2012 Liberia: Evaluation of the Accelerated Learning Program in Liberia
Author: Stella Manda
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The Liberia Ministry of Education, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), commissioned a consultancy to evaluate the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) in the country. Results from the evaluation are expected to be utilised for policy and programme related discussions on two planned initiatives: the Non-Formal Education (NFE) programme in the Education Sector Plan (ESP) and the Comprehensive Education Policy.
Following the latest MOE pronouncement to phase out the ALP in 2009, some implementing partners and education development partners ended their support to ALP while others, such as IBIS, USAID and UNICEF, started to phase out their implementation plans. Meanwhile the government have factored the ALP in some of its policy document such as the Education Reform Act of 2011; the Education Sector Plan of 2011; and the Liberian Primary Education recovery Program of 2007. However the government would require empirical evidence on the future utility of the ALP. UNICEF, the lead agency in education in general and the Alp in particular is set to develop a joint country programme with the GOL. It is against this background that UNICEF supported the Liberia Ministry of Education to carry out this evaluation.
Hence the purpose of the evaluation is to establish the extent that the ALP was relevant, efficient and effective in providing education to children whose education was interrupted by the Liberia war. However, since the number of young people above the official school age in the primary education system in Liberia is still very high (65 per cent of all learner) the results of the evaluation of the ALP will provide empirical evidence for its future utility.
Led by a technical committee of comprising officials from the implementing partners, the MOE and LISGIS, the evaluation was based mostly on secondary evidence. Hence both quantitative and qualitative data were drawn from databases, plans, reports and related tools. To validate data from secondary evidence data was collected from at least 120 respondents from institutions and from the 5 sampled counties - 33% of all the counties in Liberia; namely: Bomi (Low ALP enrolment); Grand Bassa (Low ALP and girls’ primary school enrolment; Maryland (Low Alp enrolment); Montserrado (High ALP enrolment; Nimba (highest ALP enrolment). Accordingly, care was taken that the schools that were selected provided urban, peri-urban and rural representation.
Respondents for primary data included: i) MoE HQ officials; ii) County education officers; iii) County education officers; iv) District education officers; v) PTA chairpersons PTA members/parents/guardians; vi) Regular primary school/ALP principals; v) ALP Teachers Regular primary school; vi) ALP teachers; vii) ALP learners; viii) Regular primary school learners; ix) Ex-ALP learners in the JHS grade 7 and x) Grade 7 JHS; xii) officials from the EDPs and the IPs. Fieldwork was carried out by eight researchers were orientated on the assignment for two days ion during which they pre-tested and revised the questionnaire The main sources of data were: i) Documentary review/desk study; ii) Observations; iii) Focus group discussion with; iv) SWOT analyses; v) Structured and unstructured interviews.
Limited time and personnel impacted on adequate achievement of some methodologies such as content analysis of the ALP and the conventional primary education curriculum and comparisons and trends of the grade 6 WAC examinations for the ALP implementing schools and the regular schools. Unrecorded phasing out of ALP schools impacted on coverage of field research. However, these limitations did not impact findings.
Findings and Conclusions:
- ALP as a mode of education would still be relevant provided it is transformed for relevance to the current situation in particular as: i) the GOL is implementing 9 years of free & compulsory basic education in Liberia; ii) for the speedy provision of education to children & adolescents who are still above school age; iii) for reducing costs of free primary education and speeding up the achievement of the NER in the education system.
- Positioning of the ALP in formal primary system and in the same MOE institutional and governance structures, was very efficient academically and economically as it ensured trust from both parents and learners of the quality of teaching and learning. However, the short-term vision for the ALP as a short-lived programme, affected the certainty of the programme’s existence
- In terms of efficiency of the ALP as an education sub-system: i) ALP learners performed the same at times better than the conventional primary learners; ii) Until the latest announcement of the phasing out of the ALP in 2002, most times ALP dropout was low and completion rate was good; iii) the ALP contributed to increased access to basic education countrywide. The evaluation concludes that the ALP was effective and a worthy education endeavour in Liberia.
- The ALP, was effective in providing a rapid education safety net and learning spaces for children and adolescents affected by the war, who were above the official school age . It managed to remove obstacles such as: i) official age requirement for enrolling in primary education; ii) having been to stay in primary school for six years; iii) direct fee paying; ii) paying for the non-fee costs including examination fees; iii) shortened learning cycle for catching up with schooling and employment; iv) embarrassment of the older learner to sit with the younger learners; v) non-acceptance of the CAFFs by society and parents and vi) non-acceptance in primary schools, of the learner-mothers.
- Given the satisfaction expressed by both the ALP and ex-ALP learners in different evaluation including this one; there is need to link link ALP teacher trai ning content and organisation to the mainstream teacher training in liberia
- Translate the ALP policy guidelines into standing orders
- ALP should have had have separate textbooks with sythesized content reflecting 100% content of the content of the regular primary school textbooks as dropping some topice deprived the ALP learners of knowledge of those topics
- If ALP is to continue the curriculum needs to be reviewd to be equivalent with the current primary education one which has since 1999 changed twice; and textbooks special for ALP should be developed
- If the ALP has to continue it has to be on scale and within a short period of time. To realize the latter, financial support from all the key players in ALP in Liberia would need to be synchronized with the speed of building the capacity of the GOL.
- The solution to a more effective accelerated learning programme does not lie in the content of the programme and the age of the learners only but on the way the programme was managed with multiple and parallel hierarchies, once these are streamlined, it is still possible to quickly address the problem of learners above the official primary school age in Liberia without compromising quality;
- MOE to make it mandatory for the IPs to have exit strategies for education programmes such as the ALP;
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