Liberia: Bassa High Alumnus Dr. Elwood Dunn Wants Education to Reflect Rich Liberian Historical Experience

U.S. — Mr. D. Elwood Dunn, an alumnus of the Bassa High School, has said investing in 21st century education in Liberia requires first and foremost an appreciation of contexts – broad historically, and narrowly focused on the Liberian experience, a Liberian experience that appreciates the African, Islamic and Western heritages.

He was speaking when he served as guest speaker at the Bassa High School Association in the United States of America on August 13.

“Against that appreciation comes the central question of what exactly we are investing in when we say 21st century education? And we suggest that while not downplaying the ubiquitous tool of money, we are really talking about investing in curricula that have critical thinking at their core, investing in a new teacher, a new student,” he said.

“But you also know that money has been a tool, a means to an end. The end is to assemble all the relevant elements that make for purposeful learning. And one cannot over- emphasize the imperative of learning in historical and socio-cultural contexts,” he added.

Dunn said schools in Liberia should investing in curricula driven by critical thinking, as opposed to rote learning. “We did not do this in my time at Bassa High School. Rote learning was then the norm, a debilitating norm at that. For example, we were not taught in civics classes the Constitution of Liberia and its meaning. Instead, we were taught to respect “constituted authority,” not based on the legitimacy of that authority, but supposedly as ordained by God.”

According to him, the 21st century demands a teacher that is flexible, friendly, innovative, and creative, with the skills of a researcher. “A teacher that is trusted and respected by students, an adaptive teacher that is a life-long learner, that is technology savvy, collaborative, and who is an advocate for the teaching profession, and a role model for students.”

Dunn also said the 21st century student should be a critical thinker, focused on the development of talent and abilities in order to reach their full potential; understands the interconnectedness of all people, and appreciates the environment. “Such student should be ready to become a healthy and responsible member of her/his community.”

“A student who has been exposed to actionable thinking, innovation, and creativity, and taught, encouraged and nurtured in problem-solving.”

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