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Educational System—overview

In 1995 the adult literacy rate for Liberia was estimated to be only 38.3 percent—53.9 percent for men 15 years of age or older and just 22.4 percent for adult Liberian women. That year Liberia had an estimated 1 million adult illiterates, nearly two-thirds of whom (62 percent) were women. School attendance in Liberia has been considerably lower on average for girls than boys, especially in the rural areas. (Education-related statistics for the 1990s were not regularly recorded due to the social disruptions and physical damage caused by the civil war, making accurate and reliable counts for this period hard to come by.) School attendance quite naturally declined sharply during the war. The scale of disruption of normal social relations was enormous, especially for those children and youth pulled into the violence as direct participants in the fighting and as "soldier's wives" (the euphemism for the many young women and girls kidnapped by combatants and forced to submit to repeated sexual violence). Studies of the demobilization programs following Liberia's civil war of the 1990s indicated that significant problems had arisen in ending and recovering from the war. Approximately just 4,000 child soldiers of up to 20,000 who had participated in the fighting had been demobilized by 2001. Furthermore, many of the child soldiers who were awaiting demobilization (89 percent of the total) disappeared before the demobilization process was completed in 1997, with large numbers suspected of having returned to the bush or government side to continue the fighting. Clearly, special efforts continue to be needed to encourage young women and men who were part of the violence to return to school, recover from their trauma, and rebuild their lives. Flexible and responsive education programs are most definitely in order to suit their special needs.

The Ministry of Education is the principal government agency charged with overseeing the planning and implementation of education and school policies in Liberia. Though the reconstruction of the country's social infrastructure has taken place at a rather slow pace, educational opportunities also have been provided to Liberian students by a range of nongovernmental organizations (local, national, and international) and with the financial support of bilateral partners and intergovernmental agencies. For example, in the year 2000 UNESCO celebrated 50 years of partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Education in development programming, and UNESCO has continued to provide substantial funding to Liberia in the post-war years to support a wide variety of educational and cultural programs.

English is the official language of instruction in Liberian public schools, aimed at fostering a sense of national unity and facilitating communication across the country's many ethnic groups by the use of a common language. The country's low economic development and inconsistent electric supply complicate access to educational technology, computing, and Internet services. Very limited Internet access is available in Monrovia in those parts of the city where electricity is either generated by the consumer or provided by the government. For most schools in Liberia, finding sufficient texts and school supplies at a much more basic level than computers is still a formidable challenge.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceLiberia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education