Education, not only involving instruction implying the communication of knowledge but breeding as well which connotes the manners or outward conduct, continues to remain one of the greatest challenges of government, against the backdrop of the rapidity required in its full permeation of the Liberian society.
Although acquired in the formal and informal settings, the former has since come to be prioritized over the decades as effective medium through which the nation can healthily interact, if not co-exist with other civilized nations of the world.
Thus, its continuing pursuit by millions through the formation of the mind, the regulation of the heart and the establishment of principles cannot in any way be considered an end in itself out of whatever system that has come to be employed or maintained by the Ministry of Education (MOE) over the years, notably with the 6-3-3-4 becoming famous, although exceeding the 16 years when further pursuing graduate studies.
Appreciable as the performances of students trailing education have been, recording the Tubmanic and Tolbertite periods to have been characterized by excellence amongst citizens at home and abroad, succeeding years that watched massive brain-drain at educational institutions as a result of flight of professionals due to the militarized environment that obtained negatively affected the sector, though with few committed to the process withstanding the challenge.
It must be noted that with quality education appearing the canon at all institutions, be it at the elementary, junior and senior high levels, as well as college or university, efforts by qualified Liberian instructors and professors had been buttressed by foreign partners who equally encouraged excellence, with notably those from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, the Republic of India, Cameroun, South Africa, the United States, Great Britain, Sierra Leone, etc. been practically visible.
High level of discipline and studiousness amongst both instructional staff and students became major preoccupation, discouraging distractions out of social activities.
For example, whilst the National Exams had for many years been administered to the 6th, 9th and 12th grade, entry of students at the University of Liberia (UL) or the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County largely depended on the abilities of parents, guardians or sponsors to settle fees and not based upon passes in entrances for admission, since those successfully graduating from high school at the time were adequately prepared.
By then and no matter how brilliant a student became at school subjects, a pass in the national exams was never a license for graduation, especially with failure in one subject in the school, no matter the overall average. This indeed made students very serious at their lessons than relying on the “penalty grade” of ’70 or “C” minus for promotion just for its sake.
Apparently a trend that the Head of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the late Professor Thomas Gaie had sought to promote, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MOE), there is still glimmer of hope that Liberia’s educational sectors shall soon rise above mediocrity bespoken about in recent decades out of poor standard of students.
Supportive of this drive, it is at all no surprise that the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whilst addressing some 2,000 UL graduates recently at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville City, implored them to help bring the nation on par with others within the sub-region as regards the WAEC exams, as against the yearly formulation of new ones apparently out of sub-standard syllabuses.
Requiring standard instructional materials, equipped libraries and laboratories, even the sciences or technical areas that President Sirleaf is admonishing students to take full advantage of would certainly become over-crowded, with expectation that they would man the industrial sector of the nation that serves as engine of growth and development.
The National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) currently headed by Dr. Michael Slawon as Director-General, for instance, may just be pursuing the identical path through the gradual establishment of vocational and technical institutions in several parts of the country with the hope of reactivating the industrial sector, once they are properly staffed.
Indeed an achievement to have had thousands of Liberians graduating from various universities and colleges during the ongoing democratic dispensation, though with patience required in been rightly placed at jobs in contributing to the national quota, President Sirleaf’s call to have students take full advantage of the scientific or technical areas is worth heeding, since the white-collar area is already occupied, eventhough with many unqualified but cannot outrightly be booted out by the current administration but out of proven poor performances.
In the study of freedom and national security, it is taught that academic freedom, though generally considered in relation to the right of the educator to teach the field of his specialty in the way that seems best to recommend itself to him/her, actually transcends the area of the teacher or school administrator.
Providing a sense that every person whose profession or career puts him/her in the position of informing of educating the public, whether in the formal or informal sense, requires academic freedom if he/she is to do more than a hack’s job, something that the democratic leadership of President Sirleaf may have carefully studied over the years and may now be vigorously fostering in the rebuilding of the Liberian society.