Education Minister Gives Updates On Programs

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has given an update relative to progress made in its efforts to improve the quality of learning in Liberian schools.

Accordingly the update is in connection to creating conducive learning environment for all students and teachers and adjust the school calendar to revert to the normal cycle giving students more days in school.

According to Education Minister, Mr. George Werner, the decision to adjust the school calendar was made in consultation with education stakeholders and partners.

Minister Werner said the decision will enable basic and secondary schools to run for 210 school days, while Early Childhood Development (ECD) schools will run for 220 days.

Speaking at the regular Thursday News Conference of the Ministry of Information yesterday, the Education Minister disclosed that his Ministry had distributed one million textbooks to public schools for Grades 5-9 in the four core subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, & English).

The Minister also informed the Liberian public that 1.3 million Supplementary Readers were distributed to public schools for Grades 1-4.

He noted that along with the textbooks, 20,000 teacher guides were also distributed along with instructional materials including (Atlases, Maps, magnets and Globes).

Minister Werner whose reform initiative did receive mixed reactions from the public from the beginning said to ensure the security of the books, the Ministry of Education is working with the Ministry of Justice (M0J).

“We have found out that a number of schools’ enrolment has increased and in others enrolment has decreased. Where the number of students was under-calculated, books and materials will be redistributed,” Minister Werner said.

He noted that the Ministry of Education is committed to giving each student, from Monrovia to the rural communities in the various counties, the same access to textbooks and other learning materials.

On the construction of schools around the country the Education Boss said his Ministry conducted a survey of school buildings that needed renovation and over 500 hundred schools across the country were identified.

He disclosed that seventy of the 500 schools were completed by August 2015, saying, “Another seventy-three of the schools’ roof have been repaired or replaced.

He said renovation and construction work will continue until all 500 schools are completed.

“By June 2016, the MoE would have constructed 41 new schools across Liberia under the Government of Liberia (GOL)/GIobal Partnership for Education (GPE) Project. Twenty-seven (27) of the forty-one (41) have already been completed,” Minister Werner stated.

He further disclosed that 8,390 teachers, School Administrators, PTAs have been trained in Pedagogical and Psychosocial Counselling Skills. See full text of the Minister’s update statement inside.

MoE Updates The Liberian Public: Improving Schooling And Remaining Accountable

The Ministry of Education (MoE), in its efforts to improve the quality of learning in schools and create a conducive learning environment for all students and teachers, adjusted the school calendar to revert to the normal cycle giving students more days in school.

This decision was made in consultation with education stakeholders and partners. The decision will enable Basic and Secondary schools to run for 210 school days, while Early Childhood Development (ECD) schools will run for 220 days.

  1. Millions of New Textbooks in Liberian Public Schools.

The Ministry of Education distributed 1 million textbooks to public schools for Grades 5-9 in the four core subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, & English). 1.3 million Supplementary Readers were distributed to public schools for Grades 1-4. Along with the textbooks, 20,000 teacher guides were also distributed along with instructional materials including (Atlases, Maps, magnets and Globes). To ensure the security of the books, the Ministry of Education is working with the Ministry of Justice (M0J).

We have found out that in a number of schools, enrolment has increased and in others enrolment has decreased. Where the number of students was under-calculated, books and materials will be redistributed. MoE is committed to giving each student, from Monrovia to the rural-rural communities in the various counties, the same access to textbooks and other learning materials.

  1. School Construction and Renovations

The Ministry conducted a survey of school buildings that needed renovation and over 500 hundred schools across the country were identified. Seventy of the 500 schools were completed by August 2015. Another seventy-three of the schools roof have been repaired or replaced.

Renovation and construction work will continue until all 500 schools are completed. By June 2016, the MoE will have constructed 41 new schools across Liberia under the Government ofLiberia (GOL)/GIobal Partnership for Education (GPE) Project. Twenty-seven (27) of the forty-one (41) have already been completed.

Ill. 8,390 Teachers, School Administrators, PTAs Trained in Pedagogical and Psychosocial Counselling Skills

In addition to receiving new books and instructional materials, teachers have been participating in training and professional development workshops. 8,390 teachers, administrators and PTA members from both public and private institutions have benefitted from three weeks’ training focusing on pedagogy and psycho-social expertise. Montserrado is still outstanding at the district level which, when completed, should take the number to 10, 000.

