The Republic of Liberia is located on the coast of western Africa and is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte ďIvoire and the North Atlantic Ocean. The population is 3,334,587 and the literacy rate is 57.5%. English is the official language and language of instruction, but is only spoken by 20% of the population. Approximately 20 ethnic languages are spoken, but few can be written.
Liberia was founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society as a colony for freed slaves from the United States. Other African Americans who had not been enslaved also moved to the colony. Many indigenous peoples had previously occupied the area since the 12th century. During the 15th-18th centuries, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders were in the area. On July 26, 1847, the Republic of Liberia gained independence. Two civil wars (1989-96 and 1999-03) have devastated the country.
The civil wars destroyed many schools and records in Liberia, and the country is in the process of rebuilding schools and reconstructing educational records. As a result, only 65% of primary school age children and 24% of secondary school age children are enrolled in school. Many students whose education was interrupted by the civil war are returning to school. Please see the Ministry of Education.
Primary and Secondary Education
Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 16, but school attendance is not enforced. Elementary school is 6 years, beginning at age 6. Junior high school is 3 years and senior high school is 3 years. Upon completion, students sat for the Liberia Senior High School Certificate Examination (LSHSCE), awarded by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) from about 1998-2018. However, starting in 2013, the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) was gradually introduced, also awarded by WAEC. The WASSCE has now fully replaced the LSHSCE. The scores for either exam can be verified online with WAEC scratch cards/PINs.
Post-secondary programs are offered at teacher training institutes, colleges, institutes and 2 universities. The University of Liberia was founded in 1862, making it one of the oldest universities in Africa. Cuttington University College, which was originally founded in Harper City, Maryland in 1888, relocated to Liberia in 1949. Both institutions suffered extensive damage to their physical plants and were closed during most of the civil wars. Many of the faculty fled the country during the civil wars and most have not returned.
Post-secondary institutions offer 2-year associate's degrees, 4-year bachelor's and 2-year master's programs. There are no doctoral programs currently offered in Liberia.
Primary/elementary school teachers are trained in a 3-year program at teacher training institutes leading to the Primary Teacher's Certificate/Grade C Teaching Certificate. Junior high school teachers are trained in a 2-year post-secondary program at teacher training colleges leading to a Grade B Teaching Certificate. Senior high school teachers must hold a bachelor's degree.