National Assessment Shows Liberian Primary School Students Struggle With Reading and Math Skills

MONROVIA – A recent national learning assessment conducted in Liberia has revealed significant challenges in primary school students’ literacy and numeracy skills. The assessment, which covered over 3,000 grade 3 and 6 students across 120 schools in seven counties, found that students are falling short of national benchmarks in reading fluency and math proficiency.

“The overall assessment findings show that our primary kids are not doing well when it comes to mastering literacy and numeracy skills,” the report states.

For example, only 3.3% of grade 3 students met the Ministry of Education’s reading proficiency benchmark of 45 correct words per minute. On average, students could only read 14 words per minute correctly.

This highlights a critical educational issue known as “learning poverty,” a term used by the World Bank and others to describe situations where 10-year-olds cannot read and comprehend basic texts appropriate for their grade level.

Background and Goals of the Assessment

The assessment is part of Liberia’s first National Learning Assessment System, launched in 2021 by the Ministry of Education (MoE) with technical support from Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA). The national policy and framework for this system were adopted by the Liberian government in the same year.

The initial pilot was successful, paving the way for a wider rollout in 2023 across seven counties: Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Bong, Margibi, Montserrado, Nimba, and Grand Bassa.

The overall goal of the National Learning Assessment System is to create a sustainable system for evaluating learning outcomes at two key points in a child’s primary education: grade 3 (midway through) and grade 6 (upon completion). This allows for early identification of learning gaps and informs targeted interventions.

The Ministry of Education in a press release said, it welcomes feedback from media outlets on the report to help improve future assessments.

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