Higher education refers to all formal education received after the completion of secondary schooling. In Sierra Leone, higher education comprises the following:
- The University of Sierra Leone with its constituent colleges and institutes
- The Open University
- Teachers Colleges
- Technical/Vocational Institutes
- Professional schools such as the National School of Nursing and the School of Hotels and Tourism.
In the new system, higher education is expected to help in the realization of the objectives of the new 6-3-3-4 system, such as the rapid enhancement of literacy in Sierra Leone and the improvement of educational opportunities for women and girls. Higher education also is expected to assist with the inclusion of new subjects that enhance a proper and positive understanding of Sierra Leone, including such subjects as indigenous languages and Sierra Leone studies.
The University: The university of Sierra Leone has, throughout the years, suffered from chronic neglect. It has been struggling for quality and relevance. The new system still entrusts the university with the responsibility of producing the high-caliber, top-level manpower needs of the country. It is hoped that the implementation of the White Paper on Kwame Report will take care of the problems that have paralyzed the university over the years. Fourah Bay College (FBC) continues to provide education in pure and applied sciences with special emphasis on professional career development in engineering, technology, law, arts, and behavioral sciences. Njala University College (NUC), continues to promote the sciences, agriculture, home economics, environmental science, and education. The new system endorses the introduction of forestry and veterinary science at Njala University College. The Institute of Public Administration and Management is to be upgraded to degree awarding status with a mandate to offer courses for professional qualifications such as the ACCA. Additionally, the College of Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) strengthens and promotes the medical profession and allied health sciences.
Technical/Vocational Education: The new 6-3-3-4 system greatly favors technical and vocational education. This kind of education does not only serve school leavers but also older adults as well. The technical/vocational component of higher education is designed to grapple with the shortage of skilled manpower. Some of the objectives of technical/vocational education are to increase the number of indigenous, skilled, lower middle-level, blue collar workers; to produce a more literate, numerate, middle-level workforce to enhance national development; to encourage women and girls to participate in national development through the acquisition of technical and vocational skills; and to create the conducive environment for the development of appropriate indigenous technology.
There are three levels of the technical/vocational educational structure. In level one, the student spends three years leading to the technical/vocational certificate (T/V certificate) stage three, or two years leading to the T/V certificate stage two, or one year leading to the T/V certificate stage one. In level two, the student spends two years leading to the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) after obtaining the T/V certificate stage three. In level three, the student spends two years leading to the Higher National Diploma (HND) after obtaining the OND. The polytechnics offer the HND as their highest qualification; the technical/vocational institutes offer the OND and HNC as their highest qualification, and the trade/technical/vocational centers offer the T/V certificate stages one to three. The community education/animation centers offer courses to early school leavers and adult learners, which qualify them for entry into technical/vocational centers.
Professional Education: Professional schools such as the School of Nursing; the Hotel and Tourism Training Center; the Institute of Library, Archive, and Information Studies; and the Law School are entrusted with the responsibility to train professionals.
Private Institutions: Private institutions have always been a significant part of Sierra Leone's education system. Unlike government/public institutions, private institutions do not receive assistance from public funds. The establishment and maintenance of private institutions is guaranteed in part 11, section 3 (c) of the Education Act No. 63 of 1964. The new system upholds the existence of private institutions as long as no child is discriminated against by the private institution on the grounds of race, creed, or religion. The new system endorses the principle of partnership in the provision of education. Although not funded with public funds, private institutions are expected to follow the prescribed national curriculum with specific reference to Sierra Leonean languages, Sierra Leone studies, and life skills subjects. They are also subject to regular and systematic inspection by the Department of Education Inspectorate staff. Students in these institutions are allowed to take the NPSE, BECE, and SSSCE. The new system stipulates that at least 25 percent of the teaching staff in a private institution shall be Sierra Leoneans.
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