Governance of education in Liberia

Mengistu Eddie Wolokolie

By: Mengistu Eddie Wolokolie

Education forms the foundation of development in a country. It increases productivity and improves the quality of life of the citizens.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Liberia’s adult literacy rate is below average as it stands at 48.3%.

The country faces significant challenges in terms of insufficient number of qualified teachers, corruption, inadequate expenditure, overage enrollment and a high dropout rate.

Moreover, poverty prevents students from acquiring higher education, thus increasing the number of unskilled young adults in the country.

The vicious cycle of poverty continues as the lack of expertise renders them unsuitable in the labor market and without finances.

Improving the education sector in Liberia by investing in Early Childhood Development and introducing technical courses from the 9th to the 12th grade is crucial, as it will equip students with skills with social and economic benefits and will foster regional and global security governance.

Education Policies and Legal Frameworks

The Ministry of Education is at the top of the hierarchy of the education sector in Liberia. It is the primary oversight and regulatory body whose functions include developing the national curriculum, formulating educational policies, and implementing them.

Below it is the County Education Officers (CEOs) who oversee education in their respective counties. The District Education Officers (DEOs) report to the CEOs and are the link between the ministry and the school community.

The main legal instrument governing the Ministry of Education is the constitution.

Article 6 of the constitution clearly states the government’s responsibility to eliminating illiteracy by providing equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of the available resources. It has also promulgated several acts and policies that provide detailed frameworks on how to ensure that the right to education is upheld.

The Education Act of 2002 had five chapters. It included comprehensive information on the general policy framework, the structure of the education system, the functions of the ministry, the conduct of schools and their staff and the advisory and regulatory bodies for the education and training sector.

The Liberia Primary Education Recovery Program (LPERP) is concerned with promoting accessible and quality education at the primary level.

The Education Sector Plan of 2010 outlines future strategies and policies for the reconstruction and development of education.

In 2011, the government repealed the Education Act of 2002 and replaced it with the Education Reform Act, which established free compulsory primary and basic education.

The Structure of the Education System

Liberia follows a 6-3-3 system of education as one spends six years in primary school, and three years in junior and senior high. It has a mix of public, private, and missionary-sponsored schools that offer education in four levels.

First is the Early Childhood Development for children between zero and five years. They learn essential reading, writing, and mathematics.

The primary level is from grade 1 to 6. The junior secondary school includes grades 7, 8, and 9.

The subjects taught in the aforementioned levels are Mathematics, English, French, General Science, Physical Education, Social Studies, and Religious and Moral Education.

Senior secondary is from grades 10 to 12. At this level, they introduce Physics, Literature, History, Geography, Economics, Chemistry, and Biology.

The Higher Education and Post-Secondary education includes certificate, diploma, degree, and post-graduate programs offered by teacher training institutes, colleges, and universities.


Liberia has many schools across the country, thus increasing the number of student enrollment. Statistics show that the number of schools had increased by roughly 1500 between 2008 and 2015.

Additionally, some schools offer multiple levels of education. For instance, some have a primary and junior high school. This increases accessibility as students do not have to travel long distances to attend school.

The schools are in close proximity to the residential areas, thus deterring students who have to perform household chores from dropping out of school entirely.


One of the primary challenges that the education system in Liberia encounters is the inadequate number of qualified teachers. Statistics indicates that 68.6% of teachers in government primary schools possess the minimum qualification of a “C” certificate.

In the non-government primary school, only 55.3% are qualified even though they account for the majority of enrollment at the junior and senior secondary levels.

Additionally, they are unevenly distributed across the counties. For instance, only 25.9% of qualified teachers exist in Sinoe County, while the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) has 92.7%.

An association exists between a teacher’s qualifications and the students’ education performance. The lack of well-trained teachers hampers the introduction of trade and technical skills from 9th Grade to 12th Grade as they cannot effectively deliver the necessary education materials.

Overage enrollment is a significant challenge in Liberia. The Liberia education sector analysis report of 2016 indicates that 40% of primary school students are more than three years older than the expected age of each grade.

Students are less likely to attend school regularly or to arrive late as they prioritize other responsibilities, such as household chores. The female students are more affected than their male counterparts due to the high rate of teenage pregnancies.

While some resume school after giving birth, they attend school sporadically and often end up dropping out.

Referring to a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund study in 2012, 67% of the respondents stated that pregnancy is the main factor that led to dropping out. Afterward, their households consider them as adults who can contribute to the income.

Offering trade and technical training from the 9th to 12th grade would be instrumental in equipping the overage children to enable them to acquire life skills that can aid them in being financially capable despite dropping out.

Corruption impedes the development of the education sector in Liberia. The various stakeholder groups, including the government, county, and district education officers, school administrators and students are the perpetrators of corruption.

