Administrating WASSCE In Liberia, Despite The Challenges In Our Education System
The West African Examinations Council-WAEC, a regional examining body, with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana, was established in 1952 after the Governments of Ghana (then Gold Coast), Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia enacted the West African Examinations Council Ordinances in 1951. Liberia became the fifth member of the Council in 1974.(www.waec.org)
After years of war, Liberia reactivated its membership and began taking the exams again. Sometime in 2016, the Ministry of Education and the national WAEC office, piloted administering the West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), an upgrade from the previous WAEC exam, now taken by sister countries.
The West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Exam is a sub-regional exam within the anglophone country of west Africa. The exam tests four core subjects namely: —English, mathematics, integrated science, social studies, and three or four elective subjects. Students sitting the exams must take a minimum of eight subjects and a maximum of nine subjects from the three-subject category.
The previous WAEC exam had major structural challenges that rendered the need for a more robust examination. The introduction of the WASSCE as opposed to the Liberian WAEC is meant to make our students, who successfully pass, enroll in universities not only in Liberia but internationally.
According to the WAEC Monrovia Office, for the 2020 result, forty-one thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight (41,538) Senior high school students sat the exams, but only two thousand two hundred and seventy-five (2,275) students passed. The result released in November 2020, show that only twenty-five candidates that passed all five subjects; ten of them came from the Seku Ibraham Sheriff High School, five from the Firestone Liberia high school System, three from the St. Teresa’s Convent high school, and two from the St. Peter Clever Catholic High School amongst others.
Such result emphasizes the dire situation of the nation’s education system. Certainly, there are challenges faced in the Liberian education system which need to be identified and corrected. If our students and teachers wish to have a success rate in the examinations and match-up to their regional counterparts. however, these three areas are critical.
Qualified Teachers: In as much as the government and the country would like to see a successful pass of our students, we firstly need to consider those that are imparting the knowledge to them. A lot of the teachers in schools are more or less graduate from universities with degrees. However, a university degree does not qualify you to teach. The teaching field is a discipline which requires specialized training; sadly, many teaching today, lack these pedagogy skills. The Ministry of Education needs to do a major house-cleaning of ALL teachers in Liberia, be it private, faith based or public. A more workable way could be to give an exam (pre-entry and regular refresher) for teachers to evaluate their ability. This is good for moral and quality. This can then be used as a basis to offer better incentives and pay for teachers.
Monitoring & Evaluation: After ensuring that those in the classroom understand and are capable to transfer knowledge, the next challenge is making sure they teach the right contents to the students. In order to accomplish that, the Ministry of Education along with WAEC will have to draw up a check-sheet against the approved curriculum and conduct a detailed monitoring and evaluation of the prescribed lessons and even go further to assign monitors at every school during period test to make sure the standards of the WAEC and MOE which are similar across the sub-region is adhered throughout the school year. By so doing, the chances of more passes by our students would be higher in the exams. This exercise should be maintained for all junior and senior high students.
Provision of Science Laboratory: a major part of WASSE is its science component, and critical to this is having access to an equipped science lab. The science laboratory has a direct effect on both students’ attitudes and their academic performance. The quality of teaching and learning experience depends on the extent of the adequacy of laboratory facilities in secondary schools and the teacher’s effectiveness in the use of laboratory facilities. Laboratory facilities provide meaningful learning experiences to the learners. The absence of Laboratory in schools defeat the entire process, thereby making the students incapable to acquire needed knowledge. How can a student comprehend difficult concepts without a laboratory? It is quite easy to impact knowledge to students when they are part of the process practically. The absence of laboratories in most schools greatly contribute to the overall failure and poor performance at the WASSCE.
There are many other challenges, however, tackling these three immediately might make a huge difference. Despite the challenges, there seems to still be hope for our students. This requires serious collaborations between the Ministry of Education and the West Africa Examination Council. They can work closely to ensure that our teachers are best placed in their field of studies; that the tools for teachers are provided, and ensure that schools have functional facilities. or even the government erect public laboratory in counties capitals as well as resource centers so to help students prepare better.
The 2020 result shows that students perform dismally, however if the Ministry of Education and WAEC collaborate, and work harder with private and public schools’ administrations, they can have a more encouraging result in the future.
D. Franklyn Johnson II, MPA Candidate
University of Liberia Graduate School
Email: [email protected]