Members of the Civil Society Platform in Kigali have called on the government to reconsider the policy of automatic promotion of students, saying it compromises the quality of the country’s education.
They made the call at a two-day dialogue which was held last week in Kigali.
What is being referred to as “automatic promotion” was an initiative by the government that calls on schools to give special attention and extra coaching to students who perform poorly in the course of the year so as to minimise cases of repeating of classes.
As a result of the initiative, the cases of repeating have remarkably dropped.
However, there have been cases of schools that have denied the struggling students special attention and yet gone ahead and allowed them to move to the next class.
Members of the civil society raised the issue during a dialogue convened to share ideas on the current education system in order to enhance efficiency in the education sector.
The dialogue was held under the theme: “Rwanda’s road to an effective twelve-year basic education”.
Edouard Munyemaliza, the coordinator of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said this policy encourages laxity among students and bears a negative impact on the quality of the country’s graduates.
“Automatic promotion promotes delinquency among students. They do not concentrate on their studies like before, they are no longer competent. If it continues like that the students will continue to come out half baked,” he said.
Munyemaliza added this is why nowadays many students complete secondary school when they cannot even construct a sentence or solve a simple task.
“Students should be promoted based on their performance,” he added.
Automatic promotion policy implementation started in 2001 to curb the dropout rate in schools.
According a survey conducted by education activists, since 2004, the repetition rate for students in lower secondary dropped from 19 per cent to six per cent while dropout rate at primary school went down from 14 per cent to five per cent.
Olive Mukandekezi, a teacher, said the policy makes it difficult for a student to be made to repeat a class since it involves convening a meeting to take such a decision even when results show that a particular student has failed.
“This policy has no benefits to the students. There is need to change it on quality grounds as these students are the future leaders,” Mukandekezi said.
Francine Umurungi, institutional development and advocacy coordinator at Transparency International Rwanda, said there was no logic in promoting students to another level when they fail.
However, Mathias Harebamungu, the Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, clarified on the policy, saying it is not mandatory to have students promoted to the next class.
“There is no automatic promotion in schools, if a student fails all subjects; they are made to repeat a class. A student may be weak in some subjects but fair in others, I do not see why they have to repeat in this case,” he said.
Harebamungu pointed out that last year the repetition rate was at 10 per cent.
Meanwhile, at the dialogue that drew participation from a wide range of stakeholders in the education sector, the progress registered in the education sector and its role in development was highlighted.The Minister for Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, emphasised that education is a fundamental human right and essential tool to achieve development.
Over the last 20 years, various initiatives have been implemented and the country is now realising the benefits.
“The number of students at primary level has more than doubled. There are almost nine times more students in secondary schools and those in higher education are a massive 17 times more than before. All children have a right to go to school,” Minister Biruta pointed out.