EDITORIAL: Address factors that led to drop in student pass rate

In an unprecedented move, the Ministry of Education released the results of Primary Leaving Examinations and Ordinary Level before the end of the year, which officials said will allow parents and schools adequate time to prepare for the next academic year.

The results showed a drop in overall performance largely attributed to the fact that this was the first time national examinations had been set in line with the Competence-based Curriculum which was rolled out a couple of years ago.

Delays in the implementation of the new curriculum were unwarranted and could have been avoided if the concerned authorities had made this issue a priority. While the new curriculum has finally been embraced in examinations, it’s critical that the Ministry of Education and Rwanda Education Board work closely with districts and schools to ensure that the remaining challenges related to its implementation – including training all teachers accordingly and availing the necessary textbooks and training materials – are sorted as soon as possible.

This should create the necessary conditions for a higher pass rate next time around.

While the 6.6 per cent drop in O-Level pass rate – compared to 2017 – may not look significant, if the factors behind the decline in performance are not urgently addressed they could still haunt the next candidates and the cumulative impact could eventually be felt in one way or the other. That’s why it’s vitally important that all the underlying causes are critically analysed and immediately addressed.

Meanwhile, the decision to announce best performing schools and publicly award the best students is a welcome move that should inspire more schools and students to work harder. The argument that ranking schools would potentially encourage schools to cheat and to resort to all kinds of underhand methods so as to get a high pass rate and subsequently be the first choice for most students holds no water because irregularities did not stop when the ranking stopped.

Ranking schools will not only allow for recognition of hard work but it will crucially inject healthy competition and improve performance. It is incumbent upon authorities to take measures to prevent irregularities, whether linked to the act of ranking schools or not.

Congratulations to those who passed with flying colours and all those who attained the minimum grades needed to progress to the next level. To those that fell short, do not lose hope, rather learn from this experience and have a crack at it again. Failure is failure to try again.