold the – powers – that – be accountable, hence, simultaneously, contributing to the economy and acting as gatekeepers for democracy: Assets. Whereas mass illiteracy and ignorance result in mass unemployment, poverty, political discontent, radicalization, terrorism, and migrations that often lead to hell holes like Libya, now in the news for torturing African migrants: Liabilities.

    Lastly, let our politicians start showing that they care for the problem of malfunctioning high schools by demanding patriotism and sacrifice of all concerned in order to across the board reduce bonanza emoluments of Legislators, Supreme Court justices, and the higher echelons of the Executive Branch and state corporations. Wages form recurrent expenditure in the annual budget, which savings could go into addressing our dysfunctional high school educational sector. It isn’t rocket science, or asking anyone to commit suicide. So we wonder why no one in the two Houses of the Legislature joined Senator Cooper when few months ago he proposed compensation stabilization.

  2. Well said, Mr. Moses. What you articulated should be the concern that should captivate the attention of well meaning Liberians, especially those who regard themselves educated. The six hundred thousand dollars question is: how can we accomplish these illustrious goals, some of which you have mentioned supra in the area of education, as an example, when some Liberians are afraid of much needed change as provided for in our constitution? All true democracies around the world put in place mechanisms in their constitutions that create avenues for peaceful change of various governmental administrations. This allows other citizens of a country who are outside the corridors of leadership in the running of that particular country to have a chance to come in with fresh and alternative ideas in how the nation is run. The mechanisms also put in place term limits (eg. presidential) to insure a chance of a much needed change.

    In Liberia, that time for change has come and has been knocking at our doors in order to enter since October 10, 2017. I am not against a legal challenge to the results of any election if that challenge is altruistic and is truly in good faith. In fact, we have been crying for the rule of law in Liberia since July 26, 1847. We have also been yearning for the rule of law since the TRC published their findings of the over fourteen (14+) years of carnage and destruction in Liberia. We also cried for the rule of law during the 2005 and 2011 General Elections, respectively, to no avail. All our learned counselors of law who are now stifling the expeditious resolution of the legal challenge to the October 10, 2017 Presidential Election results were all mute then and have been mute to the culture of corruption in the Liberian Government for the past 12 years. In fact some of the counselors in question were party to that culture of corruption where the constitution of the country was trashed and trampled under foot again, and again. Some were recipients of big contracts to their Law Firms from the administration they are now accusing of incompetence. Can you believe it? One of the major party to the litigation in court of the October 10, 2017 Presidential Election result is indeed the incumbent Vice President for twelve (12) consecutive years in the administration he is now accusing of incompetence and fraud! Pray tell the ordinary Liberian if this sudden cry of “rule of law” from these quarters have any iota of altruism?

    Some of our learned educated compatriots have even gone on line to express their disdain for the United States of America, the European Union, ECOWAS, AU, the Carter Center, and the UN for daring to state the obvious. Some are quick to compare our situation with what happened in Kenya without knowing the circumstances and the historical social intricacies of the Kenyan experience. What these keen international observers have all said is that there were some irregularities here and there in the General Elections of October 10, 2017 in Liberia, just like any other elections held in other true democratic countries around the globe, but that the irregularities are not widespread as to stop the presidential run-off. The irony of the matter is that a lot of these learned Liberians live in the US or in Europe, far from the mother land.

    How then can we build the type of Liberia that we all envision if we are afraid to open our windows in order to allow the fresh air of change to enter? Why can we give peaceful change a chance?

  3. Since, we are anticipating good education sector in our country (Liberia). We need three resources (human ,materials&money)to improve the system. We(teachers) are trying our best but we lack resources. I want to say bravos to our seniors who are writing test this year (2018).I know they will do their best.

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