Liberia’s Education Minister addresses UNESCO 38th General Assembly

Liberia’s Education Minister George W.Werner says though the Liberian Education Sector is experiencing immense stress, and the challenges are obstructing the path forward for the country as a whole, huge

progress has been made in the education sector since the end of Liberian conflict 12 years ago, adding that this was done with support from Liberia’s partners, local and international NGOs and friends of Liberia.

Minister Werner speaking at the 38th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France said Liberians have been rebuilding the education system, building schools and improving the quality of teaching, all due to a Strong central leadership from the Government of Liberia which has resulted in improvements over the last decade.

Minister Werner told the conference that despite the challenges, the Government of Liberia is committed to improving children’s literacy and numeracy as this provides necessary skills for students to advance to active members of society. He said the Ministry of Education will institute a national assessment to enable it to determine where changes will be most effective in targeting a national literacy target.

‘’Measures of teachers’ training and the time they spend teaching have been found to be the strongest correlates of student achievement. We will invest in increasing math and science teachers, providing qualification trainings for competent and existing teachers, and we plan to go beyond practices of basic training through the provision of constant support and supervision with in-service training. This will be managed by 3 regional Teacher Trainings Institutes (TTIs) to ensure quality training at an estimated cost of $22.5 million’ he noted.

According to a disaptch from the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France, Minister Werner said well-designed schools with adequate facilities are essential to improving the quality of education. The Government of Liberia plans to both focus on renovating existing structures and building 83 needed structures in the most populated school districts at an estimated cost of $30.7 million. He said desks, textbooks and learning aids are essential for supporting student’s learning.

With the funding from the Global Partnership for Education, he said the government is distributing a million textbooks, written by Liberians, for grades 5-9 and high school. Additional textbook costs for grades 1-4 is estimated at $6.5 million. In addition, an estimated $8.75 million is necessary for the provision of chairs, and $1.9 million for the provision of teachers’ desks, learning aids, such as posters and educational games, are also required for ECE classes and secondary schools.

Minister Werner said the Ministry Of Education will continue a process of decentralization which will transfer management and monitoring power to counties. Additionally, the Ministry of Education will establish 3 centers of excellence as planned under the 2011 Education Reform Act including a center for accreditation. These two initiatives are estimated to cost $3.5 million.

He said the strategy to transform the educational system in Liberia means that change is necessary and must be immediate. He noted the Ministry’s goals are that by 2017, the foundations are in place for a Liberian education system that improves all children and young people’s learning. By 2020, there will be a significant improvement in children’s learning outcomes and national literacy rates.

Minister Werner said there are over 313 thousand children between the age of six and eleven who are believed to be out of school, that more than 80% of young people aged 15-24 are illiterate, one-third(1/3) of the young people are not in employment, education or training, there are not enough safe quality schools, core literacy and numeracy skills are not taught, over a third of the teachers are not qualified, girls are less likely to enroll, stay in school and graduate and secondary level education is under resourced.

He commended the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova and her team for the Teachers Education (ITC) capacity-building initiatives through the Chinese Government and for the process leading to the approval of Providence Island to obtain Heritage Status based upon on recommendation of about sixty-eight (68) historical sites submitted to the World Heritage Center.

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