Wednesday, May 25, 2022
His Grace, The Most Rev. Dr. Jonathan B. B. Hart,
Chairman, Board of Directors, Faith and Justice Network (FJN)
Other Officers and Members, FJN;
Prof. Ansu D. Sonii, Minister of Education;
Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, Chairperson, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission;
His Excellency Michael A. McCarthy, Ambassador, United States of America;
Rev. Fr. Godfrey M. T. Nemah, St. Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Gbarnga Diocese;
Other Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honored and indeed pleased to have been selected to perform the pleasant task of being the Keynote Speaker at the opening session of the “Educational Stakeholders’ Integrity Forum” hosted under the auspices of the Faith and Justice Network (FJN), bringing together 80 participants including school administrators, principals, teachers, students, parents, religious leaders, and other stakeholders.
I am delighted to address the general theme of this Forum: “A Campaign to End Examination Malpractices and Promote Moral Integrity in Schools.” This theme, during the Forum, will be articulated as “Stimulating Exchanges from Experts’ Views to End Academic Malpractices in High Schools.”
Let me begin by acknowledging that, giving the list of participants, I will be preaching to the choir. However, I will beg your indulgence to speak on three areas covered by the theme: Academic Malpractices; Examination Malpractices; and Moral Integrity.
I wish to begin this discourse with a general definition of Malpractice that covers the three thematic areas listed, which should set the premise for my deliberation on this subject matter you participants are much more familiar with. Malpractice is defined as “any activity or practice which deliberately contravenes regulations and compromises the integrity of the assessment process and/or the validity of certificates” to be earned by students.
While students are the end product of such an assessment process, I dare say that they are not the only perpetrators of malpractices in any educational system. Other stakeholders, such as school administrators, principals, teachers, and the government (vis-à-vis the Ministry of Education) are also perpetrators of malpractices in the schools, both at the high school and tertiary levels.
In other words, Academic Malpractices, Examination malpractices, and the lack of Moral Integrity can be found in most schools, especially within the Education System in Liberia.
I do not wish to bore you with details of these malpractices, as I am sure this Forum will cover those specifics and how to combat or resolve them. Suffice to say, however, that Academic malpractices range from teacher absenteeism to outdated curricula; while examination malpractices range from students spying in class to leakage of examination questions or materials by persons who are authorized or unauthorized to conduct examinations; and lack of Moral integrity range from bribery to sex for grades.
As participants in this Forum tackle the symptoms of these malpractices within our Liberian schools, I would like to leave you with this pertinent observation: Academic and Examination malpractices are damaging our educational system, and if left unchecked, the credibility and value of our school certificates, diplomas, and degrees will become questionable.
This brings me to the point of evaluating malpractices among School Administrators, Teachers, and Students. Several reports over the years, mostly commissioned by a few of our international partners, have identified some of the causes of these malpractices.
- The majority of school principals have not received training related to
their key job responsibilities, and do not receive adequate resources or professional support to effectively execute their responsibilities
2. Several recent evaluations highlight the limited resources available to
CEOs and DEOs and the extent to which a lack of mobility, poorly maintained vehicles, and communication challenges.
3. Administrative hearings on teacher offenses and conducting school inspections are inadequate or lacking, and policies and standards do not occur with any regularity.
- In our education system, teachers need to be adequately developed in order to inculcate cultural norms and values through the curriculum and teaching methods used.
- The national teacher standards development efforts proved that students could be active contributors to the process along with educators.
- The distribution of key educational inputs, including trained teachers,
demonstrates high levels of disparity
- High levels of teacher absenteeism, long-term absenteeism, and teachers who abandon their posts, are critical challenges
- Many teachers encounter challenging working conditions on a daily basis, often with limited institutional support
- Female teachers are significantly underrepresented in the teaching force at all levels of our education system Female teachers in education administration have shown good results where they have contributed.
- Students in our schools are vulnerable, due to social and economic factors, which have led to exclusion from some learning opportunities.
- High student enrollment, especially in public schools, has resulted in overcrowded classrooms, making teaching ineffective.
- Pregnancy interrupts the education of a large number of female students.
- Students occasionally suffered physical abuse, sexual harassment, and severe forms of gender-based violence.
More recently, academic and examination malpractices have taken a new turn in our schools, primarily amongst teachers in high schools and professors in institutions of higher education.
