How will new placement system affect quality of education?

Recently, Rwanda Education Board (REB) released results for last year’s national exams for both primary and O’ Level candidates.

At least 89.9 per cent of the students who sat for national exams for lower high school (Ordinary Level) passed. A total of 96,595 candidates sat for O’level exams last year as compared to 89,421 the previous year.

The general pass rate slightly increased by 0.9 per cent from the previous year, where the rate stood at 89 per cent.

Contrary to previous years, a student would join either boarding school or twelve year’s basic education, based on their grades.

For instance, for primary six examinations, for one to join boarding school, girls and boys were supposed to have 20 and 18 points, respectively.

Whereas for ordinary level, one was required to have 47 for boys and 55 for the girls.

However, this system has changed and the ministry allocated students (random placement) to different schools without revealing their grades.

Why is this so?

 According to the Director General of Rwanda Education Board, Irenée Ndayambaje, the board’s intention was to give strength to 12 year basic education.

What they are aiming at now, however, is to enable teachers detect learners talents and accompany them. This, he says, should be done by orienting students who have special talents in different areas.

He adds that with the old curriculum, sport was not examined in national examination, but all that will change with the new arrangement, as they will begin examining it.

“The future of our society is going to be based on what we are able to do; it’s not that the marks are going to determine the future of the learner. We should be now focusing on student’s competency rather than on marks,” he says.

Ndyambaje reveals that they want to accompany the students throughout the learning process, and empower the teachers because they are the ones who are close to the children. They should also be able to identify what they are good at, as well as their abilities so that they focus on how to help them.

He says among the reasons also, is to discourage the idea of school principals selecting students to join their schools based on how they have performed; it will be the ministry’s job to do so.

This will help the best performing students and those who are not mix up, which promotes working together for better performance, and also help them experience a different environment.

REB, in partnership with other bodies, has already started its fourth education campaign across the country in different schools focusing on various activities.

The campagn, which started this week, among the issues that are being handled, include looking at teaching in general. For instance, all that it takes for teachers to deliver a lesson, lesson plans, class diaries among others.

According to Ndayambaje, through the campaign, there will be introduction of assessment at every level, to help the teacher find out what a child is capable of doing.

“We want to find out if teachers are able to identify what students are good at, monitor class attendants, student ability, fast and slow learners and so on,” he says.

He says that learning achievement is a comprehensive approach and that they want to embark on it, as it is also provided in the competency based curriculum.

Positive impacts

Experts believe that learning is more than grades and that grades are an indicator that learning took place. However, there are some factors that influence the grade as well.

 Donald Munyeshuri, an IT teacher at Lycee De Kigali says this is a good move and will help encourage those students who didn’t perform well to put in more effort when placed in a certain school.

He says it will also promote working together for the students, regardless of the grades they got.

On the other hand, he says to some teachers, this is important because it will not promote biasness thus help educators to help all the learners without looking at how they performed.

For Stanley Mukasa, the programme manager of Business Management and Entrepreneurship at Akilah Institute of Women in Kibagabaga, there could be talents or habits that students have within them that educators should spot and help build on, other than just focusing on what they get academically.

He says that this is what a holistic education system should do, because the workplace requires individuals who not only excel academically but who have a variety of skills to offer, whether soft skills or talents.

Diana Nawatti Nsobya, head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, says she fully supports the decision and that it’s vital to not give attention to what a learner has scored.

She says every child is born special with special abilities and talents; some are born musicians, others artists, speakers, leaders and so on. She says when educators tend to focus on scores; it’s easier to forget such vital elements in a child.

“If you observe the potential and explore it as early as possible, you are motivating, inspiring and promoting practical citizens of tomorrow,” she says.

Why random replacement is important

Mukasa believes that random placement promotes collaboration and accountability among students, another opportunity to learn another workplace skill of collaboration.

He says that students will appreciate each other’s strengths and areas of improvement to form solid study teams that can support each other even in the absence of the teachers, if they are mixed.

In workplaces, he says, there are fast and slow employees, which for him is okay as long as everyone is working to continue improving in the areas where they see need.

Besides, he says, it also helps students learn how to empathize and appreciate team dynamics, the reason why people work in teams, they are talented differently.

“When mixed intentionally, learners will get another opportunity to consider themselves as partners in the learning process and help the teacher become focused, while also customizing instructions to specific students or groups of learners that might need more attention than others,” he says.

Francois Xavier Ngabonzima, a language teacher now interning at European Institute of Educational and psychological Research, says that he applauds the move but is worried about those learners who have been working hard to get better results.

“This is a very good move because its one way of improving the quality of education in our country. My fear is that there are learners who may end up being discouraged to work hard to attain best grades, because after all, no one will get to know how they performed and they can still get a good school to join,” he says.

He adds that it would be better if the Government came up with a strategy to ensure that brilliant learners are encouraged in a certain way. With the new move, he says, the gap might be covered but the rate of success (scoring higher marks) may decline.


Their views

Jackie Kayitesi, Kigali parent

Not all parents have the same financial abilities; it could be hard for some to manage taking their children to schools that the government has selected for them. This will be worse if the school is far from where the child resides.

Donald Munyeshuri, IT teacher

We were used to going by the choices of schools depending on what one has scored. I think it will need a lot of effort to educate schools and parents on what to expect and how to go about it.

Jean Bosco Mutabazi, educator

The advantages of promoting the weaker students might be outweighed by the disadvantages. It’s hard to uplift the school by giving them strong students as far as academics is concerened; there are a lot of things that improve the performance of the school.

Janet Mbabazi, student

I think the ministry has done its research on this before deciding to introduce the move, it’s important that parents, schools and even students give it a try and see if there will be any positive impact  on the  education system.