  1. School Grants

Under the G0L/GPE arrangement, the MoE provided more than 2 million USD to over 2,500 public schools. The overall objective is to develop a more efficient and effective school-based management system. By this intervention, we are increasing community participation in school governance and increasing access, retention and completion at the Basic Education level.

  1. Pay Reform and Teachers’ Verification Exercise

The Government of liberia (GoL), like many post-conflict countries, struggles with a bloated payroll. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has the largest payroll in the GoL with over 20,000 teachers and administrators.1 As Liberia continues to develop, the MoE is responsible for ensuring that teaching and learning reach international standards. In 2014, the Liberia Teacher Training Program (LTTP) conducted a census of teachers in the country. The data revealed several disparities in Liberia’s education system.

The MoE, in collaboration with LTTP and the Civil Service Agency (CSA), has commenced the Teacher Verification Process, supported by the MoE’s New Education Reform Act. The process is being implemented systematically district by district across Liberia to ensure the restructuring and rightsizing of the teaching workforce.

The purpose of this initiative is to improve teaching and learning. More specifically it intends to: (1) Restructure and right-size the teaching cohort; (2) Audit the teacher payroll and correct all identified anomalies; (3) Disaggregate the teaching payroll to ensure more effective payroll management; (4) Ensure better teaching delivery through the elimination of persons with fraudulentqualification from the system2 (5) Identify the total amount needed to merge the supplementary and regular payrolls.

Once a teacher is verified he/she is issued a Biometric ID card. This card is specifically designed for the GoL and is not easily replicated. All schools are to be equipped with Biometric ID card readers, and teachers will need to swipe upon arrival and departure from the school. The MoE will be able to use the Biometric ID card to monitor the attendance of teachers.

There are four key actors involved in the Teacher Verification Process. The Human Resources team at the Ministry of Education leads the process, as it has the mandate to ensure the recruitment and selection of qualified persons into the education system. Under the guidance of the Deputy Minister of Instruction (DM1), the HR team will have knowledge of the teacher pupil ratios and the administrative staff requirements for each school thus making it easier to ascertain whether a school has exceeded its staff compliment or requires additional support.

The Teacher Verification Process has been completed in Montserrado and Bong Counties. With the assistance of the LTTP and the CSA, the process will continue in Bomi and Nimba Counties shortly. Our goal is to complete the entire country by June 2016. The money saved, if any, will be used to rationalize the pay and benefits of educators — to attract and retain professionals in the field.

III. Decentralization and Governance

With the support of USAID/LTTP, the Educator Management Policy for the Republic of Liberia document was drafted with stakeholders’ input. This Policy compiles relevant material from existing policy documents (e.g., the Education Reform Act of 2011, Education Administrative Regulations, Code of Conduct for Teachers and Administrators in Liberia, and Standing Orders of the Civil Service) as well as proposes content for key elements that have not been spelled out in existing policy documents. The Policy focuses on three categories of educators: teachers, school administrators, and education officers. With respect to teachers and school administrators the Policy addresses the situations those working in public and private institutions serving students in early childhood development/ed ucation (ECD/E), lower basic (primary) education, alternative basic education (including Accelerated Learning), upper basic (junior secondary) education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and senior secondary education programs.

The Educator Management Policy follows the framework proposed in UNESCO’s International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All (2015) Teacher Policy Development Guide, which is grounded in the concept that qualified, supported, and motivated educators are key to the provision of high- quality and equitable education for all learners.

The Policy thus defines the qualifications, standards, certification and licensing, (pre-service and in-service) professional development, recruitment and deployment, career structure, rewards and remuneration, and working conditions of different categories of educators.

Each section of the Policy is shaped by the International Labor Organization and UNESCO (1966, p. 22) Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, which starts by recognizing “that advance in education depends largely on the qualifications and ability of the teaching staff in general and on the human, pedagogical and technical qualities of the individual teachers.” The Policy is also informed by research studies conducted in Liberia as well as other countries.

