Examining the impact of school inspection

The inspectorate body of Rwanda’s education system has for long been widely perceived as an awakening call to teachers and head teachers, not only moralising them, but also mitigating the challenges that impede quality education obtained by students.

For instance, a report by the Ministry of Education presented late last month, indicated that 4,851 schools had been inspected from February 2018 through October this year.

However, doubts have been cast on the quality of some of the country’s most coveted schools, after it emerged that hundreds of institutes are not inspected.

Some of the concerns identified in the sector include sanitation, infrastructure, dropouts, class repetition, drug abuse, and overcrowding of students in classrooms.

Inspections should be perceived as an initiative to ensure that students obtain the best out of schools. Net photo.

In the same report, it was also revealed that there was low level of professionalism for some teachers, unqualified staff (teachers) with no background in education and no subject specialisation, low level of proficiency of English in teachers and learners.

Cherish Nkurunziza, a social studies teacher at Kigali City School, believes that inspection is a viable strategy to enhance quality education, depending on how it is done.

“Inspections should not create an environment of fear, anxiety and worry for teachers. Because as teachers, we know that to prepare for an inspection visit from the authorities, most schools will have to do a lot of regimented things that don’t add value, but just help an institution look good. This inevitably adds to a teacher’s workload,” he says. 

For instance, Nkurunziza adds, bad judgement can feel like a prison sentence to a teacher. This has a negative effect on the teachers and, inevitably, students. 

“It is true that schools should be held accountable, but they should, at the same time, be supported and evaluated. Schools should be told their strengths and weaknesses. We are then going to work together and work towards improvement collaboratively,” he says. 

Some of the concerns identified in schools include sanitation and infrastructure. Net photo.

Ronaldo Rwabuzizi, a former teacher at Kigali Parents Secondary School, believes that this is an activity that should be inclusive. Leaving no school behind, and also informing the administration what needs to be done better, rather than shutting them down.

“I would not shy away from someone coming in regularly to tell me how I can improve. I’m a professional, I want to do my job better. But I want someone who’s going to put an arm around me and walk that journey with me, someone who will support me, not just tell me all the things I’m not doing right,” he says. 

On the other hand, Riviera High School deputy principal in charge of boarding and student welfare, Vincent Magambo, believes that accountability of a school’s performance is important.

“Inspectors should reinforce rooting out under-performance, inadequacy and failure in local institutions.”

On top of that, inspection framework should be more realistic about what it can accurately, effectively and specifically hold schools accountable for, Magambo says.

Vanessa Rutazibizwa, a student and tutor, says that it’s not feasible or possible to inspect everything a school does accurately and then reduce it down to a one-word decision.

“I am sure that it would be better off, if inspections judged schools annually on outcomes it is accurately able to measure. The focus of the inspections, however, should be detached from the dataset and identify where practice is good and needs to improve. The inspection would then take on a completely different flavour, and use a broad body of research, evidence and training to support schools and help them improve,” Rutazibizwa says. 

“I chose to send my child to a school that had just been told it “requires improvement” last year by the Ministry of Education. Although I thought the judgment was absolutely right, I saw at close-hand the effect it had. The school lost many pupils, it lost money and had to get rid of experienced staff, which meant it was harder for it to improve but now it does well,” says Enid Mbabazi, a mother of two.

This strategy is indeed viable because even though teachers genuinely want to provide the best quality education, accountability is very important.

What more should be done?

Mbabazi says that even though it’s crucial to have inspections in schools, a one or two-day inspection is too short, it’s hard to ‘get under the skin of the school’.

There should be a way of assessing schools that results in much more positive relationships between authorities and institutions.

“At the moment, some schools discourage admission of children with additional needs because it affects their result,” Mbabazi says. 

She adds, “Support for school improvement has to be at a local level and come from experts who know the particular challenges of the schools in their area.

“It would be better to see a network of successful former head teachers visiting schools regularly and providing ideas and connections.

“This will result in a much more collaborative model of education, rather than pitting schools against each other.”

Isaac Munyakazi, Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, says inspections should not be perceived as a dog-catcher but as an initiative to ensure that students obtain the best out of schools.

“In most cases, you find out that schools are scared to be inspected, yet it should be a platform to show what they do daily, even when there is no inspection,” he says.

The Minister also points out that there are a number of changes needed for many schools to qualify for a standard institution — which include — the school’s leadership that normally waits for inspection periods to carry out any amendments, among others.

“Conversely, from the previous inspections, I believe that different schools are adapting to the culture and it is always worth applauding when schools are doing their best to provide quality education for students,” Munyakaazi says.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com