Education Ministry Must Answer the Unanswered Questions About Extending School Time

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WHEN EFFORTS ARE EXERTED TO STRENGTHEN the porous system we’re currently enduring, it is only reasonable that Liberians show gratitude while hoping for the best outcomes. However, as journalists, it is our unwavering duty to ask the hard questions intended to shape a debate to proffer alternative solutions, or further inform authority to make amends as well.

RECENT PRONOUNCEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION headed by astute and experienced educator, Professor Ansu D. Sonii, Sr. seeks to solve some of the longstanding woes of our education sector which has been branded ‘messy’. The move appears to be a popular one but it is also drawing some critical reviews from stakeholders of the sector amid growing concerns about the country’s poor education system.

PROF. SONNI IS PUSHING FOR STUDENTS to spend more time in school, which means teachers, will also have ample time to exhaust the curriculum and consequently improve learning outcomes. The new policy requires that students begin school at 8 am  in the morning and end at 3 pm.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A BRILLIANT new policy to keep students in school for longer hours, but we have also spotted what appear to be some flaws in the MOE decision. While we join others to hail the move, we also want to point out here that there are several unanswered questions about the new policy and its possible implementation which is expected to start the beginning of next academic year.

WE ARE CONCERN ABOUT the continuation of the afternoon and night schools which own instructional time will have to be cut short based on the new mandate. Policies are meant to be prudent and expedient, which means they must influence the change they seek, anything short of that points to failure. So, as much as we too seek the progress of relevant policies to fix the broken system, we would hail only the right approaches and procedurals.

WE ARE ALL AWARE THAT THOUSANDS OF LIBERIAN students go to afternoon school across the country. The reasons are due to the divergence of the socioeconomic status of parents and or students and the capacity of school facilities to accommodate more students as well as several other sociocultural factors.

WITH THE NEW MANDATE LURKING, it is clearly predictable that it would affect afternoon and evening students, and this means while the government is looking to give more learning time to morning students, afternoon and night students would be left with limited time for instruction.

IT IS ALSO INTERESTING TO NOTE that there are thousands of self-supported students that choose to attend afternoon or night classes after spending most of the morning or afternoon hours doing odd jobs or petty-trading to source livelihood or means of funding their studies.

THE CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION evokes such condition for many of our citizens and so it is incumbent upon the government to ensure everyone obtains education regardless of their socio status or domicile.

WHILE WE AWAIT THE OUTCOME of the negotiations that the MOE will be holding with school authorities in the country, we want to warn that it would be a massive misstep if these genuine concerns are ignored.

ANOTHER ISSUE THAT WE PRESUME might likely becloud the new policy is the provision of adequate incentives for teachers that are already complaining about low salary and lack of amenities. Giving these teachers more man-hours or extra instructional responsibilities should also come along with an upgrade in their salaries. We think it will be unfair to increase the workload on these teachers while the ministry turns a blind eye to their existing plight.

THE BEST OUTCOME THIS NATION can ever get out of its students would come through the dedication, professionalism and hard work of every teacher. Additionally, the provision of basic instructional apparatus and facilities would strengthen learning process.  But the less motivated these teachers are, the messier our education system becomes.

A SEEMINGLY APPLAUDABLE policy like the one announced by Prof Sonii must be implemented to the core – void of gaffes that have the tendency of failure. We call on the MOE to meticulously review its action plan before rolling out this policy. Checking and correcting pitfalls and gaps like the ones aforementioned, would significant avert a potential fiasco.

   

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