The Policy provides a path for enhancing the professional status of educators so that they can more effectively contribute to the goal identified in the Preamble of the Education Reform Act of 2011 (Republic of Liberia, 2011, p. 1): “to ensure access to and availability of high quality educational opportunities for all citizens and residents…” The Policy is in line with the vision of the management of human resources in the Government of Liberia, as articulated in the Civil Service Human Resource Manual (CSA, 2013, p. 2): “a robust, professional and adequately compensated Civil Service effectively and efficiently delivers high quality services to the people, aimed at improving and sustaining the quality of life.”

After introducing the objectives of the policy and situating it in the context of other key policy documents, the Policy identifies the minimum academic and professional qualifications and eligibility requirements for different categories of educators. It then describes entry requirements, curricular content, and staff qualifications for the pre-service preparation programs that would be prerequisite to different employment in different roles that educators perform.

The Policy document then focuses on the regulations and procedures for a teacher or administrator who has completed a certificate program to become licensed after successfully completing a probationary period of employment. This is followed by a section that addresses the procedures and criteria to be used in recruitment, initial deployment, and transfer of educators.

Section 7 of the Policy focuses on in-service professional development of different categories of educators, giving attention to an induction program during the probationary period; continuous professional development for educators; and ongoing monitoring, supervisory guidance, mentoring, and support for educators.

The next section of the Policy sketches the various career paths that educators can pursue, including movement across role categories (and responsibilities), within role categories, across sub-sectors of the education system, across work sites, and to higher salary levels.

Section 9 of the Policy addresses issues of educators’ rewards and remuneration, illuminating a pay scale based on qualifications and experiences as well as discussing other financial and non-financial incentives for educators. The next section of the Policy addresses working conditions of educators, including workload, material conditions and resources available in the workplace, and interpersonal relations.

The final sections of the Policy address the issues of funding and other resources needed to implement the policy; the timeline for implementation of various aspects of the Policy; and guidelines for evaluating and revising the Policy.

  1. In progress

The Ministry also wishes to inform the public that some of the targets that we set for ourselves are not yet met:

1) The distribution of teaching and learning kits, with the support of UNICEF, which we had hoped to complete before school resumed, is still continuing.

2) The MoE also awaits the NO OBJECTION from the GPE to the signing of contract between Pearson Education and the MoE for the procurement of secondary text books for Grades 10, 11, and 12. The source of the funding for this is the Ebola Emergency Response Fund from the World Bank in the amount of $3.2 million. The textbooks will be procured in the six core subjects — Math, English, Economics, Biology, Physics, & Chemistry.

3) We advertised for 404 Science and Math teachers and 30 Science and Math supervisors. To date, we received 273 applications for the Science and Math Teachers’ positions and 36 for the supervisory positions. We are currently, with the UNDP, exploring a National UN Volunteer Program for the Liberia Science and Math Teachers’ Program (LSMTP). Managed by UNDP, our goal is that the LSMTP will run for 3 years, afterwhich it will be integrated into the MoE and the Civil Service to create a new pipeline of degree-holding professionals in the teaching field. The added benefit, for which the MoE’s 2015/16 budget has no provision, is the introduction of a remote and/or hardship allowance for beneficiaries.

4) The guidelines for the Science Clubs have been completed but not yet vetted by the Department for Instruction at the MoE. The guidelines will help schools across the country to participate in and conduct the Science Clubs. Many of our medical students have already submitted their names to be tutors and mentors in the Science Clubs.

A massive undertaking

The Minister thanks MoE staff, educators across the country, and the media for their efforts since July aimed at improving schooling after Ebola. This has been a massive undertaking, and it is wonderful to see public schools opening with better resources. Yet there is still much to do. The measures announced as part of ‘Improving Schooling After Ebola’ extended beyond the start of the new school year, and work will continue.

The MoE leadership welcomes public discussion of MoE’s progress. The difficult work of ‘getting to best’ will require extensive and painstaking reforms to the system. The community will be a key part of this process of change: we must all hold our education system to high standards, and ensure that progress is as rapid as possible for all children across the length and breadth of Liberia.

Throughout this effort, the MoE received generous support from many a private citizen, the Peace Corps, the Liberia Teachers’ Training Program (funded by USAID), the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UNICEF, More Than Me, and others for these interventions. We thank our partners for their ongoing support.

The Ministry is committed to communicating frankly with the public, especially when we do not meet all of our targets.

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