Liberian Education System: Traditional Methodology vs. Innovative Technologies – A Perspective
By Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor
While the nations of the world are endeavoring to eliminate the spreading of the coronavirus infection, let me reflect on the importance of Traditional Methodology & Innovative Technologies in the contemporary Liberian classrooms.
Dr. Martha Stone said it best when she wrote about the problems and difficulties regarding the application of innovative technologies in American education. She said that the American society thinks about technology first and education later. The role of technology is to enhance student learning, but not as a custodian of the learning process.
Liberia’s Education needs to return to its traditional roots, where emphasis is placed on the students and their learning environments, especially at the elementary and junior high school levels. The competency of classroom teachers and their abilities to use technology to enhance learning, the ability of school administrators to create an outreach program designed to foster school-community relations, collaboration, and designing a system where accountability is a daily reality, etc., should be the land mark of contemporary Liberian Education.
There should be an integration of tradition instructional strategies and technological devices. These two components should be designed to foster students learning and to make the learning process fulfilling. Memorization of the multiplication tables is presently discouraged in some elementary and junior high schools, especially in some American secondary curriculum. Since Equity 2000 was introduced in the 1990s in the United States, making Algebra accessible to incoming high school freshmen, the use of calculators in math classes continue to have an impact on the ability of most high school freshmen to compute simple Arithmetic problems, without the use of the calculators.
The application of technology in the classroom is to assist the process of instruction and learning, providing students the opportunity to have a hand –on- experience and helps students to come to the realization of the parallel connection between technologies use and the academic foundation upon which effective learning takes place.
There is a need for the traditional methods of teaching in Liberian schools, especially within the Primary, Elementary and junior Grades to be encouraged. Traditional methodology should be re-emphasized in the curriculum in the primary, elementary and junior levels.
I hope Liberian Education System, is continuing to address each of the following content area concerns.
For examples in the following content areas:
Liberian elementary students (Courtesy of pilmil.org)
1. If children are not taught phonics, they will be unable to read well with comprehension.
2. If Children are not taught addition and subtraction facts, they will be unable to add or subtract.
3. If Children are not taught to memorize their multiplication tables, they will be unable to multiply, divide, do fractions, decimals, percentages or pass any higher Math.
4. If Children are not taught the 8 parts of speech, sentence structures, paragraph structures, essay structures or punctuation, they will be unable to organize simple thoughts and ideas on paper or conduct an argument with supporting facts that has a focus.
Memorization has a role in the mental development of children. Rote memorization, should not be scoffed, but rather encouraged and fostered from the primary through the junior school levels.
However, some contemporary educators continue to outline, that traditional methodology has several disadvantages. Mr. Iam Jaebi outlined the following disadvantages.
- Lacks Student Focused Learning
“A drawback of traditional training is that it inherently places the most value on standards, curriculum and passing tests as opposed to student-focused learning. Student-focused learning places value on the student and builds the curriculum around the questions young people need answered to understand the material.”
- Lacks Emphasis on Critical Thinking
“Traditional classroom training doesn’t encourage critical thinking skills, the ability to actively apply information gained through experience and reasoning. Instead, traditional training emphasizes the role of teachers as knowledge dispensers and students as repositories. This style of learning doesn’t allow students deeper levels of understanding required for complex concepts and lifelong learning.”
- Lacks Process Oriented Learning
“Traditional training emphasizes passing tests, whether students under testing material. The learning process is thus devalued, and students are not encouraged to understand the methods, techniques and skills required to find answers. Constructivist learning holds the process as important as the results because it stimulates skills important long after schooling.”
- Lacks Emphasis on Larger Concepts or Structures
“Rather than focusing on larger concepts and considering student context in the learning as constructivist training does, traditional training focuses on basic skills and gradually builds to a whole. While this simplifies learning, it provides little context, which can disconnect learners.”
- Lacks Interactivity
“Traditional training emphasizes individual student work and projects and is poor preparation for a student’s future endeavors, which are likely to include working on teams and collaborating with colleagues. Under this training model, students receive few opportunities to practice group dynamics and teamwork” (https://classroom.synonym.com/disadvantages-traditional-classroom-training-7866705.html).
John Schacter recommends five areas through which students’ can have access to technology. He pointed out areas such as computer assisted instruction, integrated learning systems technology, simulations and software that teaches higher order thinking, collaborative network technologies and deign and programming technologies.
Traditional method should be restricted at the primary, elementary and junior high school levels. Critical thinking should be introduced at the junior, high school and college levels.
The introduction of Critical Thinking at a junior and high school levels is essential, especially within developing countries. In its most basic expression, critical thinking occurs when students are given the opportunity to analyze, evaluate, interpret, or synthesize information and apply creative thought to form an argument, solve a problem, or reach a conclusion. Perhaps, critical thinking courses will help Liberians students, especially those at the college level, to realize that the role of governance is the opportunity to be of service to the society, especially, as a president, ministers of government, and not the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the public. Critical thinking helps young people to realize the enormous benefits of a sense of service to society.
Research continues to point out, that those who perpetuate corrupt practices in government are only operating in their own gratifications and not in the public interest. Consequences, societies in which individuals only serve their own interests, produce a society that is underdeveloped, in the areas of Education, Health, Road Networks, unproductive agricultural activities, etc. Liberian educators need to redesign a new academic curriculum that will reflect critical thinking courses, starting from the junior, senior high schools and through college years. This critical mindset will help students upon their graduation from college, to have feelings of nationalism, patriotism and their role in government as an opportunity to be of service to the Liberian people.
Indeed, technology has enabled education practitioners to gain access to immediate information, sharing and retention of information. The application of technology will without doubt, continue to have great impact on education. Its intrusive importance in education cannot be overlooked. Traditional Methodology & Innovative Technologies, in some degrees, are indeed complimentary. Subsequently, the challenge to democracy in Africa is not the prevalence of ethnic diversity, but the use of identity politics to promote narrow tribal interests. It is tribalism. Critical Thinking Courses in the Classrooms, will help to minimize this unfortunate mindset. The new mindset will help all Liberians to perceive the importance of individual Liberian, on the content of his/her character and not on ethnic identity.
Yes indeed, Mr. Horace Mann (One of America’s great Educators), was correct when he echoed the following reflections, relevant to the Principles of America’s Public Education:
- “citizens cannot maintain both ignorance and freedom; (2) this education should be paid for, controlled and maintained by the public; (3) this education should be provided in schools that embrace children from varying backgrounds; (4) this education must be nonsectarian; (5) this education must be taught using tenets of a free society; and (6) this education must be provided by well-trained, professional teachers“ (https://www.biography.com/scholar/horace-mann).
I wish all Liberian students, teachers, administrators and the Ministry of Education, a Successful School Year, 2020 to 2021
Mr. Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor is an Educator. He is a graduate of Cuttington University, Liberia; Howard University Washington, D.C, and Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. He is a former Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority of Liberia, NPA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org