Statistics shows that students offer bribes for good grades and certificates while teachers and school administrators are hired based on ethnic and religious consideration, instead of meritocracy and competence.

The absence of supervision and monitoring gives those in power the opportunity to make biased decisions and embezzle public funds. Additionally, the lack of a competent corruption reporting mechanism promotes the culture of no accountability and impunity.

In Acts 6:1-7, the Hellenistic Jews complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The situation prompted the disciples to appoint men who were filled with the Holy Spirit to be responsible for the fair delivery of food.

Similarly, the government cannot financially invest in Early Childhood Education and introducing trade and technical skills to students in the current corrupt education administration system as it would lead to misuse of funds. Therefore, it should establish effective accountability mechanisms to ensure that the project is well implemented.

The education sector is marred by inadequate funding. The average government budgetary allocation to all education levels is 12%.

The figure is below the country’s target of 20% set in the Education Sector Plan 2010-20. Although it receives funding from international organizations, the donations are unsustainable as they occur once in a while.

Inadequate expenditure significantly hampers educational development as the government cannot afford to introduce new programs, such as trading and technical classes for secondary students. Students lack the necessary learning materials that the schools ought to provide.

Additionally, teachers receive low salaries, and schools cannot afford to hire more, thus deceasing the teacher-student ratio.

Benefits of Investing in Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Education is one of the most neglected services in the educational sectors in developing countries, even though it forms the foundation of a child’s education. The often-unqualified teachers receive meager salaries and have minimal teaching equipment.

However, investing in it is crucial as it has individual and societal benefits that accrue in adulthood. The High/Scope Perry preschool study highlights the advantages of offering high-quality education to young children living in poverty, a prevalent condition in Liberia.

The results of the study indicated that the children enrolled in the program had less dependency on welfare as adults as they were employed compared with their counterparts who were not enrolled. Therefore, quality early childhood education has a positive impact on the learners.

Quality early childhood development increases the productivity of human capital. Psychologists posit that there are certain cognitive development stages that people need to attain in their childhood in order to reach their optimum capability as adults.

Additionally, some of the competencies that they acquire form the foundation of their work ethic. For instance, working with building blocks inculcates creativity and problem-solving skills, which are invaluable in employees and business owners.

Benefits of Introducing Technical and Trading Skills from 9th to 12th grade

It is implementing technical and trading classes as early as the 9th grade has positive social impacts.

First, it reduces crime. Research indicates that most people become actively engaged in criminal activities in their late teens. At this age, most students in Liberia drop out of school or fail to join tertiary institutions.

Introducing technical classes, such as building and construction, agriculture, tailoring, mechanics, welding, and business classes, will equip them with the expertise in life skills required in the labor market. It dissuades them from turning to crime as they would have a stable source of income.

Second, it decreases the pervasiveness of poverty in society. One of the famous proverbs of King Solomon equates poverty to armed robbery as it attacks a lazy person (Prov. 6:11).

Possessing technical knowledge and skills enables us to engage in economic activities in the marketplace in exchange for money. It improves a person’s quality of life as one can access the basic needs.

Economically, conducting technical classes in secondary school is a way of offering subsidized training and apprenticeship. The majority of the students in Liberia live in poverty and do not have the financial capacity to enroll in tertiary institutions. Therefore, these classes ensure that they are marketable as they have the necessary skills and can meet the country’s human resources needs even though they do not hold a diploma or degree.

Moreover, it enables students to choose an area of specialization. For instance, if one studies building and construction, they can venture into architecture or construction management in their higher education.

Impact of Education on Regional and Global Security Governance

Education plays a crucial role in fostering peace and security at a national, regional, and global level.

It instills learners with knowledge and values that reverberate throughout their adult life.

In History classes, teachers educate them on fundamental human rights and the essence of respecting them. They learn about the adverse consequences of wars and the importance of employing peaceful methods of conflict resolution.

Education highlights the importance of promoting peace and security to foster economic cooperation between countries. This ensures that when the students become model citizens in their country, they can contribute to improving peace in the global arena by applying the values they learn in school.

The Ministry of Education in Liberia should ensure that the education it offers has a lasting positive impact on the learners in order to encourage regional and global security governance.


Although the education system in Liberia has significant challenges, the government can implement policies to resolve them.

Channeling financial resources towards improving the early childhood education sector is crucial because it forms a base for lifelong learning by ensuring holistic emotional and cognitive development.

At the secondary school level, from the 9th to the 12th grade, schools have the opportunity to equip them with economic skills that are useful in the market. In readiness for these developments, the government should invest in training teachers to ensure that they are qualified to mold the learners into model citizens.

Therefore, the government, through the ministry of education, is responsible for nurturing the all-rounded development of children for economic, social, and political advancements.