Carrier guidance key to Rwanda’s development ambitions
Rwanda is increasingly becoming a subject of admiration for its extra-ordinary achievements and the reputation it has built in such a short time, thanks to its visionary leadership.
Today, I will attempt to examine Rwanda’s education system which is critical in the supply of workforce to the local labour market and beyond.
In the 21st Century, education is purely considered as an economic good with two crucial elements; consumer and capital good, in consideration. Education becomes a consumer good when it offers utility to the consumer and at the same time serves as a key input in the production of goods and services.
On the other hand, it becomes a capital good because it produces human resources necessary to transform economic and social well being of nations.
It is through this philosophy that Rwanda is striving to use its meager resources in accelerating its knowledge infrastructure, which it envisages as the most viable option for upgrading the general standards of living in the Rwandan society.
No doubt an educated and skilled labour force will trigger higher productivity which has a positive impact on the growth of the economy.
There is also consensus that education is an indispensable factor for development, not only to Rwanda’s cause, but almost everywhere in the world. This philosophy can be traced in the words of the great 19th Century economist Alfred Marshal, who argued that, “the most valuable of all Capital is that invested in human beings”.
It is in this context that many emerging countries like Singapore, Taiwan and China have of recent experienced unprecedented levels of development with robust and vibrant economies due to massive investments in education, all embedded in their capacities to produce competent, skilled and quality workforce who have fostered high labour productivity and technology.
In the context of Rwanda, to realize it medium and long-term development aspirations, and if it is to become a knowledge basket for the region, education must be promoted as an indispensable commodity.
But we have to devise new means and strategies – and dump the conventional approach to education.
The best form of education is one that directly solves the current economic challenges and which arms the student/graduate with what it takes to succeed and impact their society in today’s increasingly ferociously competitive world of work.
However with this dream of building an elite and a knowledge power base hoped to unlock the country’s socio-economic transformation, three key variables that seem to influence the supply of labour force in Rwanda need to be examined and addressed.
In my view, Government policy is one of the critical factors that influence the type of labour supply we have on the Rwandan labour market today.
This is largely because most education providers tend to abide by Government’s policy orientation in relation to type of education they offer, the number of scholarships offered to specific courses and other financial and non-financial services. All these have a direct impact on the supply of graduates in the country.
But education providers also directly influence the kind of graduates and professionals that our country churns out because of the limited number of courses they offer or their proximity to prospective students.
A variety of reasons influence student choices to pursue specific courses, which are often categorised in economic and non-economic determinants, with non-economic ones ranging from parent’s education to academic aptitude, family incomes and proximity of educational institution, while the economic factors relate to the expected private returns in education in terms of future income gains and employability.
Considering all that, if Rwanda is to become a knowledge basket for the region and beyond, the government needs to actively promote career development advisory services in the education system.
Particularly, carrier guidance should be strengthened at the lower levels of education when it is still practical to orient young people in fields that are deemed important and relevant for the economy. For lack of space I refrained myself from raising the issue of curricula again – which has been discussed broadly in this newspaper, and which is as critical as career guidance.
With these initiatives in place, the country will be in position to adequately respond to challenges associated with the supply of the most relevant, qualitative and competitive pool of graduates, both at home and beyond. That is the surest way through which Rwanda can become a knowledge power base.
Contact email: mugabiwamuka[at]yahoo.co.uk