By Elliot Wreh-Wilson, Ph.D.
The national conversation on reforming our schools has waned. But reforming our schools should not be complicated.
First, let us begin by reducing class size, especially at the elementary level. Any first grade, second grade or third grade class with more than 24 students is a zoo, not a class. The teacher must be able to spend at least three quality minutes of class time with each child. At 24 students, and one hour to a class, she has barely two minutes with each child and 12 minutes to spare. The solution is to build more classrooms.
Second: Re-introduce the old “In-Service” teacher training program. Book people call this “professional development.” It works! There, teachers learn new ways to plan and execute coursework. They also learn more efficient ways to do assessment of learning outcomes. Students need to know what they get right and wrong and why. Assessment is essential to learning. But with so many large classes to handle, assessment has taken a back seat at our schools. We need to change that.
Third: Introduce students to technology. Laptops are a necessity, not a luxury anymore. Liberia is certainly in the position to procure just enough to service our schools. We don’t need a laptop for each child; all we need is a computer lab to facilitate computer literacy. We only need twenty-five laptops to a school - one for the lab facilitator and twenty-four for the class, assuming we limit class size to twenty-four.
Fourth: English is our official language. Students who understand English, and can read, write and speak with confidence, tend to do well in all subjects. So, let’s prioritize the teaching of English again. We need to rethink the amount of time we allot to teaching and studying English at our schools.
Fifth: Each year, a good number of Liberian students earn the very coveted magna and summa cum laude distinctions when they complete their baccalaureate degrees. We can place these students in our graduate programs to earn M.A. and M.Sc. degrees that will qualify them for teaching in our high schools and elementary schools. Call this an investment in our children’s education. In gratitude to government, those who earn their graduate degrees may serve up to two years at any of our schools before they can move on. Not too much to ask of them or is it?
Please join the conversation.