The focus on malpractices in the investigation of fake academic credentials.
In recent times the educational sector has come under scrutiny and criticism for issues of integrity, especially as it relates to accreditation, courses offered and awarding of diplomas in areas of study. This situation that is unfolding has even validated the holding of this forum as it relates to integrity in institutions of learning.
In 2015, the International Institute for Educational Research held a policy Forum on planning Higher Education Integrity in Paris from 18-20 March, which brought together nearly sixty higher education experts and stakeholders from around the world to discuss recent and innovative initiatives aimed at improving transparency and reducing opportunities for fraud or corruption at the university level. Participants included university vice-chancellors and administrators, researchers and representatives of education ministries, international agencies, research organizations, civil society, students’ organizations, and the media.
During that forum, it was stated that planning higher education integrity might very well become a requirement for a growing number of countries and universities in years to come, and truly we are seeing that reality unfold before our very eyes.
The head of the IIEP research and development Team spoke of the need to protect the reputation of higher education institutions and trust in their diplomas and degrees and the obligation for public officials and institutions to defend themselves against allegations of fraud and corruption.
The Former Secretary General Association of African Universities, Goolam Mohamedbhai pointed out that The Chancellor in many African Public Universities is appointed by the President of the country, this action creates an area of influence and must be discouraged according to him, in order that it is effective and accountable.
On the way forward, the Policy Forum revealed that corruption in higher education is a worldwide problem. Many of the risks such as fake diplomas, plagiarism, or financial fraud exist in a diverse range of countries, and participants at the 2015 Paris Forum called for the creation of an international coalition on higher education integrity to pay particular attention to integrity indicators, etc.
“Of course, I want to remind you, that in our world today, while copying from another person’s academic work is plagiary, copying from many persons is called research, even if you do not give them the credit”
Drawing from the Policy Forum that was held in Paris in 2015, Liberia has the opportunity to learn many lessons to stop corruption in its school system and stop the malpractices in high schools and universities across the country by instituting measures and practices that will be beneficial for all schools in Liberia.
The Educational Stakeholder’s Integrity Forum comes at the time when school administrators, the Ministry of education, and financiers of education are concerned about the growing crime of academic fraud in the nation’s educational system.
Therefore, engaging the stakeholders is crucial and fundamental to getting to the root causes of educational malpractices in the country’s school system, and most importantly, the crucial role of the government to make available those policies and programs by which the private and public sectors must adhere to.
It is also the responsibility of the government to ensure that incentives and opportunities are at the disposal of the stakeholders to ensure a fraud-free system, such as salaries and benefits for teachers and a healthy and conducive learning environment for students.
This forum has brought together eighty participants including school administrators, principals, teachers, students, parents, and religious leaders for the purpose of helping and strengthening anti-corruption measures to foster moral integrity in the school system in Liberia.
Therefore, as you go about discussing this very important topic, I charge you to focus on the following:
- Bringing back the home and those values in the educational sector and how parents and schools can work together for the benefit of the students.
- A uniformed system of transfer of students from one school to the other.
- A uniformed system of entrance for public schools in the country.
- Integrity indicator system for schools.
- The Parent-Teacher Associations should be revitalized with a new mandate in keeping with the realities of the time.
- The Principals’ Association should review its mandate to conform to realities.
- Reintroduce Civics in the curriculum of the Ministry of Education.
It will be in our national best interest to take appropriate actions to ensure that existing educational policy and plans will be examined and evaluated so that it is brought up to a standard that commensurates with the sub-region and in accordance with international best practices.
Good leadership responsibility is to make sure that our education policy is reviewed periodically and amended if necessary, for sustainable growth and expansion of the sector to meet real challenges.
We also hold those who are responsible for the advancement of our education system, including officials at the Ministry of Education, school administrators, teachers, students, and other educational stakeholders such as parents. Future policy direction should ensure that appropriate actions will be taken timely and promptly against any individual who will perpetuate academic and examination malpractices at all levels of our educational system.
My fellow Liberians, in as much as I appreciate this Forum and the efforts you are going to make to foster integrity in the education sector, the faultiness of our current education system is so enormous that more time commitment is needed to tackle the real malpractices and other challenges faced by the educational system in Liberia.
In closing, may I again encourage you in all that we do, to THINK LIBERIA, LOVE LIBERIA, and BUILD LIBERIA.
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