How self-centred learning will help the modern day student

Grace Ishimwe, 20, is a Rwandan-US based student pursuing a degree in psychology and business in Texas. Talking to Education, she narrates how she realised student centred learning is a skill needed in modern day education.  

“When I joined university after high school, I honestly didn’t remember much of what I had studied,” she says.


Ishimwe was accustomed to teacher- centred learning in Ruhango District, where she was pursuing a diploma before going to the US.


“I went to the university with so many expectations but I was disappointed. It felt like students were at the mercy of lecturers like in high school,” she says, adding, “This is because we only studied when teachers were available and when they were not, we didn’t,” she explains.


A student reading a book. Learners are asked to keep up with their studies through research of new topics. Net photo.

When Ishimwe went to the US, she was able to appreciate the difference between the teaching systems, noting that the learner- centred approach was better.

“Teachers used to provide us with everything, here in the US, it has changed and a student is required to make effort to get things done as a teacher gives little guidance, and I appreciate that,” she adds.

In Rwanda, all students of private and public schools are keeping track of their studies at home after schools closed on March 15.

The development was announced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic following the country’s first confirmed case on March 14.

This was followed by the country’s lockdown that was extended twice.

At the beginning of the lockdown, students were asked to keep revising their studies with optimism that the pandemic would be contained eventually.

However, as the lockdown persists, students are being asked to keep up with their studies through research of new topics that have not been covered yet.

“As no one is sure when the lockdown will end, we are advising students to pass through content that has not been covered yet. If students have now spent a month at home, they have had enough time to revise, and it would be wise to start looking in new modules for those who have the resources,” says Irénée Ndayambaje, Director General of Rwanda Education Board.

This turns attention to a student’s self- centred learning approach which has been the dominant educational model over the last several years (incorporated in the competence-based curriculum).

In this model, like Ishimwe experienced, students carry out research and read class content, with the teacher acting as a mere “facilitator”. But why is this approach particularly good for today’s learner?

Despite the traditional model of education embraced previously, educators expect that self-centred learning will help because it doesn’t just pour information in the child’s mind.

“This is different from simply pouring information to students. It is characterised by students making research, and coming up with their solutions,” says Epimaque Rudakubana, a chemistry facilitator at Byimana School of Sciences.

“Hence, instead of a student waiting for the teacher, he/she does research which entails digging deep and understanding things,” he adds.

This, he explains, involves not telling students what to think, rather, they “discover” the new information and come up with solutions instead of passively waiting for the teacher’s answers.

To some students who have started embracing the latter, it helps them move ahead when they have demonstrated mastery of content, not when they’ve endured the required hours in a classroom.

“It allows you to really understand the topic of the subject matter as we are not on pressure of anyone’s pace,” Speciose Giciro, a head prefect at College Saint Andre says.

For some parents, like Grance Nkundwakazi, it promotes several other skills like reading, sense of responsibility, and it reduces laziness.

“The uniqueness of this particular model is that it makes students mature, they become responsible, shun laziness and become accountable for their academics,” she says.

Education experts assert that this coronavirus break can be a good time for students to enjoy the benefits of learner-centred education, despite the traditional mode of teaching assumed that learners are ‘empty vessels’ to be filled with knowledge. The model, they say, empowers the learner to take centre-stage, and instils in learners critical thinking, innovation and creativity.

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