The importance of setting goals for students

Students of IFAK Senior School in class. File.

Experts believe that it’s the role of educators to help learners set short and long-term goals, as this will guarantee further achievement outside the school environment. 

Isaac Ddumba, a teacher at La Colombiere School in Kigali, says encouraging students to set goals, academic and non-academic, is what is missing in the system. Learners should be shown the possibilities ahead, while teaching them to be self-driven and motivated.

Setting goals and acquiring survival skills

Teachers, Ddumba says, should aim at encouraging students to set milestones for all tasks. The process should start as early as childhood to enable them set their own targets and work towards getting them get achieved.

Ddumba notes that goals may range from home or school activities, to community actions, among others.

He explains that in due course, goal-setting students develop numerous abilities, such as leadership skills, team building, team work, accountability, and overcoming challenges, which are all vital in and out of school.

Ddumba believes that when students are introduced to goal setting, they learn about deadlines and handling pressure, which will be applied in their area of work after school.

He says teaching students how to be flexible in all areas is also important.

“Life skills, or survivals skills, go hand-in-hand with education, because from my observation, I’ve noticed that many people are in fields that were not their choice, however, survival skills have helped put food on the table,” he observes.

Irene Mizero, the chairman and CEO at Mizero Care Organisation, says students should be taught how to actively listen, think, question and take notes, as well as be able to choose their career at any level. They also have to be given room for struggle in order to learn how to be responsible.

Why it’s important

Mizero says that since the job market is competitive, it is vital to encourage students to achieve their goals.

Julius Zigama, an entrepreneur, says that this is why international students are ideally better than those from traditional/local schools, because they are introduced to goal setting as early as possible.

He adds that students are also motivated by different personalities from different fields; from this, even students that didn’t know their talents pick interest.

When a student is able to set goals, it helps them be accountable for every action or step they take.

“Having goals makes learners aware of their actions, efforts, and even their time management skills. Setting goals obligates them to take action, regardless of the obstacles that may be in place. As such, it can encourage students to develop critical thinking skills, new problem solving techniques, and a better understanding of how to overcome issues,” he adds.

Pierre-Célestin Niwemwungeri, a teacher at GS Sihinga in Gasibo District, says goal setting encourages students to look back at previous successes and failures and evaluate the areas that need improvement. 

As such, it pushes students to tackle challenges head on and work on their weaknesses for overall success. It also helps them realise the techniques that may not be working for them, hence seeking alternative routes to achievement.

“Goal setting is fundamental to the long-term success of any student. It’s hard for any learner to achieve their dreams before knowing how and when to achieve them. Goals help students to focus on the journey to set achievements, which means they will always be motivated by these goals whenever they feel like giving up,” Niwemwungeri says.

How this should be done

Paul Oga, the dean of students at Green Hills Academy, says it all depends on the school and interest of the parents. Ideally, parents should strive to give their children the best they can with the resources at their disposal.

He adds that this is the reason why schools should have co-curricular activities, in order to cover such areas which daily scheduled classes do not cover.

“I believe students should be exposed to as many opportunities as possible to give them a chance to excel in areas that are new to them,” he says.

Oga adds that it’s through such opportunities that hidden talent is discovered. So programmes must be set by schools to promote them, such as junior round square, round square, presidential award schemes, outdoor and adventure, education, debating club, and environmental clubs, among others.

He believes that schools should organise events and occasions where successful people are invited as motivational or inspirational speakers.

This, he says, can be an incredibly useful tool in supporting students as far as setting goals is concerned.

Amindhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro, says teachers should encourage early guidance. He says that through this, students will learn to think critically.

“Students with critical thinking skills have advantage over the others because they are able to decide what career is best for them. In fact, they are in the position to set even more goals for themselves and work towards achieving them,” he says.

He adds that depending on the level of a student, inviting other students, particularly those doing the same course with similar career goals, is ideal.

“These students can help generate a much richer plan, as opposed to one who is alone. Also, they should try to find experts within the institution that best represent the vision. It’s good to partner with as many people as possible to support learners with their goals,” he says.

Niwemwungeri says it’s important for educators to teach learners how to balance their activities, at school and at home. He says this will help them spend time wisely.

He adds that this will help learners avoid recurrence and instead check their goals, and if they are working towards their vision.

He adds that educators should aim at teaching learners how to be flexible.

“Careers are constantly changing and they require new skills and new approaches. It’s good to consider what’s important to a student; for instance, the priorities of a first term/year student will be different to the same student two or three years later,” he says.

Goal setting is a process and it’s good to be flexible always, Niwemwungeri says.

Their say

Beatha Iradukunda, Parent

Parents should be at the forefront to help students achieve their goals. In most cases, when it comes to extra-curricular activities, there are materials needed for one to participate fully; so they should be willing to avail the materials.

Valence Mushinzimana, Teacher — Lycee de Kigali

Students, especially those in higher learning institutions, should be willing to adjust and adapt to the changes they come across. This is because one can set goals in primary or secondary school only to find setbacks at a higher level.

Prince Asiimwe, High school student

I think teachers and parents should follow up on goals set by students as they may end up setting unrealistic goals. They should be taught how to set goals and work towards achieving them.

Alpha Marara, Kigali resident

Parents should act as role models to their children. They should make sure that whatever they achieve in life, however small, is shared through telling their children how they did it. This can motivate children to work hard just like their parents.

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