One teacher for all subjects in lower primary: How practical is this?

In the January 2020 academic year, a system in education known as “Professorat” in French, or localised as “Porofesora”, will cease to be operational.

The system is built in such a way that each subject has its own teacher, from primary one to primary three (P1-P3). 

According to Dr Eugene Mutimura, the Minister of Education, this approach will be let go with the aim of improving the quality of education.

The Minister explained that each class will now have one instructor assigned to teach all subjects and, an assistant for schools which have more than 70 pupils per class.

The development was announced in a meeting with district vice mayors, faith-based organisations and other stakeholders in the sector last week.

“We want this way of teaching to be removed for primary one, two and three. Only one teacher will be schooling all subjects in one class. If the classroom has over 70 children, there will be an assistant,” he says.

Currently, there is an average of 75 and 100 children in a classroom in primary schools, albeit they should be between 46 and 50 children as recommended by international education standards.

The Ministry says there is a $126 million investment to build extra latrines and classrooms (11,000 and 16,000 respectively) to reduce overcrowding of students and facilitate teachers in class management. 

As of January 2020, one teacher will be assigned to teach all subjects in lower primary. /File photo

The efforts, according to the Ministry, will reduce students’ congestion in a class by 60 per cent and completely phase out the issue in the next three or four years.

The Minister explained that having five teachers teaching in one classroom for lower primary school students every day is not helpful — considering congestion of students, poor management of the class, understanding behaviours and performance, among other things. 

He explained that an assessment indicated that no teacher can “fail to teach all five subjects in lower primary school and other extra subjects such as sports”.

The Ministry said it is working with other partners, such as faith-based organisations that run schools, to be part of reforms implementation.

The Ministry is also partnering to ensure that enrolment for pre-primary school increases from 20 to 45 per cent in 2020. 

Under Rwanda Quality Basic Education Project, MINEDUC, with districts and other stakeholders, is going to upgrade 16 teacher training colleges to strengthen preparations of new teachers, and upgrade 16 model schools and new ones to be constructed in the College of Education at the cost of $17.3 million. This will support innovative instruction practices, including teaching for lower primary levels, the Minister said.

Teacher’s reactions

Diana Nawatti, counsellor and head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, says the positive side of this approach is that the teacher will be able to know every child in and out, which is fundamental as far as learning is concerned.

She notes that this method can as well be referred to as reinforced learning-centred approach, where the teacher can easily evaluate the strength and weaknesses of every child in their class.

“It helps enforce academic discipline and most importantly, build a good relationship between the learner and the teacher,” she says.

However, Nawatti says the downside of it is that getting a qualified teacher with capabilities of teaching all the subjects could be a problem.

Again, she says, training strong primary teachers will help a lot if a great deal is intended to be achieved with this approach.

On the other side, she notes that it’s ideal for the Ministry to work closely with the head of institutions to help identify teachers who are in a position to handle all this, citing that  they are in a good position to know the strengths of their teachers.

“The approach also helps a teacher become a parent to these young ones, which helps build a family. When this is done, it’s easy for such children to be moulded in different areas,” she adds.

Mark Ndagijimana, a deputy teacher at GS Ruhango Catholique School in Ruhango District, is of the view that a teacher concentrating in one class comes with a lot of benefits, especially on the child’s side.

The first, he says, is that the teacher will be able to know each learner by their name, which is important when it comes to helping them out.

Also, he adds, it’s easy for the teacher to provide assistance and nurture all-round students.

“It will see teachers become more responsible; this is so because they will be closely monitoring the kids who became their responsibility in terms of guidance and counselling. 

“It will also be easy for pupils to open up to their teachers, especially if they are facing difficulties at home or in school,” he says.

Additionally, Ndagijimana says this will ensure time management among teachers — before, teachers would be in a hurry to finish their lessons to pave way for the next teacher.

He says if time is well managed, teachers can plan all their lessons well.

Sylvain Bizirema, a science and chemistry teacher at Ecole des Sciences St Louis de Montfort in Nyanza District, says the approach will definitely come with positive and negative sides; therefore, what’s required is to create time to look into it well.

Children in lower primary need more social education, he says. He points out that they need special follow-up to ensure progress in skills required at their level.  

So with this approach, he says, it can be achieved.

On the negative side, he says, if a teacher is not competent enough in other areas, this will definitely have a direct impact on learners.

He notes that more subjects per teacher can affect the quality of their preparation and performance.

“This means that the teacher will be overloaded with many quizzes to mark, many lesson plans, consequently failing to deliver effectively,” he observes.

Theoneste Ngiruwonsanga, a communication skills and disciplinary master in education at APPEC Remera Rukoma, agrees with the move, pointing out that the benefit that comes with it is that following up on pupils will be achieved — a hundred per cent.

He says since a teacher will have all the time with the learners, creating time for specific pupils with different problems and grievances will be easy.

However, his worry is that in college, teachers are made to specialise in subjects they wish to continue with.

This, he says, can be a challenge because there are some teachers who may be good in all subjects, but when it comes to delivering, it’s hard because they didn’t put as much effort in some subjects.

He adds that there is a need to look into this so that pupils don’t fall victim.

For Ronald Wandira, the head of the humanities department at Riviera High School and year leader—advanced level—at Rwanda Education Board (REB), the negative impact that comes with this approach seems to outweigh the positive side.

“There is a need to teach learners as a whole, and the specialisation will give you quality, but if generalisation is done, and given that each person has a weak side, it will mean that we will be generalising all the weak part of this teacher to be transferred to all learners,” he observes.

The government, he says, needs to plan for the education sector, noting that this particular sector has been neglected for a while, not only in Rwanda but in the entire world.

He says there is a need to carry out a demonstration, a clear study for this matter given that the move is targeting all schools, especially public where population has no limit.

 “We need to look at Rwanda, not as Kigali but also upcountry; there is a need for thorough research to find out whether some of these policies are practical,” he says.

He goes to add that if this move is to be effective, the government needs to look out for other issues, including teacher’s incentives.

He explains that if a teacher is handling one class by himself/herself, yet there are some social and psychological issues they are undergoing, they may end up producing miserable young individuals.

He, however, advises that if this is to be achieved, it’s better to increase the number of classes in all schools. At this point, the number of students will be minimal, thus easier to teach and manage without difficulties.

Their views

Faustin Mutabazi, Education consultant

This method was implemented in other developed countries and the impact, positive. However, I think it will be better if the Ministry takes time to follow up on other policies they have put across before coming up with new ones.

Sylvain Bizirema, Teacher

If this method is applied well, it will help young people to develop in all aspects, therefore, it will be easy to excel when they reach upper levels.

Theoneste Ngiruwonsanga, Disciplinary teacher

I feel like this is going to make a positive impact on the growth and wellbeing of young children. However, it will depend on efforts put in place to ensure the system is a hundred per cent effective.

Alphonse Uworwabayeho, Lecturer

There is a need to work closely with schools so that they help out, especially when it comes to identifying teachers who are capable of handling this. If this is ensured, I think the system will not only be helpful academically, but learners will be able to develop socially and psychologically.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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