Fixing Our Educational System

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The Ministry of Education last  week launched an Operational Plan – 2014-2016 aimed at ensuring quality education for all and redirecting the nation’s future.

Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh said the Plan “proposes a range of strategies and activities for improving quality educational services to ensure that all young people within Liberia’s borders are fully prepared for a favorable livelihood in a changing regional and global environment.”

In setting its strategic direction for the next three years, she noted, the Ministry “has been very mindful to ensure the manageability and sustainability of the activities it undertakes. The plan calls for pooling of scarce resources and working more strategically with Donors and Private Sector.  It covers all areas of education except higher education.  These include: Early Childhood Development/Education (ECDE), Basic and Secondary Education, Teacher Training, Student Personnel Services, Vocational and

Technical Education and Training and Education Governance and Management.
Our Education Correspondent, C.Y. Kwanue, said the cost of implementation within the three-year period is US$180 million, while the cost of implementation for the first year is US$59 million.

Given the seriousness of this Plan, developed against the background of the drastic  decline over the past several years in the nation’s educational system, we pray that government will find the money to make this all important Plan workable, so that it may be able fully to achieve its aims and objectives.

In launching the plan, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called on her Ministers and Deputy Ministers, beginning with those at the Ministry of Education, to take time off from their busy schedules and go into the nation’s classrooms and teach.  This is an innovative idea that we welcome because it would give our top officials an opportunity to return to their counties and villages and help the nation’s teachers in the classroom.  We don’t know how many Ministers take their annual leave, but this would be a good time for them to do so,  and spend useful time teaching at home teaching.

The President also suggested that seniors at the University of Liberia’s Teachers College be required, before graduation, to spend time teaching in the rural parts.

This, too, calls for the outlay of some capital to provide not only accommodations for the student teachers but classroom materials, including science lab equipment for the science teachers, so that they may be effective in their instruction.

This leads us to ask whether  the Operational Plan 2014-2016 has specific plans for libraries and laboratory equipment in all our schools.  These are crucial if our students must be encouraged  to read and be able to apply in laboratories the science they learn in textbooks.

We understand that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has undertaken to equip Liberian schools with science lab equipment.  We commend NOCAL president Dr. Randolph McClain, himself a chemical engineer, his Board of Directors and staff for this worthy initiative, and trust that the Education Ministry will ensure that NOCAL’s intervention will bear fruit. In its teacher training endeavor, the Ministry must pay special attention to Science teachers.

We believe the listing of nursery and kindgarten education and the emphasis on vocational and technical education are crucial.  We trust that the Ministry will give our children throughout the country a head start by sharpening their intellectual and social skills as they begin in their educational journey.

The Ministry should also  ensure the  effective operation of the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC) and the improvement and expansion,  too, of the nation’s premiere vocational and technical training school, the Booker Washington Institute (BWI).
Two last concerns: what does the Plan say about high-tech instruction?

And does the new curriculum include CIVICS? We strongly believe that these two are crucial.  Our students must be introduced to technology early.  The parents have already begun by giving their children cell phones.  The Ministry must follow, ensuring   an early start in technology.

Liberian students must also start studying CIVICS again.  They must study the Constitution and the learn about the structure and function of their government.  We believe this will help them become more patriotic.

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