Simply Thinking Thoughts
During my regular thinking thoughts and professional meditation, I got suddenly consumed by a hunch that significant reasons for the poor quality of education in Liberia are firstly because teachers are not trained in utilizing curriculum and text book contents to teach; secondly, teacher training colleges and institutions in Liberia do not have a common curriculum that has coherent contents; thirdly, if such a common curriculum exists, it is not aligned with the contents of the national grade school curriculum which is the basis for assessing academic performance of Liberian students by the WAEC and other tertiary institutions. It is due to this lack of alignment and coherence between content and expectations which has caused the cacophony or confusion in teacher education.
From a professional standpoint, this situation explains why many teachers’ college graduates who are expected to be pedagogical role models do not know how to use the existing national curriculum for instructional planning and curricular leadership. Delivery of sub-standard instructions by so-called qualified teachers and incoherent teacher college curricular contents, irrelevant to knowledge that students should master to pass the WAEC and WASSE, are factors which also define our lackluster education.
In spite of these factors, some teachers are simply inept, and grossly non-compliant with acceptable professional standards and the philosophy of education of this country.
Consumption of poor quality Instruction
There is a groundswell of opinions that the quality of instruction Liberian children consume is poor. There is much veracity in these opinions as statistics and experience continue to show that Liberian teachers, whether purportedly “qualified” or otherwise, generally do not know pedagogy or how to teach for learning to occur. Apparently, teachers are not teaching from the national curriculum because they lack content knowledge. During their training they probably were not sufficiently drilled in deciphering the differences between teaching from a textbook source versus a curriculum source, and how to teach the simple math, science language arts and social studies which are major student performance yardsticks.
Other assertions are that Teacher College curricula are so loaded with foundational and psychology courses that they lose time and space for rigorous practical pedagogical content knowledge.
Consequently, would be teachers graduate with flying colors but with inadequate skillsets for solid relevant pedagogy resulting to deficiency in teacher education, delivery of content that is either irrelevant or grade inappropriate, and delivered based on the teachers’ own pedagogical abilities which are in most instances limited and needing serious refinement.
Incoherence and confusion in the Curricula of Teacher Colleges
There appears to be an “everybody for himself, God for all” syndrome among college curricula wherein each college determines what content to use to “qualify” its graduates. For this reason, every teacher college and training institute are likely teaching contents that are not common to other colleges.
If three teachers’ college curricula were scrutinized juxtaposed, a striking incoherence, confusion and cacophony would easily be discovered.
National Teachers College Curriculum Mapping Initiative
One of the methods the President of Liberia continues to apply to improve Liberian education has been frequent changing of guards. In spite of this, some pundits propound that no matter how many times Education Ministry staff are moved, if the genuine education technicians do not rise up and perform a professional review of the way teacher training curricula are designed and utilized, the quality of Liberian education will continue to decline.
This national review will be a “Professional Curriculum Mapping Process” which would clearly evaluate alignment of grade school contents with teacher college curricular contents; it would therefore serve as a platform for professionals to develop a common curriculum which all colleges can use to train teachers. This means content taught at the W. V. S. Tubman Teachers College will be the same as those taught at the Tubman University in Harper and the RTTIs.
While it is ecumenical to include foundational and psychology courses in teacher training curricula, teacher training should be pivotal around the national grade school curriculum. Teacher college programs should be focused on how effectively teacher trainees would utilize the national grade school curriculum because when they graduate, they will not teach foundations but simple grade level subjects.
To these ends, the National Commission on Higher Education through the Ministry of Education is hereby challenged to launch and implement a mandatory national curriculum revision exercise to measure the effectiveness of teacher education, and its coherence and alignment with the national grade school curriculum.
This done, the cacophony in Liberian education would be stabilized and the discord, disharmony and unmusicality in teacher education would be removed, and consonance and tranquility would prevail.
About the author
The Rivercess man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University.