Every Single Applicant Fails University of Liberia’s Entrance Exam

Nearly 25,000 students flunked the test

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Getty/Jon Schulte

The war-torn nation of Liberia’s education system is “a mess,” according to none other than the African nation’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But it now appears to have hit a new low, with the entire prospective freshman class failing their entrance exams to one of the country’s two state-run universities.

The flunked students — totalling almost 25,000 in number — were applying to the University of Liberia; each of the students paid a $25 fee to take the test.

While the BBC reports this is the first time all students taking the exam failed to pass, Liberia’s educational system has long struggled to overcome the country’s political and humanitarian strife. The country has suffered two civil wars since 1989, the second of which ended just a decade ago. According to the broadcaster, “many schools lack basic education material and teachers are poorly qualified.”

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Many in Liberia responded to the news with shock and disbelief. Education Minister Etmonia David-Tarpeh compared the event to “mass murder,” and promised to discuss the mass-failure with university personnel.  “I know there are a lot of weaknesses in the schools but for a whole group of people to take exams and every single one of them to fail, I have my doubts about that,” said David-Tarpeh.

However, James Dorbor Jallah, a consultant brought in by the university to oversee its admissions process, defended the school’s decision. Jallah told Voice of America he was hired to restore credibility to an exam that has often been victim to corruption, and that this year’s low scores are merely the result of a return to meritocracy.

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“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,” explained Dorbor-Jallah.

The university decided that the best way to avoid any impropriety was to require a minimum raw score from all applicants, with no curve or other grading assistance. So this year’s test mandated a flat score of 60% in math, and 70% in English, in order to receive a passing grade. Three hundred and eight out of the 25,000 applicants passed the mathematics component — a little over 1%. Unfortunately, none of the students achieved the required result in English.

Despite the discouraging scores, Dorbor-Jallah told Voice of America that restoring public trust in the higher education system is more important than higher admission statistics: “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.”

35 comments
AAKDJ
AAKDJ

The executors in charge of the Michael Jackson estate will be investigated in a documentary, “Follow the Money,” being produced by Edward Bass, who is already in a legal battle with them.edward bass producer

JakKovacik
JakKovacik

none of these kids do. letting them in just to let them in doesn't accomplish a thing. it's like social promotion. bet 365

Compat
Compat

This requires an indepedant investigation and not to have the same corrupt officials of goverment wanting to fix the situation. It is the state that has failed itself. This is what happens when there is a corrupt and incapable government. It fails itself......

Massa
Massa

Watch and see.  Once money changes hands, some of those failures will automatically turn into passes.  this too is Liberia.

Massa
Massa

Th Minister of Education in Liberia is an old woman out of step with current educational standards.  The inistry itself is a delapidated building with no electricity or running water.  That being said, Presdient Srleaf has filled her cabinet wit huseless andincompetent friends who are unable to effectively manage anything.  while she spends her time travelling  abroad, Liberians are dying from corruption and poverty.  All the president's  sons  and ffriends are in government  drawing salaries of about $10,000 a month and she refuses to fire this Minister of education for her dismal failutre becasue she is an old friend. 

greenjenkins
greenjenkins

@TIME: All 25,000 applicants fail University of Liberia's entrance exam | ti.me/19KVfyp - thinking abt education, war, credibility

owinewton
owinewton

@TIME @TIMENewsFeed The exam itself scores a failing grade. The cut off points and "meritocracy" were arbitrary, not correlated to anything

teralex42
teralex42

Being a retired educator I suspect one of two things: faulty exam design  or the educational system and the university  staff who set the criteria have not communicated at all with each other for many years!

Champagne
Champagne

Can anyone say CORRUPTION. I am certain corruption runs rampant throughout Liberia including their educational system. It's systemic strife and wickedness.

vortex100
vortex100

Not one intelligent soul out of 25000 applicants? Something is very fishy here. Even in the most destitute nations there are a few very smart people, especially out of a number as high as 25000. Something is wrong. and it is likely not the applicants. I don't trust this at all.

trivialtony
trivialtony

THAT will teach them to copy off their neighbor's paper.

GeraldLarey
GeraldLarey

Sounds like a Trump University...after all fees are paid, of course.

EllenieAsh
EllenieAsh

The Problem is not in the past but in the Present and Future.    What can be done to bring these students into the Freshman level of education.  
If the only problems are in Mathematics and English, then the University must offer a year of supplementary instruction in these areas and any others to bring them to the Freshman levels.  That way the Preparation will be accomplished and those who have followed through with the instruction can go into the Next Freshman Class.

Raaheli
Raaheli

@madayo Dayo. I miss you. stop this long distance foolishness.

Karl
Karl

Liberia was settled by literate freed slaves from the US South before the Civil War, they setup a state that lasted under the rule of their descendants for over a century. They had a civil war something like 20 years ago where the natives killed most of that literate class, I believe the President of Liberia's heart was eaten by some of the rebels. So there is history here explaining a lack of educational opportunities. It might be helpful to include quick doses of history to put stories in context. Under the current government Liberia has an honest, hard working and good president, but the poor woman has to handle a cesspool  of troubles from poverty to environmental degradation by an ever growing population and also the exploitation by a few to enrich themselves at the expense of everybody else. These kinds of problems require thought out organized help from Western nations that could provide it and make a world of difference. But we know that aint gonna happen. So expect more of the same in the long run. The same, meaning, a continuing downward spiral of from bad enough, to even worse.

okayfine
okayfine

@teralex42 Is it at all possible that the teachers may be equally as unprepared as the students they teach?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@teralex42 

or, just maybe, their school system failed them. just because the schools suck doesn't mean they should lower the standards to let kids in because that makes university degrees worthless. you have to have a certain level of knowledge to go to university. none of these kids do. letting them in just to let them in doesn't accomplish a thing. it's like social promotion. look how that turned out

RobertSF
RobertSF

@Karl But don't forget that the literate freed slaves that settled in Liberia then proceeded to treat the local natives like slaves too. Two centuries later, the local natives finally had it with being treated like second class citizens.

Karl
Karl

@RobertSF @Karl You are 100% correct. I thought I implied but maybe not well enough.

RobertSF
RobertSF

@Karl I guess you did, reading it again. Cheers. :)