LIBERIA – A new study released in Monrovia says 69.6% of students who participated in a recent study conducted by Open Liberia felt less confident of passing this year’s West African Senior Secondary School Examinations, even before they completed sitting the exams. The study, conducted on the last two days of the exams, interviewed 165 students from 31 schools in Monrovia. This year, about 32,000 students sat the exams.
Although there have been previous predictions that there would be mass failure in WASSCE, this is the first time the predictions are being backed by data.
“69.6% of respondents felt ‘less confident of passing’ the exams, despite all the years of preparing for it; and about 80% of respondents saying they were definitely prepared for the exams. “33.5% of respondents said they found questions in the exams Somehow Difficult while 25.3% said they were Very Difficult. 9.5% of them described the exams as Very Strange; and 7.6% as Somehow Strange,” Princess M. Zoduah, Open Liberia’s program officer said at a press conference held in Monrovia on Friday.
The civil society organization believes the anticipated mass failure is due to the huge disparity in topics that were covered in the WASSCE exams versus those students said they were taught in school. Subjects such as Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology came out as the most difficult subjects with different topics.
“When asked whether the exam questions were different or similar to topics taught in class, 66% of respondents said topics covered in the exams were different from those they were taught in school. This percentage is a combination of 30% respondents that said the topics were Maybe Similar and 16% that said they were Somehow Similar to classroom lessons,” she said.
Although Open Liberia says it has deplored resources for a comprehensive qualitative assessment of WASSCE questionnaires versus the current academic curriculum for secondary schools in Liberia, it believes the data it generated during the April study explains why students felt the exams ad their school lessons were worlds apart.
“77.3% of students in the study emphatically stated that they did not have functional laboratories in their schools. Only 22.7% said they had laboratories in their schools. But even for students who said they had laboratories in their schools, they complained about them being obsolete. Although in the absence of laboratories, science subjects such as Chemistry, Physics and Biology were still being taught, but only in theories, not practical,” Princess added.
Against this back, the civil society group is urging the Liberian government to exercise restraints in making policy decisions, especially those affecting students, based on the results of this year’s WASSCE.
The group says instead of government focusing on punishing students for failing the exams, it must first address issues that contributed to their failure, such as lack of laboratories and libraries in secondary schools, as well as low skills of teachers in mathematics and science subjects.
Princess says conditions under which students were learning were appalling for government to have even thought of administering a highly science-based exam.
“The Liberian government miserably failed to create, maintain, enhance or enforce an enabling environment for students to be prepared for these highly science-based exams. And because you didn’t ensure that enabling environment, you do not have moral ground to punish students for failing an exam. Government shall not punish students for failing an exam which conditions were not right even to pass. Isn’t it fairly natural that when the conditions are not right to pass an exam, there is bound to be failure?” Miss Zoduah said.