Education is the process through which knowledge is acquired to develop the minds of individuals. The educational development process can occur through formal, informal, and non-formal means.
This article will discuss the importance of imparting knowledge to the minds of our young generation through formal education.
The Liberian government operates schools through the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education, through its minister, appoints qualified individuals who serve as County and District Education Officers (CEOs and DEOs). The CEO, in close collaboration with the DEO, appoints supervising principals (public schools) per district, thus ensuring that every public school operates in accordance with the ministry’s policies, guidelines and instructions. The chain of command is clear and even admirable. The aim is to devolve national education.
The ministry uses this chain upward to get information and feedback, and downward to send instructions and information. One of the other uses of the structure is for professional development of teachers.
Each semester, the ministry is supposed to offer professional development to educators across the country. The CEOs and DEOs are key parts of this process. They supervise the stages of these workshops or training and coordinate with their bosses for the necessary support. These workshops are often conducted for two to three weeks within the semester.
However, I have keenly observed over time, that the Ministry conducts these training sessions when formal classes are in session. This which I term, ‘doing the right thing at the wrong time’. Workshops and seminars are extremely good. The schools, administrators, learners, and educators all benefit from them, especially, when undertaken by professionals. Professional development is one sure way to improve the educational system.
Yet, it is quite important to consider these two factors- a) the time of the year and b) the length of these training sessions. With this in mind, I would like to discuss the when, where, and how these workshops are being conducted.
I am an educator by profession so my views will be informed by professional standards and my experience. As a classroom teacher, it is very enriching to attend workshops undertaken by educational experts. They equip teachers with the necessary skills in an ever-changing environment. And for me, it is most welcoming.
Yet, we should not neglect the importance of conducting these workshops at a time that is most convenient for the attendees. In most parts of greater Liberia, these workshops occur during the height of the semester, and this, I argue, presents additional problems for the schools in those parts.
In a system where there is a serious shortage of educators, and even smaller number of trained, qualified educators, this may not be the best strategy. When school is in session, teachers are already under immense pressure. They have tons of things to deal with; so, adding the stress of these training is not readily welcome.
The situation leaves administrators with long gaps within the instructional days. They now have to juggle with the few they have left. Students are left unsupervised and denied the instructions they already don’t get enough of. This is particularly a problem for self-contained teachers who have no substitutes. For example, within the Mambahn/Kaba Educational Districts, these workshops upset the schools every time they are held. The few teachers (and volunteer ones) were away at all-day workshops whilst the students were left mostly unattended. What was intended for improvement, often had an unintended effect.
Another issue of concern is that these sessions run from around 8 to 9 a.m. to 3 to 4 p.m. This is longer than the regular school day for some schools. One understands that the training is rapid, but to keep anyone, that long, even with breaks between speakers, tend to take away from the value of the training. The normal attention span and other factors make this strategy not necessarily the best.
I do not infer that the ministry’s task is an easy one, not by far; especially in the current weak educational system. However, there is always room for improvement. My recommendations to the experts and professionals responsible for conducting workshops and seminars are as follows:
- That workshops and or seminars, as much as possible, be conducted before and or after the opening of formal classes.
- That if the workshops and or seminars must be held, said workshops and or seminars should be conducted for periods not more than two to three days.
- That the overall time per session should be considerate of social, psychological, emotional factors, etc. of the teachers attending them. In the drive to improve these teachers, one should not lose sight of the realities of life. If the regular sessions are many hours long, it tends to defeat the purpose of holding the training. The teachers won’t be focused enough to grasp the lessons being taught.
Again, I’d like to note that every effort should be made to professionally train teachers, however, this should never be done at the expanse of the learners or the overall system.
Richard P. Saynwray
Graduate Scholar, BIST/UMU