14 January 2016

Liberia: President Sirleaf Opens Panel Discussion On Education

press release

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has opened an education panel discussion with key stakeholders and partners aimed at improving the education sector through improved education outcomes in primary and early childhood education.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader expressed optimism that such partnership is possible and will accelerate progress in the country's educational sector. She said that quality education remains a top priority of her government and is an imperative under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 as well as the Africa Vision 2063.

President Sirleaf welcomed participants and re-affirmed Government's determination to improve education for all Liberian children.

The Liberian President indicated that a public-private-partnership which is not effectively designed and implemented exposes the government to the lack of value for money. She pledged her government's commitment to continue work with partners to ensure that proper mechanism and structures are put in place to move the sector forward for future generations to take charge and compete with their African counterparts not only in politics but in the economic and financial spheres respectively.

She thanked all the participants for their support especially the partners who have worked with authorities of the Ministry of Education in providing support and pieces of advice. "I just want to say thanks," she said; emphasizing that the responsibility of building the country's educational sector rests on Liberians primarily and expressed gratitude for the partnership that the country enjoys that has enabled it to go beyond its own resources and abilities.

The discussion, among other things, seek to explore opportunities in which private institutions can be contracted to run primary and early childhood education schools on the performance basis and to also generate interest, advice and funding from partners for the proposed Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) for improved quality in primary and basic education. "Improvements," she said, "will be measured through literacy and numeracy outcomes."

Speaking earlier, Education Minister George K. Werner welcomed partners and stakeholders and called for the collaboration not only to make concrete suggestions to advance education but will also ensure that adequate support is provided to the sector to actualize the plan.

He explained that the gathering is focused on improving learning outcomes in early childhood and primary education; adding that we must ensure both access education as well as to quality education, so that every child can go to school, and every child is taught well.

Mr. Werner furthered that meeting these twin challenges will require stakeholders to consider all options if they are to radically improve literacy and numeracy.

Public-private-partnerships providers will be commissioned to run schools according to performance criteria and standards established and monitored by the Government. Public-private-partnerships differ from privatization, as public schools will remain under Government control. Minister Werner emphasized that government standards and regulations would apply to any future partnership.

He said government in particular will ensure primary and basic schools remain free and confirmed that this would never be compromised. "The Government is committed to free basic education. Every child has the right to go to school, and that means that basic schools must be free," the Education Minister emphasized.

Mr. Werner then outlined key priorities the Ministry will focus under the new 'Getting to Best' agenda announced last year including: Improvement in children's literacy and numeracy in lower basic grades; qualified teachers with the skills to improve students' learning outcomes; support and motivate teachers who will improve children's learning outcomes; school infrastructure meets the needs of children, improving enrolment and retention; ensure schools and teachers have the resources to improve children's learning outcomes; lay the foundations for children's learning at early childhood education; improve girls' learning outcomes; and ensure that the Ministry of Education and schools become accountable for children's learning.

Meanwhile, the panel discussion continues on Friday with focus appreciating the experiences of other countries, particularly African countries, and potential risks and benefits of public-private partnerships.

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