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Admission Standards Toughened at University of Liberia

  • James Butty

Map of Liberia, Africa

Map of Liberia, Africa

A private consultant said the days are over when students were admitted into the University of Liberia through bribery or based on how many important people they known.

James Dorbor Jallah was hired by the university to manage and administer this year’s entrance examination.

Nearly 25,000 high school graduates who took the exam failed.

Minister of Education Etmonia David-Tarpeh reportedly said she would discuss the issue with university officials. However, she expressed doubt that all 25,000 students failed the admission exam.

Dorbor-Jallah said students seeking admission into the university would study harder if they are made to understand that admission is based on personal ability and not through bribery.

He said he was hired because the university has had problems in the past about the credibility and integrity of its admission exam.

“There is a perception in our society largely that once you take the University of Liberia admission exam, if you do not pay money to someone, or if you do not have appropriate connections, you would not be placed on the results list. So, the University has been grappling with how they could manage the process whereby people’s abilities would be truly measured on the basis of their performance on the examination,” he said.

Dorbor-Jallah made it clear he was not speaking as spokesman of the University of Liberia but rather as a private citizen who was contacted by university president, Dr. Emmet Dennis to help restore public confidence in the university’s admission process.

He said the 2013 admission exam was no different from previous exams that had been administered by the university in terms of subject matter content.

Dorbor-Jallah said the exam tested high school graduates based on the curriculum of the Ministry of Education.

But he said unlike previous exams, the faculty senate of the university decided that this time around, results would be reported on the basis of raw scores.

“To gain a pass and admission, one would have to make or earn 60 percent in mathematics and 70 percent in English of their raw scores, not curved or scaled results. So on the basis of that, we administered the exam. We went through the tabulation of the results, and it turned out that 308 of the more than 23,000 candidates actually did meet the threshold score in mathematics of 50 percent or above. But absolutely no one was able to reach the threshold score in English of 70 percent. That is why the university has reported that no one passed its admission exam,” he said.

Minister of Education Etmonia David-Tarpeh reportedly said she would discuss the issue with university officials. But she expressed doubts that all 25,000 students failed the admission exam.

Dorbor-Jallah said he made a commitment to the university that he and his team would document the process in such a way that the results can be replicated by anyone.

“If the minister is interested, or if any practitioner in the educational sector is interested, I’m sure the university will be willing to go through the process,” Dorbor-Jallah said.

He said he and his team tried to lay the foundation for the University of Liberia to see how an examination can be conducted and how the integrity can be preserved.

“We hope that the university will continue on this path so that there can be a restoration of public confidence in the process and people can begin to know that whoever merits admission into the university is the one who gets admitted and not for any other external factors,” he said.

Dorbor-Jallah said there is also a message that Liberia as a nation can draw from the mass failures of this year’s university admission exam.

“For the country as a whole, I think this is a clarion call that we need to all see that the king is moving around naked and not pretend as though the emperor has his finest clothes on,” he said.

He said Liberia as a nation must begin the process of soul-searching by carefully analyzing the root causes of the mass failures because the future of a nation depends on the education of its youth.

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