Graduate degrees (Master’s and Doctorate degrees) are good, and having such achievement brings several benefits to the holders, their families and even their countries of origin or residence. Equally, having or awarding graduate degrees that basically have no real benefits or value is an absolute waste of time, resources, and efforts.
The University of Liberia’s (UL) desire to establish more graduate degree programs as reported in some local Liberian newspapers is unproductive, sad and irrational, and it will be a total waste of time, resources, and efforts.
First and foremost, Liberia’s overall educational system continues to be a “mess” as several prominent people (including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) and even multiple international organizations have noted. Besides, Liberia, as is today, doesn’t have the requisite and experienced academic professionals in the country to teach at the real graduate level since teaching graduate courses don’t mean having a mere Master’s degree or a haphazard Ph.D. will suffice. Teaching at graduate level goes beyond a mere possession of a graduate and postgraduate education. It includes a track record of experience, research, and being published or recognized in one’s field.
Moreover, we as a nation and people cannot fool ourselves by giving all kinds of degrees to people who eventually will not fit in the local as well as global labor market because of poor preparation, incompetence and more.
The U.L. already has two meaningless graduate degree programs – the IBB School for International Affairs and the Regional Planning School, if I am not mistaken. Some of the graduates from these two graduate schools are academically and professionally no different from completers from the post-secondary vocational teacher training institute in Zorzor or the William VS Tubman High School today. They don’t fit in the global labor market.
Additionally, occupations and industries are changing. Our world is fast-paced in moving into the knowledge-based economy. It means anyone who is qualified and competent can sit in Fish Town, River Gee County, Liberia and work anywhere in the world, using technology. Liberia needs to catch up if we want to succeed.
Besides, there are certain professions or industries anyone can just work in without knowing or understanding some form of technology or knowing how to conduct conventionally applicable research and analysis or acquiring some generally appreciable certifications. From accounting, engineering, and even marketing to healthcare and more, technology has become a factor. Yet, the U.L. is lacking in these and many other areas. So why the U.L. leadership is hard bent on offering more graduate degrees that will fall short of what the changing global and local labor markets would desire?
Liberia doesn’t need many worthless graduate degree programs and graduate degree holders. We need to focus on strengthening our primary, secondary, vocational and technical education so that when kids graduate from these academic arenas they are University ready and job prepared nationally and internationally. More importantly, so that when our young people graduate with an undergraduate degree from the U.L. they can be competitive not just in Liberia but around the world. Imagine and sadly so, more than ninety-five percent of high school completers in Liberia cannot write a fitting essay or do the least algebra nonetheless pass the very U.L. placement exams for admission. There are also countless graduates from the very U.L. who don’t know how to even pen their own resume or write a fitting analytical document.
Some of our lawmakers have multiple graduate degrees from right there in Liberia, from the very U.L., Cuttington etc. So too are many others in some agencies. See the policy decisions some of these people make. Listen to the irrational arguments many tend to propose. Check their work ethics and professional dispositions. There is nothing meaningful to be admired or desire.
Lastly, when the U.L. chooses to establish all these graduate degree programs and puts out hundreds of graduates, where are they going to work? Liberia, a country with an astronomically high unemployment and where innovation is lacking?
My advice to the UL’s leadership is, instead of wasting pressure efforts, time and resources, try hard to make the University of Liberia stand out in Africa either as a tough notch research institution with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math in addition to several social sciences and the Arts at undergraduate levels. Let developed nations desire our undergraduate professionals as they do with places like India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and even Rwanda.
Don’t deceive yourselves, the Liberian people and your potential “graduate” students that a worthless U.L. graduate degree is going to sell somewhere in the world, considering how “messy” our educational system is. Again, all these things require thinking through and having people in government with sound knowledge of and experience in public policy. We can make Liberia and its institutions credible, better, productive and valuable to Liberians and our foreign partners if we have selflessly put the right policies in place and call on the best minds amongst us to assist. Time is of the essence, but we still have some room to catch up as a nation.
About the Author:
Jones Nhinson Williams is a Catholic educated philosopher and a U.S-trained public policy, Liberian professional from River Gee County, Liberia. Among his vast experience includes serving as head of the U.S.–based Jewish Family Services international refugee resettlement and integration program; Maryland State Government Labor Market Information Manager during the recent global recession (2008 – 2010) and as State Administrator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics programs in addition to his global consultancy services.