Today, the Ministry of Education took stock of the impact of its wide-ranging reform effort and plotted its course to stay strong in the last mile prior to the change in administration in January 2018.
Beginning with the Education Sector Analysis (ESA), the Ministry has developed a comprehensive plan to overhaul the education system and improve the quality of education provided to Liberian children. The ESA formed the basis of the Getting to Best Education Sector Plan (G2B-ESP), which is aimed at improving student learning outcomes, and equipping young people with the necessary skills for livelihoods and employment. The Ministry noted that it has completed the Annual Operational Plan for the G2B-ESP and that implementation began on July 1, 2017.
The Ministry also detailed the progress in developing and preparing for the implementation of the Getting to Best Project 2017 – 2021, which will target disadvantaged counties where there are high levels of poverty and child stunting and a low proportion of qualified teachers. Key activities include early childhood education (ECE) grants, training for community-based ECE caregivers in remote areas, completion of certificates for unqualified ECE and primary teachers, training and certification for school principals, and annual monitoring visits. The project has been submitted to the GPE Board for approval and, with positive technical recommendations made to date, is expected to begin implementation in December 2017.
The Ministry recapped the successful implementation of the Global Partnership for Education Grant for Basic Education Project (GPE-BEP), which concluded in October 2016. Key deliverables included the construction of 41 schools with 303 classrooms and the procurement of over 1 million textbooks, 20,000 teachers’ guides for grades 5–9, over 1 million supplementary readers for grades 1–4, and 1.4 million instructional materials for grades 1–9, 98% of which were distributed.
The Ministry also detailed the success of its payroll cleaning and teacher vetting initiative, which has gained international attention. 12,131 teachers have been vetted and 12,853 tested across 10 of 15 counties, with the remaining five counties set to be completed soon. The project identified 1,547 “ghost” teachers in the first 10 counties, and the Ministry has worked with Human Resources and Liberia’s Civil Service Agency to remove these names from the government payroll. In doing so the Ministry has so far recouped USD $2,638,618 per year in efficiency savings, 7.5% of the Ministry’s total payroll budget. These funds are being used to hire and deploy qualified teachers as direct replacements for those removed.
The Ministry also noted its progress in developing a framework for School Quality Assessment (SQA), with the purpose of monitoring improvement in school quality from early childhood education (ECE) to senior high school. The focus of the framework is to regulate and guide supervisors and inspectors in the discharge of their duties and to provide tools to ensure adequate data collection for timely decision-making. The data collected will also facilitate the provision of objective feedback to school administrators and teachers.
The Ministry also took stock following the first year of the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) program, which is aimed at testing new models for improving Liberia’s public schools. Through PSL the Ministry has partnered with eight educational providers, each with different models but all with proven experience delivering quality education and improving learning outcomes. During the first year, these 8 providers have operated 94 schools in 13 counties across Liberia, providing free, quality education to more than 27,000 students. Initial results show encouraging improvements in enrollment, teacher behavior, and student performance at PSL schools, and a rigorous independent assessment is due to be released in the next month. In the meantime, the Ministry recapped its plans to move forward with a modest increase in the number of PSL schools in the coming school year, prioritizing increasing presence in disadvantaged regions such as the south-east during the second year of the pilot.
Given the substantial progress that has been made over recent years and the upcoming change in administration, the Ministry has also turned its focus towards sustainability. The Ministry noted that it is establishing an Education Delivery Unit (EDU) to ensure that a high-performing team is in place to plan and monitor the implementation of the Ministry’s priority reforms. The EDU’s central aim is to ensure that progress toward educational improvements is optimized through the final months of the current administration and that momentum for quality reform is maintained into the next administration.
Finally, the Ministry announced the release of the Academic Calendar for the 2017/2018 school year, noting that schools will open on 4 September 2017. The full calendar will be posted to the Ministry of Education’s website: www.moe.gov.lr.
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