Liberia’s education strategy for the next five years will focus on further reducing the overage student population and ensuring more children can access a quality education at the appropriate age.
In 2016, 75 percent of students enrolled in early childhood education (ECE) were three to six years older than the appropriate age for their grade. By 2020, the overage gap was reduced by 8 percent. The government’s national policy on age-appropriate enrollment requires ECE attendance of an age range of three to six, and globally education programs for ECE are typically designed for children ages three to five.
Furthermore, international research shows that students who are older than their classmates in the same grade are less likely to be literate and more likely to drop out before completing basic education. Liberian children are completing about 4.2 years of schooling, on average, by the time they are 18. When factoring in what they learn, years of schooling comes down to 2.2 years, according to the World Bank’s Liberia Economic Update.
Over the years, the government, in collaboration with development partners, pioneered accelerated learning programs to transition overage learners out of ECE. This required implementing ECE teacher trainings to increase the proportion of teachers trained to teach ECE and support overage learners in accelerated learning programs. Other efforts included holding public awareness campaigns to sensitize parents on the importance of ECE and encouraging schools and communities to promote age-appropriate enrollment.
The government also provided grants to ECE schools in counties that showed low ECE enrollments, high numbers of children out of school, and high poverty rates to ensure families had the resources needed to send their children to school. The grants reduced ECE costs and addressed financial barriers to attending ECE.
To examine the quality of ECE schools, the Ministry of Education, the University of Liberia, and ECD Measure conducted a survey in several ECE schools using the Brief Early Childhood Quality Inventory (BEQI) tool. The BEQI observation data highlighted the need for more content knowledge teacher training and support and provision of relevant age-appropriate teaching and learning materials. It also highlighted the need for safer and more stimulating environments to enhance child learning and development. The Teach ECE a World Bank quality measurement tool, was also introduced in several ECE schools where classroom observation was conducted to measure the quality of teacher-child interactions. The tool has been adapted to include quality indicators from the Global Rating of the Environment (GROE), which measures the resources available in the ECE environment.
Age-appropriate enrollment is critical for increasing Liberia’s human capital index (HCI). Stronger coordination, knowledge sharing and an increase in spending in ECE will help the government achieve its goal of ensuring that more children have access to quality ECE and at the appropriate age.