Findings from a follow-on study by Open Liberia say 97% of questions in the 2018 West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) were in covered from the Ministry of Education’s national curriculum for senior secondary schools in Liberia, contrary to what the civil society group reported in July.
On 5 July, Open Liberia released preliminary findings from its field study that gauged the confidence level and preparedness of students that were sitting this year’s WASSCE. Among other things, the group said 69.9% of studentsthat participated in its survey said they felt less confident of passing, citing the lack of relationship between topics they were taught in classrooms and those the exams covered; and the lack of functioning laboratories and libraries in their schools. Based on the students claim, the civil society initially concluded that the Liberian government ‘miserably failed to create, maintain, enhance or enforce an enabling environment for students to be prepared for these exams; and therefore have the moral ground to punish students for failing.
But group nowsays its follow-on study has partially disproved students’ reasons for failing.
At a news conference in Monrovia on Friday, August 31, 2018, OLiberia’s administrator,Kabah M. Trawally, said the follow-on finds no tangible correlation between the reasons students gave for their failure and the contents of the examinations, especially for Mathematics and the science subjects.
“The mass failure of students in the 2018 WASSCE must be the result of anything but the mismatch between the test questions and the curriculum, as 97% of similarity between the curriculum and the exams’ questions is more than sufficient reason to disprove initial claim of disparity,” Mr. Trawally said.
Using four long serving classroom teachers as subject-matter experts, the study assessed and analyzed the 2018 WASSCE questionnaire versus the national curriculum for Mathematic, Biology, Chemistry and Physics to either authenticate or disprove students’ claim of disparity in contents.
Mr. Trawally said though it’s now safe to say that there was no evidence of disparity found, the need for further explore why students in Liberia massively failed the exams can never be overemphasized.
Mr. Trawally:“Does it mean that our students were taught exactly what is prescribed in the curriculum? Does it mean our students have the right people teaching them in the classrooms? Does it mean our students are studying their lessons? Does the education authority monitor and approve what our children are being taught? Do our parents and guardians even have an idea of what their children are doing in the classrooms? Do school owners bother to know what goes on in the classrooms?”
To find responses to these and other questions, the civil society group, who wants to distinguish itself as a professional public policy think-tank,wants to bring together five thousand (5,000) education stakeholders to brainstorm.
“OLiberia is of a strong belief that the assessment only answered partly some of the concerns raised by students in the survey; and there still is no clear-cut finding that supports why they flunked so massively in the examination.
“OLiberia is of the conviction that somewhere between the schools, teachers, students, sector regulators and examiners, lies the ultimate clue to the puzzle; and therefore intends holding national focused engagements with stakeholders in the education sector of Liberia in an effort to foment a policy dialogue that not only generates public conversations and useful data, but also leads to development of actionable policy suggestions that will improve the educational system, especially in preparing students for public terminal examinations,” he said.
The group plans to holdone hundred (100) focus group discussions on high school campuses in Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba counties, each targeting at least fifty (50) participants.
Such engagements, despite their significance, are expensive, Mr. Trawally said. So, the group says it has reached out to sector players for partnership, collaboration, and even funding.
“We’ve written the minister of education, prof. AnsuSonnie for technical collaboration. Even though we’re yet to get an official response, OLiberia had had introductory meeting with topflight deputies at the MOE as well as the communications department.
“Similarly, we have submitted a proposal for support to the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) since the proposed engagements finely align with their education development objective for Liberia.
“We have also submitted same proposal to the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) which has USAID funding and is implemented by DAI. LAVI currently has its education thematic program running. OLiberia believes our proposed engagements also directly align with LAVI’s education program,” the OLiberia administrator disclosed.
He concluded by saying that while OLiberia looks forward to hearing from USAID, LAVI and MOE, in the worst case scenario they do not respond or accept its proposal, the organization would still move ahead with the engagements, but with significant adjustments to fit its budget.
“We’re doing this because we are convicted that its outcomes will support enhancement of classroom learning and overall education in Liberia,” he said.