On November 11, primary six, senior three and senior six students will sit their national examinations.
For the first time, candidates will be tested based on the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), which is different from what they have been doing in the past years.
Primary Leaving Examinations candidates during their exams. File.
The CBC was launched in 2015 after the review of the old curriculum to align the education system with national aspirations, and to ensure that knowledge, skills, attitudes and values acquired by Rwandans in schools meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
The new curriculum is learner-centred and takes education to higher levels by providing challenging and engaging knowledge experiences which require deep thinking, rather than cram work. It serves as a guide to competency-based teaching and learning, and also ensures that there is coherence in the delivery of education across all levels of general education in Rwandan schools.
As students prepared?
Although most schools are ready for the examinations, a few still have doubts on whether their students will be able to excel, now that tests are under a new programme.
Jerome Hakizimana, a teacher at TTC Muramba School in Ngororero District, says the new curriculum might see assessment of students inadequately altered.
“We are very much prepared for the exams; the only challenge is that we are not fully familiar with competence-based assessment. This, to some extent, creates fear and confusion,” he says.
He says that Rwanda Education Board (REB) has been training many teachers on CBC, and those who were trained are now helping students with various exercises that are in line with competence-based assessment, which is why many schools have confidence in their students.
In Muhanda sector, Ngororero District, schools prepared final tests in all subjects to see if learners are prepared.
Patrick Nsanganira, a teacher in Ngororero District, says this was done during mock exams, and that they are optimistic that they will do well, despite the fact that students are still getting acquainted with the programme under which the actual examinations will be set.
“This is good because our students have been taught how to study, not just to succeed in exams, but in other areas, which is part of the new curriculum,” he says.
Nsanganira says schools should focus on behaviour and advise the candidates to have discipline throughout the exam period. This, he says, will keep them from any malpractices.
Do’s and don’ts
Jean d’Amour Niyigena, a language teacher at GS Rwiri, Ngororero District, Western Province, says that as far as revision and final touches are concerned, teachers should avoid asking students to rely on past national examinations.
He says that this is so because the questions that used to be set before are different and that it will not help students think critically.
Hakizimana says, for instance, that in past years, exams normally asked students to define, explain, and state, among others. However, with CBC, critical thinking is encouraged, and different models may be used.
He says this includes justifying the reasons why, with examples explained, compared and contrasted, among others. These are the things teachers should focus on, and that many schools are doing so because teachers were given knowledge on it.
“All in all, today’s examinations will help learners use critical thinking skills (like relating what they study to real life situations) rather than relying on cram work (giving back what they were given without any innovation),” he says.
In order to build confidence among students, Niyigena says teachers should involve candidates in group studies/discussions.
“With confidence, students will face examinations with determination, which in the end will help them succeed,” he says.
Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher in Kicukiro, believes that like any other part of the body, the brain needs sufficient rest; therefore, setting time for students to rest is important.
He says that although teachers may want their students to work harder in this last period, it should not come at the expense of all their time.
“When students are given a lot of work at the last minute, they may end up concentrating more on that during their revision. This is because some teachers want to churn out everything at the last minute since they didn’t use their time well earlier,” he says.
He adds that another important aspect teachers and students should put into consideration is time.
He says it all starts with time — knowing how to use time well is vital. This can be seen when teachers engage their students in thorough revision weeks or even months before they sit for their final exams.
He says a teacher who is able to use their time well will always have enough stretch to prepare students. Just like teachers, students too should learn how to balance their time well.
Hakizimana says that the only challenge for curriculum implementation is resistance to change. Teachers are using learner-centred approach, integrating ICT in education which is being used by both teachers and students.
He says that some school leaders may resist change or require more time to adjust. Some still hold on to the old system because they believe it’s what they have been doing all along.
He encourages all schools and teachers to change their mindset and understand that development of society comes with adjustment.
What officials say
Rwanda Education Board Director General Dr Irené Ndayambaje says they normally uphold examination standards and conditions, right from setting examination questions, printing, filing, packaging and distributing.
He says Rwanda has been reliable in terms of examination setting and among the best when it comes to giving feedback, which is important.
Although this is the first time the competence-based curriculum will be tested three years after its launch, Ndayambaje says students and teachers should take it normally.
“They shouldn’t panic because they have been going through the curriculum and there is nothing to worry about. The assessment pattern will reflect the competence-based curriculum frame work,” he says.
He adds that at distinct level, students have been able to do mock examinations based on CBC, which is just one way of showing that they should be familiar with what will come as the final exams.
He also notes that there had been training and assessment of teachers across the country on the new curriculum.
Dr Ndayambaje warns against involvement in any kind of malpractice because the implication will not only be on the student, but also the person who allowed the act to happen.
He says teachers shouldn’t mislead students by encouraging them to cheat, and fool them into thinking that they performed well. There is always a chance to improve if one hasn’t done well, therefore, giving it their all is better than using a shortcut,” he says.
Some of the measures put in place for those found cheating, he says, include detaining of results.
Secondly, he says, invigilators and officials found guilty of exam malpractice will face the law.
He advises teachers and students to balance learning and resting time, especially now that exams are approaching.
“Pressurising students to spend most of their time studying and doing revision is not healthy, and it could end up ruining everything,” Dr Ndayambaje says.