30 November 2017

West Africa: Is Liberia Ready for West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination?

Liberia joined the West African Examination Council - an organization which was established in 1952- in 1974 with the aspirations of:

Harmonising and standardising pre-university assessment procedures

Awarding certificates acknowledged by examining authorities in the United Kingdom

This ultimately is to ensure that students acquire applicable proficiencies the world over.

The Ministry of Education in collaboration with WAEC piloted the administering of West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in 2016 in attempts to upgrade the presently administered WAEC exams to WASSCE taken by all final year students in the sister countries.

Though a brilliant idea aimed at standardizing exams so that there is international accreditation for certificates issued to individuals who successfully pass the exams, as to whether Liberian students are adequately prepared for this year's exams is questionable.

The academic structure affords for the effective administration of WASSCE in Ghana for instance, a country which has been part of the West African Exam Council since its inception.

The 9th grade WAEC results provide WAEC with information about the academic standing of students.

This is highly influential in determining which senior high school a student is to attend for the three year period since WAEC does the posting.

Though the senior high school education is a three year program as exists in Liberia, the subjects taught are categorized into cores and electives.

The core subjects are mandatory and provide basic understanding in General Science, English, Math and Social Studies. Instructions are given in accordance to standards stated below:

General Science covers basic concepts in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Agriculture

Social Studies provide surface information about selected concepts in Economics, Human Geography and Civics

English language includes oral and written English

The elective subjects are completely the students' to discriminate between, of course under the supervision of a counselor.

The student is obliged to select at most four courses in disciplines such as Arts, Social Sciences or General Science.

Arts cover study of languages, Visual Arts, Home Economics among others. Social Science covers Economics, Geography, History and the like.

The Arts and Social Sciences have related subjects which can be blended.

The Science course makes it compulsory for students to study elective math -which covers introduction to calculus, physics and chemistry -both of which require at least a 3 hour practical session a week.

Biology or technical drawing is to be chosen by the student depending on his/her inclination - Biology for those desiring to be in the medical field and technical drawing for those gearing towards engineering.

WASSCE is administered in line with the set format for instruction. There are core elective and practical papers.

The grading system is given below:

In Liberia, however, instructions are given on subject basis without categorization into either core or elective subjects. It therefore, is very vague which class of papers a student in Liberia will be taking.

In the science subjects for instance, since there are no practical classes attached to all three-Biology, Chemistry, and Physics - these subjects can be considered to be in their core stages.

If this is established, it might then require that a student in Liberia takes only General Science which is the core science paper with all three aspects embedded into one exam.

Again, mathematics split into geometry, trigonometry and algebra will cover only one paper, core Mathematics since it does not cover all the topics projected for elective math.

The English paper will be core English without oral English since students have never been introduced to oral English in most schools.

Since social studies is not taught in the senior high school in Liberia, an exam cannot be taken in the subject.

The issue as to whether students will be taking elective History, Geography and Economics will surface. Under such condition, all students in Liberia will be considered to be Social Science oriented.

Discrepancies in the WASSCE curriculum and the presently used Liberian Ministry of Education curriculum makes students inadequately prepared.

Information about the new texts for Literature in English has not been disseminated properly.

Situations have been aggravated by the scarcity of the texts.

In view of all the challenges such as shortage in qualified teachers in the senior high division, inability of senior students to construct essays and write legibly and the rather high cost of WASSCE, it is worth inquiring if Liberia is ready for the WASSCE.

Solomon Quaye, (Geologist)

References:

www.larnedu.com/wassce-waec-syllabus/#google_vignette

Chief examiner's report on SSSCE 2015/16 Academic year

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Senior_School_Certificate_Examination

http://www.liberiawaec.org/

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