Students raise concerns on new curriculum ahead of national exams

L-R: Senators Prof Laurent Nkusi, Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo and Margaret Nyagahura during a meeting on the new school curriculum at Groupe Scolaire St Aloys Rwamagana. Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

Students and educationists from Rwamagana District have reported to senators about the shortage of teaching materials to implement the Competency-Based Curriculum, which was rolled out two years ago.

This was said during the tour of Eastern Province schools by senators from the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Public Petitions who wanted to know the progress in the implementation of the new curriculum.

Three members of the committee visited different schools in Rwamagana. The three include; Margaret Nyagahura, who is also the vice chairperson of the committee, Prof Laurent Nkusi and Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo.

At the end of this year, it will be the first time the intake for students in lower and upper secondary school who started with the new curriculum will be sitting for their national examinations.

During the tour of Groupe Scolaire St Aloys Rwamagana, the senators heard that much as the new curriculum is good for the students, there was not enough facilitation for teachers to implement components of the curriculum.

“We started the new curriculum in senior four, but we met several challenges along the way; we studied in senior four without textbooks, same for senior five…they only brought biology books in the third term of senior five, and others came in senior six,” said Donatha Mutoni, a senior six student of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry (MPC).

The senators said that at all the schools they visited; they found the same problem while others claimed that some of the units offered under the new curriculum have longer hours than provided for in the timetables.

“They have told us that we are using a new curriculum but we have been using books from the old one, will the questions in the upcoming national exams be set using the new or old curriculum?” she said.

Philbert Ntawukuriryayo, a teacher at the same school since 2011, said their leaders did all they could to facilitate them, appreciating a step made so far to understand the new curriculum but still they find a few hindrances.

Though he appreciated the fact that Rwanda Education Board (REB) has started publishing the books itself which would make them accessible easily including digitally, there have been delays to get the books to schools.

He revealed that many teachers say they will implement the curriculum better and with more certainty after seeing how this year’s national exams will be like.

“All of our eyes are at how they will ask in national exams,” Ntawukuriryayo said.

Brother Rudasingwa Karemera Kamili, headmaster of the school, said that while the new curriculum came with good ambitions, it should not be rushed, because it needs to be progressive.

Involve parents

However, Emmanuel Mikebanyi, who represented parents at the school, said that not many parents have understood the new curriculum which would have put them in position to help their children in implement it.

“There are parents who are educated and can be of great help if they were to be enlisted and explained to about the new curriculum; there should be sessions targeting the parents on the new curriculum,” said Mikebanyi.

Senator Nyagahura said the assessment on the CBC allowed them to talk to different education affiliates; teachers, school leaders, students and local government leaders to identify its status and existing problems.

The committee that had gone to the field in two groups in all districts will compile all the findings in a report which conclusions will be presented to the general assembly, then to the government that will implement them.

Prior to Rwamagana, this group had been in Ngoma and Kayonza districts, all in Eastern Province.

“Problems really look similar, which are general problems you find in education; to implement the new curriculum itself requires other conditions to be fulfilled,” Senator Nyagahura said adding that most of the problems require financial resources.

“That is exactly what brought us here, to understand the problems then embark on advocacy where necessary which we hope will yield and some of these problems will be addressed,” she said.

She urged students not to panic ahead of the exams adding that whoever setting the national examinations will draw the questions having in mind the problems faced since the new curriculum was rolled out.

Dr Irenée Ndayambaje, Director General of Rwanda Education Board, told The New Times it is just the approach to teaching that changed in order to allow students to be more involved in the learning process.

He said that Competency-Based Curriculum is based on three aspects: knowledge, skills and values.

“The knowledge aspect did not change at all, like saying 1 plus 1 is 2. Another aspect is skills. Under this, students go beyond theory to deal with practice,” he said.

In the past, he added, a teacher was the source of all knowledge while students were more of passive participants who though they could learn without a teacher standing in front of them.

Even as students did not get the CBC books on time, they still studied, he said.

He added that for the subjects where the skills were not fully obtained, the Cabinet decided that practical exams for those subjects will be suspended this year.

He cited practical exams for ICT for senior three candidates as among the exams that have been suspended because, for example, some schools are not connected to electricity, and hence were not able to use computers.