President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed concern over the reported mass failure of students that sat the entrance and placement exams recently administered by the University of Liberia (UL). The authorities of the State-run University recently announced that all 25,000 candidates had failed the test for admission, which has sparked widespread public criticism. A university official said the students lacked interest and did not have a basic grip of English.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf, making an impromptu visit to the University’s Main Campus on August 27, told UL authorities that the students’ failure did not come from the university but rather from the schools that prepared them. She termed the results as alarming, further confirming her recent statement that the educational system is a mess.
“Why are the students of the system not performing to the standards expected? Why are they not comparative with those in other countries? Why are our WAEC exams not at the same level as the rest of the African countries, and we have to have a lower standard to adjust?” the President asked.
She said that unless everyone sees it as a national emergency, the system will continue to suffer in a disappointing manner. It is now time, the President said, for all Liberians, irrespective of political background, to tackle the issue of quality education. “The problem is not just taking the test and failing. The problem is where they are coming from –so we have to go into those high schools, into those elementary schools and see what is lacking and what we can do about it,” she said. The Liberian leader equally frowned at the students themselves, saying they, too, will have to muster the courage and willingness to learn.
President Sirleaf told the University authorities that if resources are directed at the educational sector, it will still take commitment from the students to show willingness to adequately prepare themselves. Unless this can be done, the effort may still lead to an embarrassment. “This mass failure points to the issues we all came up with during the last Round Table Conference, and what we can do now is to sit together to look at it as a problem and see what we can do to address it,” she stated.
The Liberian leader called upon the University authorities to work with the Ministry of Education and others to arrange another Round Table Conference so that not only government but all stakeholders will be able to explore lasting solutions to the problem she described as embarrassing.
UL President, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, reiterated the institution’s uncompromising principles in its quest to impart quality education to the people of Liberia. He said the results from the exams, though alarming, were real, and he agreed with the Liberian leader that there is a need for repeated engagements in addressing the low-rated education in the country.
“Madam President, thanks for your interest, and we’d like to inform you that, yes, indeed, no student out of the 25,000 plus students scored the required 70 mark.”He added, “After much deliberation, the Faculty Senate set 50 percent in Math and 70 percent in English for passing; again, nobody whatsoever made the mark.” According to Dr. Dennis, the poor results prompted authorities to conduct a scale that produced a little over 1,600 students in both undergraduate and post-graduates programs.
UL Vice President for International Affairs, Cllr. Luvenia Ash-Thompson, pledged to work with the Liberian President in fixing the problem and hoped all educators will see it, not as a political thing, but as a national imperative one. She said the youths, who are over 60 percent of the population are yet to show their willingness to prepare themselves for the future which she said must claim the attention of parents as well.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Education Minister for Research and Development, Dr. Khalifa Bility; the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, Cllr. David A.B. Jallah; the Vice President for Fiscal Affairs, Professor Wilson Tarpeh; and the head of the Ibrahim B. Babangida School of International Studies, Dr. Jonathan Taylor; among others.