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Sierra Leone News: British High Commission launches SPHIER program

Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) was yesterday Thursday launched at the British High Commissioner’s Residence at Hill station. The Minister of Higher Education, Aiah Gbakima said education is for development and there are three stages that we must accept if the country’s education is to develop; 1. access, 2. quality and 3. relevance. “It is high time that tertiary education designs courses to meet the market demands and are correct for industries and other institutions to be part of developing the market curriculum for our workforce. Many students graduate and they do not have jobs because they are not employable.” He said the time is now for students and lecturers to embrace the change and know that cheating in all forms between students and lecturers are over as we want quality graduates in the workforce. He said buying of degrees is now a thing of the past and sleeping with lecturers will not happen again as these acts are criminal and those that are caught will face the full force of the law. “It is now time for universities and colleges to be in charge of degrees and polytechnics in charge of certificates and diplomas. Also, it is heart rending for students to qualify and wait for years before receiving their certificates. The same day that they qualify is the same day they should receive their certificates because when they get out in job seeking they have no documents to prove they are qualified.” The SPHIER project, funded by UKaid, brings together all seven higher education institutions (HEls) in the country with three national and three international partners, to transform the quality of higher education in Sierra Leone. A realigned curriculum and a capacity building program for university staff will help provide graduates with the skills they need to succeed. The project will facilitate the introduction of a National Qualifications Framework that strengthens quality assurance – maintaining and measuring standards across all universities. “The Government of Sierra Leone welcomes this significant UK investment in the quality of higher education delivery in Sierra Leone. The project is closely aligned to the Ministry’s strategic priorities. Our graduates need to be equipped with the technical and soft skills employers are looking for. Our curricula and teaching methods are in urgent need of revision. Higher education and industry must work together to ensure greater relevance. The establishment of a new National Qualifications Framework and Quality Assurance mechanism will embed these changes across the higher education system,” said Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical & Higher Education This project is part of the UKaid supported Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) program (www.spheir.org.uk). SPHEIR is managed by a consortium led by the British Council that includes PwC and Universities UK International (UUKI). It aims to deliver systemic and sustainable change within higher education systems, enabling them to better meet graduate and labour market needs and support inclusive development and economic growth. SPHEIR provides funding and support to large-scale partnerships working across different sectors and countries to improve the quality, relevance, accessibility and affordability of higher education. It encourages new and diverse collaborators to support higher education reform. “SPHEIR is one strand of a package of support that UKaid provides to education in Sierra Leone. We believe that more effective higher education institutions will be a key to generating the job-ready, entrepreneurial graduates needed to accelerate development, build inclusive societies and promote strong economic growth in Sierra Leone” said Mary Hunt, Head of Office, DFID Sierra Leone. In the past, Sierra Leone’s higher education system has been held back due to funding, limited staff training opportunities, a weak research infrastructure and the absence of an effective quality management system. This has prevented universities aligning course content with the needs of the job market and the aspirations of the growing number of students. “Graduate employability is a challenge everywhere. This project sets out to tackle the issue of preparing Sierra Leone’s graduates for the 21st century — equipping them with the skills, knowledge and attributes needed to build a secure and prosperous future for Sierra Leone. It’s great to see Kings College London working hand in hand with all seven Sierra Leonean public and private universities towards this common goal,” said Tony Reilly, Country Director, British Council. By September 2021, the project will see students in seven universities enrolled in eight key degree programs that conform to new national quality assurance standards. Teaching will adopt best-practice pedagogical approaches and innovative curricula to equip graduate with skills and knowledge that employers’ value. All universities and the Tertiary Education Commission will be using new expertise, tools and systems to monitor and continually improve quality and standards. Employers will be routinely involved in the design and delivery of degree programs to ensure relevance.


Friday November 30, 2018.

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